Zionist Anti-Communist : Chris Floyd’s Recent Vile Attacks On American Troops

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chris Floyd’s Recent Vile Attacks On American Troops; Refer Troops As “Death Squads”

by mah29001 | March 24, 2009

Isn’t this rhetoric typical coming from Chris Floyd? Floyd now regards American troops on the ground in Afghanistan to be death squads. Sounding more like a Soviet-inspired propagandist, Floyd also blames the USA for also “creating” al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even while not mentioning that members of the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Kremlin were in contact with each other during even prior up to the 9/11 attacks.

Has Floyd ever criticized the old Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan which installed itself through force after ousting the Afghani monarchy? Or perhaps the same Soviet-backed Communist party just enjoying to murder one another when things didn’t go well for the Kremlin? Apparently to Floyd, he certainly doesn’t seem to care. Has Floyd also ever been critical of any of the Islamic laws still being pushed by many “moderate”/”former” Taliban members now involved with the “new” Afghani government?

Apparently that’s fine as well.

SJ Mercury : Pakistan militants strengthen in heartland

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pakistan militants strengthen in heartland

By CHRIS BRUMMITT | Associated Press Writer | March 23, 2009

BAHAWALPUR, Pakistan — The compound bore no sign. Residents referred to it simply as the school for "jihadi fighters," speaking in awe of the expensive horses stabled within its high walls—and the extremists who rode them bareback in the dusty fields around it. In classrooms nearby, teachers drilled boys as young as 8 in an uncompromising brand of Islam that called for holy war against enemies of the faith. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Dar-ul-uloom Madina school, they rocked back and forth as they recited sections of the Quran, Islam's holy book.

Both facilities are run by an al-Qaida-linked terror network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, in the heart of Pakistan, hundreds of miles from the Afghan border that is the global focus of the fight against terrorism. Their existence raises questions about the government's pledge to crack down on terror groups accused of high-profile attacks in Pakistan and India, and ties to global terror plots.

Authorities say militant groups in Punjab are increasingly sending out fighters to Afghanistan and the border region, adding teeth to an insurgency spreading across Pakistan that has stirred fears about the country's stability and the safety of its nuclear weapons.

The horse-riding facility, discovered by The Associated Press during a visit to this impoverished region where miles of dusty, wind-swept desert spread out in all directions, had never before been seen by journalists.

There, would-be jihadi fighters practice martial arts, archery and horse-riding skills and get religious instruction, according to a former member of Jaish-e-Mohammed, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified by ex-comrades or authorities.

Horse-riding is considered by many extremists to be especially merit-worthy because the pursuit is referenced in Islamic teachings on jihad.

Pakistan has seen a string of attacks, including the ambush this month of Sri Lankan cricket players in the Punjab capital, Lahore, and a truce with extremists in Swat less than 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, that have heightened alarm in Washington and other Western capitals that the country is slipping into chaos.

Amid the near daily onslaught of violence, the country's president and opposition leader have been locked in a bitter political dispute that has exposed the weakness of the civilian government less than a year after it took over following years of military rule by Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan outlawed Jaish in 2001, but has done little to enforce the ban, partly out of fear of a backlash but also because it and other groups in Punjab were created by the powerful intelligence agencies as a proxy force in Afghanistan and Kashmir, a territory disputed with rival India.

"You can say Jaish is running its business as usual," said Mohammed Amir Rana, from Pakistan's Institute for Peace Studies, which tracks militant groups. "The military wants to keep alive its strategic options in Kashmir. The trouble is you cannot restrict the militants to one area. You cannot keep control of them."

Apart from the martial arts and horse riding center, Jaish militants openly operate two imposing boarding schools in Bahawalpur, a dusty town of 500,000 people. Food, lodging and tuition are free for their 500 students, paid for by donations from sympathizers across the country.

A top police officer said the schools and other hard-line establishments in the area were used to recruit teens and young men for jihadi activities in Pakistan's northwest or in Afghanistan. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A guard wielding an automatic weapon stood at the gate of the Usman-o-Ali school and turned a visiting AP team away. But the head teacher at nearby Dar-ul-uloom Madina school allowed the group a tour and an interview.

Ataur Rehman said none of the students were allowed to be recruited for jihad while studying there, but added that he could not stop them joining up after they graduated.

