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Posts Tagged ‘Security’

Media outlets are reporting today that an American aid worker working for a U.S.-based development firm was shot and killed in Peshawar. According to the NY Times, the man, identified as Steve Vance [Dawn identified him as “Stephen Wanz“] was “assassinated” in his car when he was on his way to the house in Peshawar “where Mr. Vance ran a project to bring small-scale projects and jobs to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.” His Pakistani driver was also killed in the incident. [Image from the AFP]

According to the Washington Post, “Most employees of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar live in a compound at the consulate itself, but some choose the University Town neighborhood. In August, gunmen shot at the car carrying the top U.S. diplomat in the city, Lynne Tracy, who also lives in University Town. She was unharmed.” The killings Wednesday came after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded sports stadium in the center of Peshawar Tuesday night, “moments after leading politicians of the city had left the arena,” reported the Times. At least 13 people were wounded in yesterday’s bombing, media outlets reported.

Dawn cited a “Western security official,” who said the gunmen blocked the men’s vehicle in a narrow lane with their own car, then opened fire with automatic weapons. A U.S. embassy spokesman told news agencies, “The attack is currently under investigation and we are coordinating with the local authorities.” Most media outlets, including AAJ Television framed Wednesday’s incident in light of the larger security situation. AAJ reported, “Violence has surged in the northwest where militants have unleashed a wave of bomb and suicide attacks in recent months, while U.S. missile strikes in the tribal lands bordering Afghanistan have fueled anti-American sentiment.” Moreover, reported the AFP, “The Pakistan military’s crackdown on the guerrillas – forces moved into the tribal Bajaur region in August – is unpopular with many in the region. Officials say the military campaign has left more than 1,500 people dead.”

So far, Tehreek-e-Taliban, the umbrella organization of militant groups that Baitullah Mehsud heads, [click here for CHUP’s past backgrounder on Mehsud], has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s suicide bombing at Peshawar’s sport stadium. No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s incident, although media outlets are implying that the Pakistani Taliban may also have perpetrated the assassination.

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General David Petraeus, the new head of U.S. Central Command [CENTCOM] and former top U.S. commander in Iraq, visited Pakistan for the first time on Monday. Most media headlines blared, “Pakistan Warns U.S. Commander against Missile Strikes.” CNN reported in its coverage,

Petraeus’ trip signals Pakistan’s crucial role in the fight against terrorism, particularly the escalating war in neighboring Afghanistan. But it also comes amid tensions over suspected American missile strikes in Pakistan — a U.S. ally threatened with financial ruin, torn by an Islamic insurgency and armed with nuclear weapons.

Pakistan’s defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, reportedly told the U.S. commander that launching further missile strikes in the country’s troubled tribal areas could increase tensions between the two countries. The Washington Post cited Mukhtar, who also called “for more coordination between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries,” and said the recent increase in U.S.-led cross-border strikes had created “bad blood” between the two allies. In a statement released Monday, the defense ministry asserted that frequent attacks inside Pakistan by U.S. Predator drones “could generate anti-American sentiments” and “create outrage and uproar” among Pakistanis, a trend we have already seen occur. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari further echoed that such strikes are detrimental to the “war on terror,” adding, “Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counter-productive and difficult to explain by a democratically-elected government…It is creating a credibility gap.”

Although the NY Times reported that there had been no public comment or appearances by Petraeus in the aftermath of such reports, CNN later released an interview with the general. Asked by CNN’s Raza Shah whether he heard any criticism of these U.S. attacks, General Petraeus said he had, noting, “In fact, we got certain messages with each of those we talked today and some of those were very clear and we have to take those on board…This is a partnership, a cooperative endeavor designed to achieve mutual goals and mutual interests and so we have to clearly accept that.” He added, “One of the clear messages that I got today was the recognition by Pakistan’s leaders [of] the existential threat as they see it from extremists who are in those areas…They are very serious about dealing with that threat.”

