Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Message From Those Searching For Osama bin Laden in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan

From time to time we have featured the writings of our correspondent Muhammad Khurshid who lives in Bajaur Agency, Tribal Areas of Pakistan. This is his latest message:

To: Mr. John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom blog

Dear Sir,

I am Muhammad Khurshid contributing articles to you from Bajaur Agency, Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Your writings are very beneficial for humanity at least for me and people of Bajaur Agency. The people of Bajaur Agency really grateful to you.

Situation in our areas is still tense as the terrorists and the government forces are engaged in defeating each other. The main victims of this endless war are innocent tribal people mostly women and children.

I have written a letter to U.S. President Bush on behalf of people of Bajaur Agency. In the letter the people of Bajaur Agency have shown their willingness to hand over their weapons to the United States. But so far no response was received.

The most interesting thing which can be noted that the US has been spending some money on the welfare of the tribal people to win their hearts, but that money was spent through the corrupt officials of Pakistan government. The tribal areas people are now demanding that the US government and people should establish direct contact with them.

As far as your web site is concerned it is marvelous and nice. Again thank you very much.

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency Tribal Areas, Pakistan


Gates spells out stakes he sees in Iraq

B Robert Burns
AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON - Robert Gates, the new defense secretary, wasted no time spelling out the stakes he sees in Iraq.

In his first public remarks as Pentagon chief, Gates warned Monday that failure in Iraq would be a "calamity" that would haunt the United States for years. He said he would go there soon to consult with commanders.

Underscoring eroding security in Iraq, a Pentagon report — issued just hours after Gates was sworn in as the nation's 22nd secretary of defense — said the number of insurgent and sectarian attacks had risen to the highest level in years. It said civil war remains a possibility and urged the Iraqi government to act with urgency to prevent collapse.

Gates sketched out an agenda of reversing the downward spiral in Iraq, attending to resurgent violence in Afghanistan and pushing for the military modernization that was a priority of his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Iraq, he said, comes first.

"All of us want to find a way to bring America's sons and daughters home again," Gates told a few hundred people in a Pentagon auditorium, including President Bush, Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gates' wife and mother. Rumsfeld, who handed off his authority earlier Monday in a private event, did not attend.

"As the president has made clear," Gates said, "we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come."

Gates has not tipped his hand on the kinds of changes in Iraq strategy he thinks may be needed. He said that since his Senate confirmation in early December he has held in-depth discussions with Bush on Iraq policy.

More broadly, Gates has said he will keep an open mind about other issues at the Pentagon, including proposals by the heads of the Army and Marine Corps to increase the size of their services to cope with the strains of war. Last week, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's top commander, warned that his force "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, said in an interview Monday that he feels certain Gates will have the latitude within the administration to push for a bigger Army and Marine Corps. "The question is going to be how high" to go, Ryan said.

At the Pentagon ceremony, Bush said he is confident Gates, 63, will bring a fresh perspective to the Iraq problem.

"He knows the stakes in the war on terror," Bush said. "He recognizes this is a long struggle against an enemy unlike any our nation has fought before. He understands that defeating the terrorists and the radicals and the extremists in Iraq and the Middle East is essential to leading toward peace."

Bush made no mention of his plan for changing Iraq strategy, which he has said will be unveiled next month.

Amid growing speculation that Bush will choose to send tens of thousands more U.S. troops to Baghdad in a reinvigorated attempt to quell the sectarian violence, a leading Democrat in Congress cautioned against that move.

"Everything I've heard and everything I know to be true lead me to believe that this increase at best won't change a thing, and at worst could exacerbate the situation even further," said Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who will become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in January.

U.S. commanders moved several thousand more U.S. troops into Baghdad last summer in a bid to tamp down the violence. The move worked briefly, but the violence rebounded quickly, according to the Pentagon report sent to Congress on Monday.

The Pentagon report said attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians jumped sharply in recent months to the highest level since Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 2004. From mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks increased 22 percent from the previous three months. The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents, the report said.

A bar chart in the Pentagon's report gave no exact numbers but indicated the weekly average had approached 1,000 in the latest period, compared with about 800 per week from the May-to-August period. Statistics provided separately by the Pentagon said weekly attacks had averaged 959 in the latest period.

The report also said the Iraqi government's failure to end sectarian violence has eroded ordinary Iraqis' confidence in their future. That conclusion reflects some of the Bush administration's doubt about the ability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make the hard decisions U.S. officials insist are needed to quell the violence.

"The failure of the government to implement concrete actions in these areas has contributed to a situation in which, as of October 2006, there were more Iraqis who expressed a lack of confidence in their government's ability to improve the situation than there were in July 2006," the report said, calling for urgent action in Baghdad.

It made no mention of a timetable for ending U.S. military involvement.

Attacks in Iraq at Record High, Pentagon Says

By David S. Cloud and Michael R Gordon
The New York Times
December 19, 2006

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level, and called violence by Shiite militants the most significant threat in Baghdad.

The report, which covers the period from early August to early November, found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005, with the biggest surge in attacks against American-led forces. That was an increase of 22 percent from the level for early May to early August, the report said.

While most attacks were directed at American forces, most deaths and injuries were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians.

The report is the most comprehensive public assessment of the American-led operation to secure Baghdad, which began in early August. About 17,000 American combat troops are currently involved in the beefed-up security operation.

According to the Pentagon assessment, the operation initially had some success in reducing killings as militants concentrated on eluding capture and hiding their weapons. But sectarian death squads soon adapted, resuming their killings in regions of the capital that were not initially targets of the overstretched American and Iraqi troops.

Shiite militias, the Pentagon report said, also received help from allies among the Iraqi police. “Shia death squads leveraged support from some elements of the Iraqi Police Service and the National Police who facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations,” the report said.

“This is a major reason for the increased levels of murders and executions.”

The findings were issued on the day Robert M. Gates was sworn in as defense secretary, replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld.

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