Tag Archive | US

Lack of coordination delaying Kerry-Lugar funds

ISLAMABAD: Lack of coordination among the authorities concerned in Pakistan and the United States is delaying the disbursement of funds under the Kerry Lugar Law (KLL).

Although the law was passed by the US Senate on Sept 24, progress on implementation has been slow, sources in the finance ministry told Dawn.

“Basic issues like procedures for finalisation and execution of projects are still under discussion,” an official said, adding that delays were politically damaging for the government.

“The delay … is preventing the launch of many social sector projects,” he said.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, had acknowledged that there were misunderstandings on both sides about how the funds were to be released.

In a meeting with reporters, she had said Pakistan would get $800 million by March. There is a general perception that after the passage of the law, yearly civilian US aid to Pakistan would triple to about $1.5 billion for the next five years.

However, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin told Dawn that the US authorities had said that Pakistan expected to receive only $500 million under the Kerry-Lugar programme.

“Funds for projects under the programme will be received before June this year,” Mr Tarin said, adding that efforts were being made to streamline coordination between authorities in both countries. According to a senior finance ministry official, the main hurdle for the approval of projects was lack of coordination between US administration officials.

“Robin Raphael, David Lipton and Richard Hoolbrooke have different approaches about allocation of funds,” the officials said.

Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, supports the idea of executing all projects through the NGO sector in Pakistan.

Robin Raphael, who is expected to oversee non-military US support to Pakistan, supports granting funds for projects through the Pakistan government. She recently scrapped a working paper to grant projects worth $300 million to NGOs through the USAID, the sources said. David Lipton, director for international economics, National Security Council, is a strong advocate of executing development projects under the Kerry-Lugar programme in areas affected by militancy.

The situation in Pakistan is no different: there is no single agency for coordinating with the US administration. Officials said the finance ministry had asked the Economic Affairs Division to ensure coordination, but most of the projects were being prepared by the Planning Commission without any coordination.
Moreover, the US has also delayed payments under the Coalition Support Fund.

No direct military intervention in Pakistan: US

WASHINGTON: The White House and the US military chief indicated on Wednesday that there would be no direct military intervention in countries like Pakistan or Yemen where Al Qaeda seemed to have established its bases.

The White House, however, said that the United States would continue to use “actionable intelligence” to target Al Qaeda hideouts, indicating that drone strikes at suspected terrorist targets would also continue.

In a speech at the George Washington University, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that for “a big part of the next couple of years (the United States will be focussed on) the execution of this Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy” that President Barack Obama announced on Dec 1.

The debate over direct US military intervention to prevent terrorists from attacking the United States has been reignited after the Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines plane over Detroit. Several lobbies, particularly those on the extreme right, are demanding direct US military actions against suspected terrorist targets, with or without consulting the governments concerned.

Responding to a question about this possibility, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the United States would continue to support actions taken by local authorities against suspected terrorist facilities in their areas.

“We’ll continue to do so and continue to be supportive of those efforts,” he said.

Separately, President Obama told a briefing at the White House on Tuesday that his administration had “taken the fight to Al Qaeda and its allies wherever they plot and train, be it in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen and Somalia, or in other countries around the world”.

At the university in Washington, Admiral Mullen also tackled this question, reminding his audience that countries like Pakistan and Yemen were sovereign states and the United States respected their sovereignty.

“It is a sovereign country and we all recognise that. So we are going to continue to support the Yemeni government in the execution of their strategy to eliminate these terrorists,” said the US military chief when asked about a possible military action against terrorist hideouts in Yemen.

His presentation, however, focussed heavily on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Emphasising Pakistan’s importance in the war against extremists, he said that the US focus could not be limited to just Afghanistan, it had to include Pakistan as well.

“I’ve been to Pakistan one time before I took this job over, and I just made my 14th trip over the last couple of years just to give you an indication of the need to understand, the need to be there, the need to try to see challenges through other people’s eyes and not just take the American view from here in Washington,” he said.

“And I’ve learned a lot, and I think we all have. Very instructive to me has been the policy debate that we had late last year for almost three months about the strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The United States, he said, was now in the execution phase of this ‘courageous’ strategy, which has provided him with “the resources we need now to turn it around in Afghanistan”.

Admiral Mullen said that 42 nations supported Mr Obama’s Pak-Afghan strategy, creating “a big international and diplomatic and political and developmental and economic plan that’s associated with executing this strategy over the next couple of years”.

The US military chief said that while he had his concerns about Yemen for at least a year, the policy debate held at the White House late last year focussed on eliminating suspected Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan.