"We have made it clear: our focus is teaching, teaching and teaching," he said in his damp threadbare office as a student served sweet, milky tea and biscuits. "But if someone does something independently, we cannot be held responsible."

In classrooms, students ranging in age from 8 to their mid-20s sat shoulder-to-shoulder along wooden planks as they chanted Quranic verses; one of the youngest boys broke off briefly from his studies and grinned at a visiting reporter.

In the kitchen, men stirred huge pots of chicken curry, washed potatoes and made fresh bread. Outside, workers mixed cement for a new cafeteria and dormitory.

The walled complex with the horse stables was on the outskirts of town, and from the road, laborers could be seen working on a building toward the rear of the compound.

Home to more than half of Pakistan's 160 million people, Punjab's large cities are centers of wealth and political power, but in towns like Bahawalpur, poverty is widespread.

Last year, the governor of Pakistan's border region warned that insurgent commanders and suicide bombers were increasingly coming from Punjab. Afghan police officers also say Punjabi fighters are becoming common there.

"Pakistani citizens, and especially Punjabis, are the Taliban trainers in the area for bomb-making," said Asadullah Sherzad, police chief in Afghanistan's insurgency-wracked Helmand province, adding there are around 100 Punjabis at any one time in that area of Afghanistan.

A police officer in Bahawalpur said Jaish members were not believed to be training with weapons in the town's schools and other facilities, adding that law enforcement agencies had infiltrated the group. He spoke on condition of anonymity because sections of the government and security agencies disagreed on the need to crack down on the group.

Jaish is believed to have been formed in 2000 by hard-line cleric Masood Azhar after he was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Indian Airlines flight that landed in Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan the same year.

Azhar was born in Bahawalpur, though the government says his current whereabouts are not known. A small stall outside the Usman-o-Ali school sells his speeches and writings.

"When my brother's blood is shed in Afghanistan, when he is a victim of bombs, then does America expect us to offer it flowers?" he proclaims in a recording of an undated speech. "America you should listen... We will not let you live in peace so long as we are alive."

In 2007, British militant suspect Rashid Rauf was seized at the Usman-o-Ali school on suspicion of links to a failed plot to blow up jetliners over the Atlantic in 2007. Rauf, who escaped Pakistani custody and was reported to have been killed last year in a U.S. missile strike close to the border, is related by marriage to Azhar.

Jaish members and leaders are also suspected in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002, and in a bombing the same year in the city that killed 11 French engineers.

Jaish and other groups still recruit in villages in southern Punjab, according to the ex-Jaish member and another former militant who fought in Afghanistan.

The Usman-o-Ali school "requires each student to attend some sort of jihad training or practice each year," the ex-Jaish operative said, adding that the hot months of June and July were the prime recruiting period.


Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rahim Faiz contributed to this report from Bahawalpur.

Sunday Herald : Death squad leader ‘was top CIA agent’

Monday, March 23, 2009

Death squad leader ‘was top CIA agent’

Gabriel Ronay | March 22, 2009

THE LATE President Milosevic's secret police chief and organiser of Serb death squads during the genocidal ethnic cleansing of disintegrating Yugoslavia was the United States' top CIA agent in Belgrade, according to the independent Belgrade Radio B92.

The claim that from 1992 until the end of the decade, Jovica Stanisic, head of Serbia's murderous DB Secret Police, was regularly informing his CIA handlers of the thinking in Milosevic's inner circle has shocked the region.

Stanisic is said to have loyally served his two masters for eight years. He is facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

In the terrifying years of Yugoslavia's internecine wars, he acted as the willing "muscle" behind Milosevic's genocidal campaigns in Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia, including Sebrenica.

According to the charges he faces, Stanisic was "part of a joint criminal enterprise that included former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and other Serbian politicians".

Dermot Groome, The Hague's chief prosecutor, has specifically accused him of sending in the Serb Scorpion and Red Beret death squads into the states seeking independence from Belgrade. Stanisic has pleaded not guilty.

Like in a Cold War spy thriller, Serbia's secret police chief met his CIA handlers in safe houses, parks and boats on the river Sava to betray his master's action plans. He provided, it is claimed, information on the whereabouts of Nato hostages, aided CIA operatives in their search for Muslim mass graves and helped the US set up secret bases in Bosnia to monitor the implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace accord.

