|Asia News Digest
Russian Envoy Moots U.S. Military Role in Afghan Drugs
Feb. 25 (EIRNS)A sharp growth in drug addiction and a Russian news channel reporting that drugs from Afghanistan were hauled by American transport aircraft to the U.S. airbases in Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, have ostensibly led the Russia's Ambassador to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov to tell the news channel, Vesti, that "if such actions do take place they cannot be undertaken without contact with Afghans, and if one Afghan man knows this, at least a half of Afghanistan will know about this sooner or later. That is why I think this is possible, but cannot prove it," he added.
The Vesti channel's report from Afghanistan said that drugs were hauled by American transport aircraft to the U.S. airbases, Ganci in Kyrgyzstan, and Incirlik in Turkey. The Ganci Air Force Base at the Manas international airport in Kyrgyzstan was set up in late 2001, as a staging post for military operations inside Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz government threatened to close the base after neighboring Uzbekistan shut down a similar U.S. air base on its territory in 2005, but relented after Washington agreed to make a one-time payment of $150 million in the form of an assistance package, and to pay $15 million a year for the use of the base. Another Russian journalist in Central Asia, Arkady Dubnov, recently quoted anonymous Afghan sources as saying that 85% of all drugs produced in southern and southeastern provinces are shipped abroad by U.S. aviation.
In Russia, the Federal Drug Control Service had pointed out in January that as many as 30-40 million people in Russia may have tried drugs at least once. Annually, some 80,000 Russians die of drug-related causes. One in five crimes committed in Russia is related to drugs. The illegal drug turnover in Russia is estimated at $10-15 billion, discounting transit trafficking. About 45% of Russian university students use drugs, according to Russian Minister for Education and Science Andrei Fursenko.
President Vladimir Putin has described the drug abuse problem as a "national calamity." "Unfortunately, they [NATO] are doing nothing to reduce the narcotic threat from Afghanistan even a tiny bit," Putin had angrily remarked three years ago. He accused the coalition forces of "sitting back and watching caravans haul drugs across Afghanistan" to the former Soviet Union and Europe.
According to the Federal Drug Control Service, 90% of all heroin sold in Russia comes from Afghanistan. Russia today has about 6 million drug-users, a 20-fold increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a huge figure for a country of 142 million people.
Harsh Winter, Food Shortage Threaten Afghans and Tajiks
Feb. 29 (EIRNS)The harshest Winter east of Hindu Kush mountain range threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, an unstable security situation, and shortage of food have added to the threat.
In Afghanistan, 300,000 livestockthe source of meat and milkhave died since last December, and led the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issue warnings of impending dangers. High fuel, vegetable oil, and cereals are compounding the vulnerability of poor households, reducing their access to food. Meanwhile, drug money in the hands of warlords in Afghanistan has resulted in smuggling in huge amounts of wheat and flour from Pakistan, threatening the food situation in Pakistan itself, where food prices are rising rapidly.
In Tajikistan, where the temperature throughout February remained in single digits (Fahrenheit), the UN issued a flash appeal, calling for an immediate international infusion of $25.1 million in assistance to Tajikistan. At least 260,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance, the appeal stated grimly. "Moreover, the government reports that up to 2 million people may require food assistance through the end of the Winter, if limited food and fuel supplies in rural areas are not replenished. In all, almost one-third of the country's population of just over 7 million is in need of some form of assistance."
Pakistan Politics on 'Pause Button'; Violence Resumes
Feb. 29 (EIRNS)Although Pakistan's Feb. 18 National Assembly elections are now well known, the inability of President Pervez Musharraf, Washington, and the two leading parties in the elections, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to convene the parliament and form a government, has not prevented the militant secessionists from resuming violence in a big way.
Today, bombs went off in Quetta, Baluchistan; Peshawar, the North West Frontier Province; and Mingora, Swat district of Northern Territoriesall these areas border Afghanistan and all are under the British-instigated policy to separate from the Punjab-Sindh-dominated Pakistan. The bombing at Mingora was the deadliest, taking at least 40 lives, most of whom were policemen, and at least 50 injured policemen were brought to the hospital. Electricity has been cut off in the area.
McConnell: Karzai Gov't Controls Only 30% of Afghanistan
March 1 (EIRNS)Vice Adm. Michael McConnell, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, testifying about the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 28, said that while the Taliban controls 10% of the land, the Karzai government controls only 30%. The rest is under tribal control. The key to the Taliban's success, McConnell said, is the opportunity for safe haven in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the surge in violence has placed a big strain on NATO.
The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, told the same committee hearing that major problems remain in trying to crack down on the lawless tribal area on the Afghan-Pak border. Saying it would take three to five more years to tame the area, Maples pointed out that the Pakistani military was not trained for that fight. "Pakistani military operations in the [region] have not fundamentally damaged al-Qaeda's position," he said."The tribal areas remain largely ungovernable and, as such, they will continue to provide vital sanctuary to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and regional extremism more broadly."
From what these two officials said, it is evident that the killing of thousands of Afghans, and adding more troops to kill more Afghans, is making the Taliban stronger. Also, it is quite likely that if Washington does not wake up to the threat that Pakistan faces today, it may not remain as a single nation five years from now.
Thailand Being Set Up To Explode
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)Institutions set up under the new Thai Constitution, rammed through by the military government just months before the recent election, are now moving to dismantle the newly elected government, threatening to return Thailand to chaos, in keeping with British global destabilizations. The Election Commission upheld an investigation that found the new speaker of the parliament, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, a leader of the victorious People's Power Party (PPP), guilty of election fraud. The commission will ask the Thai Supreme Court to ban him from politics, a commission official said today. According to the military junta's convoluted election law, the PPP itself could be dissolved because of this. This would plunge Thailand into chaos.
Meanwhile, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said that ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is strongly supported by the PPP, will return from exile soon. The PPP has applied for a rally permit to welcome him. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said yesterday that it would oppose Thaksin's return, and threatened to revive street protests, which in 2006 led to the military coup that ousted him from the premiership.