Admiral Mullen said that since 9/11, the United States had taken “an unbelievable number of actions” in Pakistan to prevent possible terrorist attacks.

Drone attacks not helping war on terror, says Zardari

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday told a US congressional delegation that drone attacks by the US were undermining the national consensus on the war against terror.

Talking to a four member US congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain which called on him, President Zardari urged the American lawmakers to persuade the US policy makers to give the drone technology to Pakistan, so that Pakistani security forces could carry out such attacks.

The president said that the economic cost of the war against terror amounting to $35 billion for the last eight years had almost paralyzed Pakistan’s economy.

President Zardari asked the delegation for the timely reimbursement of over $1 billion on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

Referring to President Obama’s new Afghan strategy, the president said that Pakistan had legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, adding that US actions should remain on the Afghan side of the border.

The congressional delegation appreciated Pakistan’s role in the war against extremism and militancy and assured full US support in taking this war to its logical end.—DawnNews

Obama slams intelligence failings in US plane plot

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama Tuesday lashed US intelligence Tuesday for missing “red flags” in the Arabian peninsula that could have disrupted a plot to blow up a US-bound plane and vowed to stop future lapses.

“It is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged,” Obama said in a terse televised statement. “That’s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it.” He was speaking after meeting US spy chiefs and top national security aides at the White House to discuss two probes into the attempt to blow up a Northwest airliner as it approached Detroit on December 25.

“The bottom line is this — the US government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots,” Obama said.

“When a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way,” he said.

“It’s my responsibility to find out why, and to correct that failure so that we can prevent such attacks in the future.” The findings showed US intelligence missed other “red flags” in the Arabian peninsula as well as the already revealed fact that the top suspect, 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was an extremist who had traveled to Yemen, Obama said.

Sanaa has been under increasing pressure in recent days to deal with an Al-Qaeda cell in the country which has claimed to be behind the plot to blow up the plane mid-air. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also urged attacks on Western interests in Yemen.

The US embassy in Yemen reopened Tuesday after a two-day closure prompted by fears of an attack as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned unrest in the Arab country was a threat to global stability.

The US embassy said on its website that Yemeni security forces had addressed a “specific area of concern” in the north of the capital Sanaa on Monday, paving the way for the reopening.But full services at the British, French and Japanese embassies have yet to resume.

Investigations spanning from west Africa to Europe to the Middle East have been trying to piece together the would-be bomber’s whereabouts and actions leading up to the Christmas Day attack, foiled when the explosives failed to detonate properly.

Dutch prosecutors said Tuesday Abdulmutallab had probably obtained the explosives, which were stitched into his underwear, before he arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport where he boarded the US-bound flight.

White House said earlier he had been providing useful leads during his interrogations by the FBI as he awaits his arraignment on Friday in Detroit.

“Abdulmutallab spent a number of hours with FBI investigators in which we gleaned usable, actionable intelligence,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The United States has unleashed a barrage of measures to stop would-be attackers riding planes into the country, overhauling its terror watchlists and adding dozens more suspects to “no-fly” lists.

Further boosting security measures, all travelers coming from or via 14 “terror linked” countries will have to undergo compulsory enhanced screening.
US officials also revealed that “additional visas” had been revoked since the Christmas Day, but gave no details of how many or which countries the applicants were from.

“Additional visas have been revoked for people that we believe have suspected ties to terrorism,” US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.

Nigeria, one of the 14 countries on the security list, on Tuesday protested the new rules. “I made it clear, through the US ambassador, to the US government that this is unacceptable to Nigeria,” Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe told journalists.

EU security experts will meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the US emergency travel measures, amid privacy and health concerns over broader use of full body scanners.

Obama said, meanwhile, it had been decided not to transfer any more Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Yemen for now due to the “unsettled situation”there.

“But make no mistake. We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda,” Obama said.

The Obama administration has been under intense pressure from domestic critics and some friendly lawmakers not to send any more inmates back to Yemen, because of fears they will slip into extremism. — AFP

US House passes sweeping health care overhaul

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives late Saturday approved the broadest US health care overhaul in a half-century, handing President Barack Obama a major victory on his top domestic priority.

After hours of bitter debate and an appeal from Obama to ‘answer the call of history,’ lawmakers voted 220-215 for a 10-year, trillion-dollar plan to extend health coverage to some 36 million Americans who lack it now.