This has raised awkward questions for Washington. With Stanisic providing chapter and verse of the genocidal slaughter of Croats, Bosnians and Albanians from the early 1990s, should President Clinton have cut a deal with Milosevic at Dayton, Ohio, ending the Bosnian war on such equitable terms for the Serbs? Or, using Stanisic's evidence, should the Americans not have unmasked Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, the then head of Republika Srpska, as genocidal war criminals and demanded their surrender?

From his prison cell at The Hague, Stanisic countered the charges facing him with an aide memoir portraying himself as "a person who had sought to moderate Milosevic and had done a great deal to moderate the crisis".

In an unusual move, the CIA has submitted classified documents to the court that confirm Stanisic's "undercover operative role in helping to bring peace to the region and aiding the agency's work. He helped defuse some of the most explosive actions of the Bosnian war."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, William Lofgren, his original CIA recruiter and handler, now retired, said: "Stanisic provided valuable information from Milosevic's inner circle. But he never took money from the CIA, worked with the agency on operations or took steps that he would have considered a blatant betrayal of his boss."

Thus the judges at The Hague are having to judge a man who allegedly sent the Scorpion death squads to Srebrenica to "deal" with men and boys fleeing the UN-protected Muslim enclave, while working with the CIA trying to end Milosevic's ethnic wars.

The way the CIA apparently viewed their Belgrade "asset" is revealed in an interview with Balkan Insight, a little known south-east European publication.

The emerging picture is a quaint reflection from a hall of mirrors. Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times, writing about the links between the CIA and the Serb secret police chief, is quoted as saying: "As I said in the LAT story, the CIA do not see Stanisic as a choirboy. When you talk to people who work in espionage, this is often the case.

"Because of the nature of that job, of that assignment, they are working with people who do not have unblemished records, it would be difficult for them to be effective if they only worked with people who had unblemished records.

"People in Belgrade who have been following the career of Jovica Stanisic would say that this was a guy who was an expert in his field; he was a highly-trained and highly-effective spy. His motivation may have been that he wanted to know what the United States was up to.

"He did not believe that Milosevic was taking the country in the right direction - so he wanted to influence events. He saw himself as an important guy who could pull strings behind the scenes to make things happen in Belgrade."

Stanisic apparently did so on his own terms, while trying to remain a loyal Serb. He did not succeed.

Now he is having to account for his actions as Milosevic's loyal lieutenant at The Hague.

NYT : U.S. Kills 5 Afghans in Raid on House

Monday, March 23, 2009

U.S. Kills 5 Afghans in Raid on House


KABUL, Afghanistan — A predawn raid by United States Special Forces that killed five people on Sunday has produced sharply conflicting accounts from the American military and local Afghan officials as to whether the dead were civilians or militants, resurrecting a sore point that has troubled the American-led war here.

The United States military said in a statement that its forces killed five militants and detained four suspects in an operation against a “terrorist network” near the Afghan-Tajikistan border in the northern province of Kunduz. Local officials said that those killed were not militants and that the raided house belonged to the mayor of the town of Imam Sahib.

The military statement also said the operation was coordinated with the local Afghan police. But the provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, said no information had been given to him, the Kunduz governor or the head of intelligence.

He said the American unit that conducted the raid had called the police chief of Imam Sahib when it started the operation and specifically told the police not to go to the area.

The raid came after repeated complaints from President Hamid Karzai and provincial Afghan officials about the high civilian toll from, and public furor over, American-led counterterrorism operations, in particular overnight raids on houses and villages.

Some missions by elite Special Operations forces were halted in Afghanistan for two weeks in February to allow commanders to impose new safeguards intended to reduce the risk of civilian deaths, officials said.

The American military spokesman here could not be reached for comment on the conflicting accounts of the Sunday raid.

The statement on the raid issued by the American military said that when Afghan and coalition forces assaulted the compound they “encountered enemy combatants in the courtyard.”

“One militant was killed, and one surrendered and was detained,” the statement said. “When the forces called out for noncombatants to exit buildings in the compound, they were engaged with small arms fire. Forces returned fire and cleared the buildings on the compound, resulting in four militants killed and three suspected militants detained.”