According to BBC News, “Gen. Petraeus has already commissioned a major review of U.S. strategy in the region, which is expected to emphasize the need for a wider regional solution and more outreach to the Taliban.” The commander was responsible for the oft-cited “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq, and has been widely credited for the recent security improvements seen in the war-torn nation. It will be significant to see whether the U.S. will continue to advocate a similar strategy for Pakistan, [i.e., the Anbar Awakening, of empowering and arming tribes] as reports have recently indicated. [Image from the Associated Press]

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So far, the week has been marked with significant announcements of alliances and collaborations between Pakistan and other states in the international community. On Tuesday, the AFP cited German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who announced, “Germany stands ready to help Pakistan overcome its security and economic problems to help promote peace in the wider region.” In a joint conference with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, he asserted, “We want to support Pakistan not only in fair weather but also in stormy weather.” Dawn, in its coverage of the meeting, reported that Germany would help Pakistan negotiate a deal with the International Monetary Fund [IMF], [see related CHUP post]. [Image from AFP]

The news agency cited analysts, who said, “With donors caught up with their own problems brought on by the global financial crisis, they would apparently prefer to wait for IMF involvement which would bring discipline by attaching conditions and targets.” Members of the Friends of Pakistan group, which includes the United States, the European Union, the UAE, the United Nations and China, reportedly expect Pakistan to come to a deal with the IMF before they will make concrete offers. Steinmeier signaled a similar stance today, noting that Germany “would be ready to step up development assistance to Pakistan but…declined to give a figure.” The Associated Press cited him saying that “Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, and other countries were discussing a separate package of assistance for Pakistan to boost faltering economic growth.”

On the security front, media outlets also reported Tuesday that Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to initiate contact “with militant groups through a tribal council.” According to GEO News, “The declaration came after two days of talks in Islamabad aimed at finding a lasting solution to the unrest which has wracked the region since the U.S.-led toppling of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in 2001.” The Daily Times reported that Pakistani FM Qureshi emphasized yesterday that negotiations and reconciliation “are necessary to succeed in combating terrorism and extremism.” The joint declaration released today reiterated the “urgent and imperative need for dialogue and negotiations with opposition groups in both countries [in order] to find a peaceful settlement for the ongoing conflict…” The AFP cited Owais Ghani, the leader of the talks on the Pakistan side, who said that contacts will be established “with all those involved in the conflict situation,” including the Taliban and other militant groups, adding, “We will sit, we will talk to them, they will listen to us and we will come to some sort of solution. Without dialogue we cannot have any sort of conclusion.” [Image from Dawn]

Turkey on Tuesday also pledged to stengthen their bilateral relations with Pakistan in defense, commerce, energy, and communication, reported AAJ Television. Turkish PM Tayyep Erdogan and Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani held formal bilateral talks in Ankara. Erdogan, in a joint press conference, told reporters that “his country was ready to extend full cooperation and assistance to Pakistan to come out of its current economic crisis and enhance development in the country.” [Image from AAJ]

So it appears our senior officials have had their hands full today, with significant collaborations and deals made between Germany, Turkey and Afghanistan. However, let’s hope,  given the deteriorating economic and security conditions, more than just “pledges of cooperation” follow these talks.

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On Wednesday, media outlets reported that the Pakistani leg of the Olympic tour “passed off peacefully” behind closed doors and amid heavy security at Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium, [for more background, see previous post on the Olympic torch relay]. Pakistan was the first nation in Asia to receive the torch, a point emphasized by several news sources today. The Associated Press noted the ceremony was “an invitation-only event” with an “elite, sparse crowd” and security to “deter any anti-China protesters or terrorist attacks.” The news agency added, “Televised live – the only way the general public could watch – the relay of Pakistani and Chinese torchbearers looked almost like a practice run as they jogged on access roads around the perimeter of Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad’s main sports complex.” At a ceremony after the end of the relay, President Musharraf said, “It is an honor for us, all Pakistanis, to be an intrinsic part of this tremendous journey and to host the Olympic torch.”

Early stages of the torch relay in London and Paris were said to have been overshadowed by demonstrations against Beijing’s crackdown on protests in Tibet “and the third stage in San Francisco was also drastically curtailed and seen by relatively few people,” noted the AFP. The torch next moves on to New Delhi for what the AFP called “a short, heavily guarded leg.” The news agency added, “Thousands of Indian police prepared to seal off the heart of New Delhi on Wednesday as Tibetan activists ramped up protests. India is home to more than 100,000 Tibetan refugees, many of them organised and media savvy.” [See more about the Olympic torch and subsequent protests below:]

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