The chamber’s Democrats erupted in loud cheers and triumphant applause the moment the bill had the 218 votes needed for passage, about 11:07 pm (0407 GMT), a happy din that grew deafening when a gavel made it official.

The president had paid a rare visit to Congress to lobby for unity among his Democratic allies and reinforced it with a public speech, but 39 still joined 176 of the chamber’s Republicans in opposition to the proposal.

One Republican broke ranks, nominally fulfilling, in the barest terms, Obama’s vow to secure bipartisan support.

‘This is our moment to deliver. I urge members of congress to rise to this moment, answer the call of history and vote yes for health insurance reform for America,’ Obama said in the White House’s Rose Garden hours before the vote.

The fight to remake health care in the world’s richest country shifted to the US Senate, where its fate remained unclear amid a intra-party dispute among Democrats anchored on what role the US government should play.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, struggling to pull together the 60 votes needed to ensure passage, has hinted that the chamber may not act until next year.

That would put the issue front-and-center in the 2010 mid-term elections, when one third of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives, and many US governorships are up for grabs.

If, as expected, the two chambers pass rival versions of health care legislation, they will need to thrash out a compromise version and approve it in order to send it to Obama to sign into law.

Final House passage came after a flurry of votes, including a 240-194 vote to sharply tighten restrictions on government monies paying for abortions, seen as critical to cementing support from a group of anti-abortion Democrats.

The House then voted 176-258 to defeat the Republican alternative to the overall plan — with one lone Republican, Representative Timothy Johnson of Illinois, joining the Democrats in opposition.

The United States is the only industrialized democracy that does not ensure that all of its citizens have health care coverage, with an estimated 36 million Americans uninsured.

And Washington spends vastly more on health care — both per person and as a share of national income as measured by Gross Domestic Product — than other industrialized democracies, but with no meaningful edge in quality of care, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The bill would create a government-backed insurance plan, popularly known as a ‘public option,’ to compete with private firms and would end denial of coverage based on preexisting medical problems.

Under the White House-backed bill, Americans would have to buy insurance and most employers would have to offer coverage to their workers — though some small businesses would be exempt and the government would offer subsidies. —AFP

US, Brazil make Confederation Cup semi-finals

JOHANNESBURG: The United States staged a remarkable comeback to outclass Egypt 3-0 Sunday and join Brazil in the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

Pointless and minus-five on goal difference, the Americans appeared down and out ahead of the final Group B fixture in Rustenburg against Egyptian opponents who had upset world champions Italy in midweek.

But a goal midway through the first half from Charlie Davies and two more within nine minutes after half-time by Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey gave the USA an unexpectedly comfortable triumph.

And with Italy slumping again – 3-0 to dominant Brazil before a sell-out Pretoria crowd – the Americans squeezed through on goals scored having shared a minus-two goal difference with the Azzurri.

Egypt also collected three points, but a minus-three difference meant the team that lost in stoppage time to Brazil before stunning Italy finished bottom of the table after a thrilling climax to the group phase.

Spain, who topped Group A Saturday after a world record 15th consective win, will face the USA in Bloemfontein Wednesday with South Africa tackling Brazil in Johannesburg 24 hours later.

Form suggests a dream finale to the 2010 World Cup dress rehearsal next Sunday between Brazil and Spain while the host nation and the USA fight for third place and bronze medals.

Egypt goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary, a hero against Italy, gifted USA their first goal by fumbling a cross and allowing Davies to poke the ball over the line from an acute angle.

Bradley, son of coach Bob, got the second on 63 minutes and Dempsey the third before surviving a late ‘Pharaohs’ onslaught in which unmarked defender Wael Gomaa headed over.

So close was the second-place contest that if Egypt had snatched a consolation goal they would have sneaked through and the same applied to Italy, who began so well last weekend with a come-from-behind victory over USA.

The Americans had achieved the seemingly impossible and taken the spotlight away from the big match of the group phase at Loftus Versfeld that Brazil controlled after a cagey opening spell.

Brazil inflicted all the damage late in the first half wth Luis Fabiano scoring twice before Andrea Dossena turned a Robinho cross past Gianluigi Buffon into his own net.

Italy saw more of the ball in the second half as the title holders took their foot off the accelerator, but the goal that would have set up a game against Spain eluded them.

The last time Spain failed to win was at Euro 2008 when they edged Italy on penalties after 120 goalless minutes.