The military found AK-47 rifles in the compound, the statement added. No women or children were present, it said.

General Yaqoubi confirmed that the compound belonged to Mayor Abdul Manan. “The targeted house belongs to the mayor of Imam Sahib, and those who were killed are his driver, his cook, his bodyguard and two of the guests,” he said. He said that he did not know who the four detained suspects were and that an investigation was under way.

Mr. Manan told The Associated Press that he was hunkered down in a room with his wife and children and had no contact with the troops during the raid. He said the helicopter-borne forces had blown open the gates of his compound.

The mayor is a well-known former mujahedeen commander, and was a member of Jamiat-i-Islami, the anti-Taliban faction that supported the American intervention in 2001, General Yaqoubi said.

German troops, as part of the NATO force, are responsible for security in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan, but the United States Special Forces have a base on the border with Tajikistan at Imam Sahib. The area is largely peaceful, although there have been occasional bomb attacks on German forces based in Kunduz.

Abdul Waheed Wafa reported from Kabul, and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Guardian : US will appoint Afghan 'prime minister' to bypass Hamid Karzai

Monday, March 23, 2009

US will appoint Afghan 'prime minister' to bypass Hamid Karzai

White House plans new executive role to challenge corrupt government in Kabul

Julian Borger in Brussels and Ewen MacAskill in Washington | March 22, 2009

The US and its European allies are ­preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

A revised role for Karzai has emerged from the White House review of Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by Barack Obama when he became president. It isto be unveiled at a special conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on March 31.

As well as watering down Karzai's personal authority by installing a senior official at the president's side capable of playing a more efficient executive role, the US and Europeans are seeking to channel resources to the provinces rather than to central government in Kabul.

A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: "Karzai is not delivering. If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly to ensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels of corruption are frightening."

Another diplomat said alternatives to Karzai had been explored and discarded: "No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse. It is not a great position."

The idea of a more dependable figure working alongside Karzai is one of the proposals to emerge from the White House review, completed last week. Obama, locked away at the presidental retreat Camp David, was due to make a final decision this weekend.

Obama is expected to focus in public on overall strategy rather than the details, and, given its sensitivity, to skate over ­Karzai's new role. The main recommendation is for the Afghanistan objectives to be scaled back, and for Obama to sell the war to the US public as one to ensure the country cannot again be a base for al-Qaida and the Taliban, rather than the more ambitious aim of the Bush administration of trying to create a European-style democracy in Central Asia.

Other recommendations include: increasing the number of Afghan troops from 65,000 to 230,000 as well as expanding the 80,000-strong police force; ­sending more US and European civilians to build up Afghanistan's infrastructure; and increased aid to Pakistan as part of a policy of trying to persuade it to tackle al-Qaida and Taliban elements.

The proposal for an alternative chief executive, which originated with the US, is backed by Europeans. "There needs to be a deconcentration of power," said one senior European official. "We need someone next to Karzai, a sort of chief executive, who can get things done, who will be reliable for us and accountable to the Afghan people."

Money and power will flow less to the ministries in Kabul and far more to the officials who run Afghanistan outside the capital – the 34 provincial governors and 396 district governors. "The point on which we insist is that the time is now for a new division of responsibilities, between central power and local power," the senior European official said.

No names have emerged for the new role but the US holds in high regard the reformist interior minister appointed in October, Mohammed Hanif Atmar.

The risk for the US is that the imposition of a technocrat alongside Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be an Afghan. Karzai declared his intention last week to resist a dilution of his power. Last week he accused an unnamed foreign government of trying to weaken central government in Kabul.

"That is not their job," the Afghan president said. "Afghanistan will never be a puppet state."

The UK government has since 2007 advocated dropping plans to turn Afghanistan into a model, European-style state.

Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who will implement the new policy, said it would represent a "vastly restructured effort". At the weekend in Brussels, he was scathing about the Bush administration's conduct of the counter-insurgency. "The failures in the civilian side ... are so enormous we can at least hope that if we get our act together ... we can do a lot better," he said.

LAT : U.S. missile strikes said to take heavy toll on Al Qaeda

Saturday, March 21, 2009

U.S. missile strikes said to take heavy toll on Al Qaeda

Predator drone attacks in northwest Pakistan have increased sharply since Bush last year stopped seeking Pakistan's permission. Obama may keep pace as officials speak of confusion in Al Qaeda ranks.

