|Asia News Digest
Assassinations of Karzai's Half-Brother Spells Trouble for U.S./NATO
July 12 (EIRNS)Ahmad Wali Karzai, a half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan, was assassinated by a bodyguard today. The assassin was reportedly killed on the spot.
"My younger brother was martyred in his house today. This is the life of all Afghan people. I hope these miseries which every Afghan family faces will one day end," President Karzai said a news conference in Kabul.
Over the years, Wali Karzai was identified as a druglord and a strongman with direct links to warlords and Taliban. Although not much was proven, Wali Karzai, a resident of Kandahar, arguably the most important center of Pushtun power in Afghanistan, was a go-to person for almost everyone. The Christian Science Monitor pointed out today that the death is likely to shake the power bases of Kandahar, and may risk undoing the region's recent security gains. It may force NATO to remain focused on the south, when it was planning to shift efforts toward the increasingly restive east Afghanistan.
"I don't think that someone else will be able to play such a role," said Gawsudin Frotan, an independent analyst in Kandahar. "He was working here like he was a king. He was not appointed as the governor, but he had the power that the governor had."
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani analyst, said the death of an ally in such a crucial city would hugely disrupt NATO strategy. At the end of the day, he was very close to the President. Kandahar is very important, and President Karzai needed someone there he could trust, he said. If Kandahar cannot be controlled, then the NATO troop withdrawal schedule will be thrown out.
Is the Obama Administration Targeting Pakistan?
July 12 (EIRNS)On July 10, the Obama Administration announced suspension of $800 million in aid to Pakistan's military. President Obama's chief of staff, William Dale, said that the suspension would remain in place until the two countries improve their relationship, made difficult by recent events. Washington cited as reasons for the decision such lame excuses as Islamabad's expulsion of American military trainers from Pakistan's Shamsi Airport Base and the killing of a Pakistani journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who reported alleged collusion between al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Navy in the early-June attack of a naval station based in Karachi.
Part of the $800 million military assistance to Pakistan put on hold was $300 million in reimbursement to Pakistan's cost of deploying 10,000 soldiers to the Afghan border for counterinsurgency and for military equipment such as rifles, ammunition, body armor, and bomb-disposal gear. Retaliating against this arbitrary action, Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, has said that Pakistani troops will pull back from the Pak-Afghan border. Speaking on the Evening Hour with Kirsten Seymour show (aired on Express 24/7 on June 11), Mukhtar said that Pakistan would pull back troops from the nearly 1,100 checkpoints along the Pak-Afghan border. He said that Pakistan could not afford to keep its military out in the mountains or in the border areas for long periods of time.
It is evident that the suspicion was a punitive measure inflicted on Pakistan by the Obama Administration, and it is reflective of the way this administration functions. Under Obama's Presidency, drone attacks inside Pakistan and resulting deaths of Pakistani citizens have multiplied manyfold. For instance, 32 suspected militants were killed in three drone strikes between July 10 and 11 in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, taking note of the U.S. decision to suspend the aid, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that China will provide assistance to the Pakistani military. Pakistan is an important country in South Asia, Hong said, and its stability and development are closely connected with the peace and stability of South Asia. China has always provided assistance to Pakistan, helping it improve people's livelihood and realize the sustainable development of its economy and society. China will continue to do so in the future, Hong said.
Lavrov and Clinton Condemn Explosions in Mumbai
July 14 (EIRNS)At a joint statement issued from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov strongly condemned the serial blasts on July 13 in Mumbai, India, terming the attack a "despicable" act that was designed to provoke "fear and division".
Based upon preliminary information, the Russian Consulate General in Mumbai said that Russians are among those killed and injured as a result of these bombings. "The entire city police force moved into a state of high alert. In the General Consulate we established operational headquarters.... Now [we have] fairly limited communication in Mumbai, especially the telephone, because of the fact that it started to turn off after the terrorist attacks," Russian news services quoted Attaché Consulate General of Russia in Mumbai Maria Afanasyeva.
Lavrov said he fully supported Clinton in "condemning these despicable acts of violence designed to provoke fear and division." "The Indian people have suffered from acts of terrorism before, and we have seen them respond with courage and resilience." "Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we have reached out to the Indian government to express our condolence and offer support," Clinton said, adding that she would be travelling to India next week as planned. Clinton said neither the U.S. nor Russia were strangers to terrorism, and it has been a mutual goal to increase their cooperation in order to prevent terrorists from wreaking their violence on innocent Russians, Americans, and others, and to bring those who do so to justice.
Japanese Newspaper Demands Kan's Ouster over Nuclear Issue
July 11 (EIRNS)The Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan's most influential newspapers, editorialized for the immediate removal of Prime Minister Naoto Kan over his policy toward Japan's nuclear industry. Titled "Restart N-plants safely; shut down Kan govt swiftly," the editorial warns that under Kan's misleadership, "It has now become more likely that every single nuclear reactor in Japan will be suspended within a year, causing a severe power shortage. This is an alarming situation for the nation."
Under pressure from political layers, business leaders, and provinces needing to restart the nuclear reactors which had been shut for maintenance at the time of the tsunami, Kan was about to allow some reactors to be turned on, then suddenly announced the need for "stress tests" on all plants. The Yomiuri editorial describes this as a "stab in the back" for Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda, who had carefully arranged for the opening of nuclear plants after normal safety inspections were completed.
The editorial points out that these extended stress tests, still undefined by the Kan government, will take at least several months, so that the nuclear reactors "will not begin in August, when the demand for electricity will sharply rise," meaning rolling blackouts and a crisis for Japan's industries. "If the prime minister does not recognize this critical situation," they write, "he is unbelievably irresponsible. He has pinned his hopes on a special measures bill designed to promote renewable energy sources. But his top priority should be to settle the immediate problem at hand.... Under this prime minister, the Japanese economy only keeps heading deeper and deeper into a slump. Everyone in the political world should find a way to bring an end to the Kan administration as soon as possible."
Kan has agreed to step down soon, but the specific date for that resignation continues to by pushed back, as the economy deteriorates.