US, India agree to revive trade talks

NUSA DUA: New US and Indian trade negotiators met Monday in a bid to breathe life back into stalled negotiations on a global free-trade pact.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk held talks with recently appointed Indian trade minister Anand Sharma and World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

The former Dallas mayor, who was appointed to the post by US President Barack Obama in March, also briefly met members of the Chinese delegation on the sidelines of a gathering of 19 major farm exporting countries.

Kirk made no comment but Sharma said the talks were ‘positive’ and both sides had reiterated their commitment to completing the WTO’s moribund Doha Round of negotiations, which collapsed in July.

‘There’s a shared and expressed commitment to take the negotiations forward and to work together for the resumption of the negotiations… to see the successful conclusion of the Doha Round,’ Sharma told AFP.

Developing countries including China and India want the industrialised world to scrap agricultural export subsidies, while Western powers are seeking greater access for their products in emerging markets.

The last round of Doha Round negotiations in Geneva in July fell apart over Washington’s refusal to accept Indian demands for measures to protect vulnerable Indian industries from a flood of cheap imports.

Sharma said it was time to ‘pick up the pieces from where they are and move forward. We are not looking at the difficulties, we are looking at the possibilities, to do our best and take this process to its culmination,’ he said.

‘There are no obstacles which are insurmountable.’ The Indian minister said he would go to Washington mid-June for follow-up talks with Kirk.

Brazil’s WTO ambassador, Roberto Azevedo, who sat in on the Kirk-Sharma meeting, said it was important for Washington and New Delhi to send a clear “political signal” that they are ready to iron out their differences.

‘We have two new players, Ron Kirk and Anand Sharma, so it’s good to have an opportunity to listen to them and what they bring to the table,’ Azevedo said.

The talks were taking place alongside a ministerial meeting of the Cairns Group of farm exporters, including Australia, Brazil and Canada.

The group has called for a fresh start to the Doha Round and condemned rising signs of protectionism, including a new trade war between the United States and the European Union over dairy export subsidies.

Washington’s trading partners are also baulking at the ‘Buy American’ plan included in US economic stimulus legislation which requires projects funded with stimulus money to use only US-made steel, iron and manufactured goods.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who is chairing the Cairns Group meeting, said the US and Indian sides had shown a genuine commitment to re-engage over the coming months.

Further negotiations could be expected on the sidelines of upcoming meetings of the G8, the OECD and APEC, he said.

‘We have to use today’s meeting, if you like, as a starting point for what is going to be a period of intense negotiations at the technical level and the political level,’ he told reporters.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said it was time for the leaders of world trade to ‘show their commitment’ as the global financial crisis ravaged export industries.

‘Everybody knows the United States and India are the most important players in terms of setting the tone and providing how far the (Doha) agreement can go,’ she said.

The WTO talks, which started at the end of 2001 in the Qatari capital, aim to boost international commerce by removing trade barriers and subsidies.

US, Pakistan flew 12 joint missions over Fata

WASHINGTON, June 1: The US and Pakistan flew 12 joint drone missions in the tribal areas this spring until Islamabad stopped participating in the missions, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Pakistan has long demanded joint ownership of US-led drone missions into the tribal areas but so far the Americans have been reluctant to accept the Pakistani demand.

In early spring, however, US forces offered a compromise: Pakistan could direct US military Predators over areas of its choice, transmitting images directly into its own intelligence channels.

After Pakistan refused to allow a downlink to be established on its side of the border, the ground equipment was set up at a joint cooperation centre on the Afghanistan side. Pakistani officials were taken to Turkey to observe a similar programme.

Twelve missions were flown over the tribal regions near the border. But in mid-April, the Pakistanis abandoned the project, the Post reported. “They just did not ask for additional flight information,” a US official familiar with the programme told the Post.

“Any time we have asked them if they need anything, they’ve come back and said, ‘No, thank you’.” According to US officials, between March 10 and 15 they flew the first ‘proof of concept’ mission for the Pakistanis.

“We told them, here’s how the system would work. Here’s how we can push data through your own networks so you would have capability available to you,” said a US military official who participated in the programme.

Although the Predators were armed, US and Pakistani officials said, no offensive operations beyond intelligence-gathering were contemplated or authorised.

A Pakistani official told the Post that his government expected the programme to continue eventually but that its attention was now focussed farther east, on the ongoing Swat offensive.

“US overflights there were not wanted,” he said. “We don’t want the American unmanned aerial vehicles going so deep into Pakistani territory,” he said.

The Post reported that US officials offered the compromise formula after noting that drone attacks killed civilians as well, stoking anti-American feelings in Pakistan that inhibit cooperation between Islamabad and Washington.