By Greg Miller | March 21, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say.

The pace of the Predator attacks has accelerated dramatically since August, when the Bush administration made a previously undisclosed decision to abandon the practice of obtaining permission from the Pakistani government before launching missiles from the unmanned aircraft.

Since Aug. 31, the CIA has carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 reported attacks in 2006 and 2007 combined, in what has become the CIA's most expansive targeted killing program since the Vietnam War.

Because of its success, the Obama administration is set to continue the accelerated campaign despite civilian casualties that have fueled anti-U.S. sentiment and prompted protests from the Pakistani government.

"This last year has been a very hard year for them," a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said of Al Qaeda militants, whose operations he tracks in northwest Pakistan. "They're losing a bunch of their better leaders. But more importantly, at this point they're wondering who's next."

U.S. intelligence officials said they see clear signs that the Predator strikes are sowing distrust within Al Qaeda. "They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible" for security breaches, the senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said, discussing intelligence assessments on condition of anonymity. "People are showing up dead or disappearing."

The counter-terrorism official and others, who also spoke anonymously, said the U.S. assessments were based in part on reports from the region provided by the Pakistani intelligence service.

The stepped-up Predator campaign has killed at least nine senior Al Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of the terrorist network since 2001.

Among those killed since August are Rashid Rauf, the suspected mastermind of an alleged 2006 transatlantic airliner plot; Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts; Khalid Habib, an operations chief allegedly involved in plots against the West; and Usama al-Kini, who allegedly helped orchestrate the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Al Qaeda's founders remain elusive. U.S. spy agencies have not had reliable intelligence on the location of Osama bin Laden since he slipped across the Pakistan border seven years ago, officials said. His deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, remains at large after escaping a missile strike in 2006.

But the Predator campaign has depleted the organization's operational tier. Many of the dead are longtime loyalists who had worked alongside Bin Laden and were part of the network's hasty migration into Pakistan in 2001 after U.S.-led forces invaded neighboring Afghanistan. They are being replaced by less experienced recruits who have had little, if any, history with Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

The offensive has been aided by technological advances and an expansion of the CIA's Predator fleet. The drones take off and land at military airstrips in Pakistan, but are operated by CIA pilots in the United States. Some of the pilots -- who also pull the triggers on missiles -- are contractors hired by the agency, former officials said.

Predators were originally designed as video surveillance aircraft that could hover over a target from high altitudes. But new models are outfitted with additional intelligence gear that has enabled the CIA to confirm the identities of targets even when they are inside buildings and can't be seen through the Predator's lens.

The agency is also working more closely with U.S. special operations teams and military intelligence aircraft that hug the Pakistan border, collecting pictures and intercepting radio or cellphone signals.

Even so, officials said that the surge in strikes has less to do with expanded capabilities than with the decision to skip Pakistani approval. "We had the data all along," said a former CIA official who oversaw Predator operations in Pakistan. "Finally we took off the gloves."

The Bush administration's decision to expand the Predator program was driven by growing alarm over Al Qaeda's resurgence in Pakistan's tribal belt.

A 2006 peace agreement between Islamabad and border tribes had allowed the network to shore up its finances, resume training operatives and reestablish ties to satellite groups.

The Bush administration had been constrained by its close relationship with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who argued against aggressive U.S. action. But by last summer, after a series of disrupted terrorist plots in Europe had been traced to Pakistan, there were calls for a new approach.

"At a certain point there was common recognition of the untenable nature of what was happening in the FATA," said a former senior U.S. counter-terrorism official, referring to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas where Al Qaeda is based.

The breaking point came when Musharraf was forced to resign mid-August, officials said. Within days, President Bush had approved the new rules: Rather than requiring Pakistan's permission to order a Predator strike, the agency was allowed to shoot first.

The effect was immediate.

There were two Predator strikes on Aug. 31, and three more by the end of the week. CIA officials had suspected that their targets were being tipped by Pakistani intelligence to pending U.S. strikes; bypassing the government ended that concern.

It also eliminated delays. Former CIA officials said getting permission from Pakistani authorities could take a day or more, sometimes causing the agency to lose track of the target. The missed opportunities were costly because it often took months to assemble the intelligence necessary for a strike.

In 2006, for example, the CIA got word from Pakistan's intelligence service that Habib was staying at a compound in Miram Shah. A CIA officer involved in the hunt said he spent weeks at a Pakistani military outpost near the compound, monitoring images from a Predator on a flat-screen device.

"We had a Predator up there for hours at a stretch, just watching, watching," the official said. The agency studied the layout of the compound, trying to determine who slept where, and scanning the surrounding roads for the arrival of Habib's truck.

"They took a shot at the compound a week after I left," the official said. "We got some bodyguards, but he was not there." It took more than two years for the agency to catch up to Habib again. He was killed in a Predator strike in South Waziristan in October.

Pakistan has repeatedly criticized the Predator campaign; the attacks are reported to have caused dozens of civilian casualties. "Drone attacks are counterproductive," said Nadeem Kiani, press attache at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. Rather than firing missiles, Kiani said, the United States should provide intelligence to Pakistan "and we will take immediate action."

U.S. officials say that despite such complaints, the Pakistani government's opposition has been muted because the CIA has expanded its targeting to include militant groups that threaten the government in Islamabad.

The success of the Predator campaign has prompted some counter-terrorism officials to speak of a post-Al Qaeda era in which its regional affiliates -- in North Africa and elsewhere -- are all that remain after the center collapses.

"You can imagine a horizon in which Al Qaeda proper no longer exists," said Juan Zarate, former counter-terrorism advisor to Bush. "If you were to continue on this pace, and get No. 1 and No. 2, Al Qaeda is dead. You can't resuscitate that organization as we know it without its senior leadership."

How to achieve that end without undermining the government in Pakistan is a key issue the Obama administration faces as it searches for a new strategy in the region. In a tour of the region, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta arrived in Islamabad Saturday for talks with Pakistani intelligence officials.

"There's a risk of driving [Al Qaeda and its allies] farther and farther into Pakistan, into cities," said Daniel Byman, a former CIA analyst and terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "There's a danger of weakening the government we want to bolster. It's already to some degree a house of cards."

In fact, the stepped-up strikes have coincided with a deterioration in the security situation in Pakistan. Over the last six months, Taliban elements tied to Al Qaeda have carried out increasingly bold attacks, including in Islamabad, and a recent truce between the government and militants in the Swat Valley was seen by some observers as a capitulation to Islamic hard-liners.

But proponents of the strikes argue that the opportunity to cripple Al Qaeda, perhaps permanently, outweighs concerns over the strains being placed on Pakistan.

"Is this really helping when you have radical militants controlling more territory than ever before?" Zarate said. "That is a good question, but that is a different question from whether this is effective against Al Qaeda."

So far, that appears to be the prevailing view within the Obama administration. A strike in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province last Sunday was the second in four days, and the ninth this year.

Panetta, asked about the drone aircraft attacks in a meeting with reporters last month, refused to discuss the Predator program directly, but said, "Nothing has changed our efforts to go after terrorists, and nothing will change those efforts."


NYT : Tales From Torture’s Dark World

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tales From Torture’s Dark World

By MARK DANNER | March 15, 2009

ON a bright sunny day two years ago, President George W. Bush strode into the East Room of the White House and informed the world that the United States had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists.

“In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo,” the president said, “a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

At these places, Mr. Bush said, “the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures.” He added: “These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.” This speech will stand, I believe, as George W. Bush’s most important: perhaps the only historic speech he ever gave. In his fervent defense of his government’s “alternative set of procedures” and his equally fervent insistence that they were “lawful,” he set out before the country America’s dark moral epic of torture, in the coils of whose contradictions we find ourselves entangled still.

At the same time, perhaps unwittingly, Mr. Bush made it possible that day for those on whom the alternative set of procedures were performed eventually to speak. For he announced that he would send 14 “high-value detainees” from dark into twilight: they would be transferred from the overseas “black sites” to Guantánamo. There, while awaiting trial, the International Committee of the Red Cross would be “advised of their detention, and will have the opportunity to meet with them.”

A few weeks later, from Oct. 6 to 11 and then from Dec. 4 to 14, 2006, Red Cross officials — whose duty it is to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war — traveled to Guantánamo and began interviewing the prisoners.