US, Pakistan flew 12 joint missions over Fata

WASHINGTON: The US and Pakistan flew 12 joint drone missions in the tribal areas this spring until Islamabad stopped participating in the missions, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Pakistan has long demanded joint ownership of US-led drone missions into the tribal areas but so far the Americans have been reluctant to accept the Pakistani demand.

In early spring, however, US forces offered a compromise: Pakistan could direct US military Predators over areas of its choice, transmitting images directly into its own intelligence channels.

After Pakistan refused to allow a downlink to be established on its side of the border, the ground equipment was set up at a joint cooperation centre on the Afghanistan side. Pakistani officials were taken to Turkey to observe a similar programme.

Twelve missions were flown over the tribal regions near the border. But in mid-April, the Pakistanis abandoned the project, the Post reported. ‘They just did not ask for additional flight information,’ a US official familiar with the programme told the Post.

‘Any time we have asked them if they need anything, they’ve come back and said, ‘No, thank you.’’ According to US officials, between March 10 and 15 they flew the first ‘proof of concept’ mission for the Pakistanis.

‘We told them, here’s how the system would work. Here’s how we can push data through your own networks so you would have capability available to you,’ said a US military official who participated in the programme.

Although the Predators were armed, US and Pakistani officials said, no offensive operations beyond intelligence-gathering were contemplated or authorised.

A Pakistani official told the Post that his government expected the programme to continue eventually but that its attention was now focussed farther east, on the ongoing Swat offensive.

‘US overflights there were not wanted,’ he said. ‘We don’t want the American unmanned aerial vehicles going so deep into Pakistani territory,’ he said.

The Post reported that US officials offered the compromise formula after noting that drone attacks killed civilians as well, stoking anti-American feelings in Pakistan that inhibit cooperation between Islamabad and Washington.

US, Israel fanning Indo-Pak tensions, says Qadhafi

WASHINGTON: In an interesting article published in The Washington Times on Friday, Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi blames the United States and Israel for fanning differences between India and Pakistan.

‘The Pakistanis are told that their enemy is the Hindus, not the Jews or Christians, and therefore their bomb should be directed towards them, the Pakistanis’ immediate enemy, and not anyone else,’ writes Mr Qadhafi.

‘Similarly, the Indians are led to believe their real enemy is Pakistan and that the Pakistani bomb was directed towards them rather than the Israelis or Americans.’

The Libyan leader claims that this policy aims to preoccupy Pakistan with India and India with Pakistan. ‘Perhaps this is why America has not been willing to contribute to solving the Kashmiri problem, whereas the Israelis will try to keep it always flammable.’

Mr Qadhafi predicts that tension and anxiety between India and Pakistan will continue, as will the danger posed by a nuclear Pakistan. ‘Attempts by the Israelis and Americans to extricate themselves from this quagmire, by all means, also will never cease. Either way presents a dangerous endgame to the region and the world.’

The Libyan leaders claims that the West, particularly America, and Israel never wished for Pakistan to possess a nuclear bomb. ‘But on May 28, 1998, they woke up to the fact that Pakistan had become a nuclear state and blamed their intelligence services for failure to anticipate the nuclear tests.’

He notes that countless books, articles and speeches called Pakistan’s nuclear bomb the Islamic bomb, ‘as loaded a term as any, as many considered it a doomsday weapon directed against their interests.’

Mr Qadhafi claims that every effort was made to dissuade Pakistan from owning the bomb, noting that the then US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger frankly told then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ‘If you make the bomb, we’ll make an example out of you.’

‘Mr Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, was hanged. Gen Zia, who Islamised Pakistan and consolidated its nuclear programme, was murdered. More recently, Benazir Bhutto, Mr Bhutto’s daughter, was assassinated. Others still may face a similar fate,’ writes Mr Qadhafi.

The Libyan leader then analyses the internal and external threats confronting Pakistan and concludes that the country is surrounded by a hostile environment that provokes its very Muslim essence.

‘This is the reason behind the formation of violent Muslim groups affiliated with the fierce tribes in Afghanistan as well as Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden,’ Mr Qadhafi argues.

‘The danger such fanatic groups constitute for the Israelis and Americans is that they may hold the reins of power, to which they indeed aspire,’ he notes. ‘If these groups governed the state – which is a possibility – it would be a very dangerous outcome for the Americans and Israelis.’

On the other hand, ‘if political parties, such as the PPP, or even the army, ruled, things would be relatively safe because they presumably constitute responsible institutions.’

‘Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they can form sustainable governments,’ he concludes.