Their stated goal was to produce a report that would “provide a description of the treatment and material conditions of detention of the 14 during the period they were held in the C.I.A. detention program,” periods ranging “from 16 months to almost four and a half years.”

As the Red Cross interviewers informed the detainees, their report was not intended to be released to the public but, “to the extent that each detainee agreed for it to be transmitted to the authorities,” to be given in strictest secrecy to officials of the government agency that had been in charge of holding them — in this case the Central Intelligence Agency, to whose acting general counsel, John Rizzo, the report was sent on Feb. 14, 2007.

The result is a document — labeled “confidential” and clearly intended only for the eyes of those senior American officials — that tells a story of what happened to each of the 14 detainees inside the black sites.

A short time ago, this document came into my hands and I have set out the stories it tells in a longer article in The New York Review of Books. Because these stories were taken down confidentially in patient interviews by professionals from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and not intended for public consumption, they have an unusual claim to authenticity.

Indeed, since the detainees were kept strictly apart and isolated, both at the black sites and at Guantánamo, the striking similarity in their stories would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely. As its authors state in their introduction, “The I.C.R.C. wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the 14 adds particular weight to the information provided below.”

Beginning with the chapter headings on its contents page — “suffocation by water,” “prolonged stress standing,” “beatings by use of a collar,” “confinement in a box” — the document makes compelling and chilling reading. The stories recounted in its fewer than 50 pages lead inexorably to this unequivocal conclusion, which, given its source, has the power of a legal determination: “The allegations of ill treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill treatment to which they were subjected while held in the C.I.A. program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Perhaps one should start with the story of the first man to whom, according to news reports, the president’s “alternative set of procedures” were applied:

“I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately 4 meters by 4 meters. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can’t remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by hands and feet for what I think was the next two to three weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket.

“I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time.

“The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting-type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.

“The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks.”

So begins the story of Abu Zubaydah, a senior member of Al Qaeda, captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002. The arrest of an active terrorist with actionable information was a coup for the United States.

After being treated for his wounds — he had been shot in the stomach, leg and groin during his capture — Abu Zubaydah was brought to one of the black sites, probably in Thailand, and placed in that white room.

It is important to note that Abu Zubaydah was not alone with his interrogators, that everyone in that white room — guards, interrogators, doctor — was in fact linked directly, and almost constantly, to senior intelligence officials on the other side of the world. “It wasn’t up to individual interrogators to decide, ‘Well, I’m going to slap him. Or I’m going to shake him,’” said John Kiriakou, a C.I.A. officer who helped capture Abu Zubaydah, in an interview with ABC News.

Every one of the steps taken with regard to Abu Zubaydah “had to have the approval of the deputy director for operations. So before you laid a hand on him, you had to send in the cable saying, ‘He’s uncooperative. Request permission to do X.’”

He went on: “The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific.... No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard.”

Shortly after Abu Zubaydah was captured, C.I.A. officers briefed the National Security Council’s principals committee, including Vice President Dick Cheney, the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft, in detail on the interrogation plans for the prisoner. As the interrogations proceeded, so did the briefings, with George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, bringing to senior officials almost daily reports of the techniques applied.

At the time, the spring and summer of 2002, Justice Department officials, led by John Yoo, were working on a memorandum, now known informally as “the torture memo,” which claimed that for an “alternative procedure” to be considered torture, and thus illegal, it would have to cause pain of the sort “that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result.” The memo was approved in August 2002, thus serving as a legal “green light” for interrogators to apply the most aggressive techniques to Abu Zubaydah:

“I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”

The prisoner was then put in a coffin-like black box, about 4 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet high, “for what I think was about one and a half to two hours.” He added: The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.”

After this beating, Abu Zubaydah was placed in a small box approximately three feet tall. “They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds. The stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in the leg and stomach became very painful. I think this occurred about three months after my last operation. It was always cold in the room, but when the cover was placed over the box it made it hot and sweaty inside. The wound on my leg began to open and started to bleed. I don’t know how long I remained in the small box; I think I may have slept or maybe fainted.

“I was then dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly, and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited.

“The bed was then again lowered to horizontal position and the same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. On this occasion my head was in a more backward, downwards position and the water was poured on for a longer time. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless.”

After being placed again in the tall box, Abu Zubaydah “was then taken out and again a towel was wrapped around my neck and I was smashed into the wall with the plywood covering and repeatedly slapped in the face by the same two interrogators as before.

“I was then made to sit on the floor with a black hood over my head until the next session of torture began. The room was always kept very cold.

This went on for approximately one week.”

Walid bin Attash, a Saudi involved with planning the attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998 and on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000, was captured in Pakistan on April 29, 2003:

“On arrival at the place of detention in Afghanistan I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks.... I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural.”

This forced standing, with arms shackled above the head, seems to have become standard procedure. It proved especially painful for Mr. bin Attash, who had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan:

“After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists.”

Cold water was used on Mr. bin Attash in combination with beatings and the use of a plastic collar, which seems to have been a refinement of the towel that had been looped around Abu Zubaydah’s neck:

“On a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.

“Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets.... I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation.”

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the key planner of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003.

After three days in what he believes was a prison in Afghanistan, Mr. Mohammed was put in a tracksuit, blindfold, hood and headphones, and shackled and placed aboard a plane. He quickly fell asleep — “the first proper sleep in over five days” — and remains unsure of how long the journey took. On arrival, however, he realized he had come a long way:

“I could see at one point there was snow on the ground. Everybody was wearing black, with masks and army boots, like Planet X people. I think the country was Poland. I think this because on one occasion a water bottle was brought to me without the label removed. It had [an] e-mail address ending in ‘.pl.’”

He was stripped and put in a small cell. “I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor,” he told the Red Cross.

“Of course during this month I fell asleep on some occasions while still being held in this position. This resulted in all my weight being applied to the handcuffs around my wrist, resulting in open and bleeding wounds. [Scars consistent with this allegation were visible on both wrists as well as on both ankles.] Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”

For interrogation, Mr. Mohammed was taken to a different room. The sessions lasted for as long as eight hours and as short as four.

“If I was perceived not to be cooperating I would be put against a wall and punched and slapped in the body, head and face. A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall. The beatings were combined with the use of cold water, which was poured over me using a hose-pipe.”

As with Abu Zubaydah, the harshest sessions involved the “alternative set of procedures” used in sequence and in combination, one technique intensifying the effects of the others:

“The beatings became worse and I had cold water directed at me from a hose-pipe by guards while I was still in my cell. The worst day was when I was beaten for about half an hour by one of the interrogators. My head was banged against the wall so hard that it started to bleed. Cold water was poured over my head. This was then repeated with other interrogators. Finally I was taken for a session of water boarding. The torture on that day was finally stopped by the intervention of the doctor.”

Reading the Red Cross report, one becomes somewhat inured to the “alternative set of procedures” as they are described: the cold and repeated violence grow numbing. Against this background, the descriptions of daily life of the detainees in the black sites, in which interrogation seems merely a periodic heightening of consistently imposed brutality, become more striking.

Here again is Mr. Mohammed:

“After each session of torture I was put into a cell where I was allowed to lie on the floor and could sleep for a few minutes. However, due to shackles on my ankles and wrists I was never able to sleep very well.... The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell, which I could use on request” — he was shackled standing, his hands affixed to the ceiling — “but I was not allowed to clean myself after toilet during the first month.... I wasn’t given any clothes for the first month. Artificial light was on 24 hours a day, but I never saw sunlight.”

Abu Zubaydah, Walid bin Attash, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — these men almost certainly have blood on their hands. There is strong reason to believe that they had critical parts in planning and organizing terrorist operations that caused the deaths of thousands of people. So in all likelihood did the other “high-value detainees” whose treatment while secretly confined by the United States is described in the Red Cross report.

From everything we know, many or all of these men deserve to be tried and punished — to be “brought to justice,” as President Bush vowed they would be. The fact that judges, military or civilian, throw out cases of prisoners who have been tortured — and have already done so at Guantánamo — means it is highly unlikely that they will be brought to justice anytime soon.

For the men who have committed great crimes, this seems to mark perhaps the most important and consequential sense in which “torture doesn’t work.” The use of torture deprives the society whose laws have been so egregiously violated of the possibility of rendering justice. Torture destroys justice. Torture in effect relinquishes this sacred right in exchange for speculative benefits whose value is, at the least, much disputed.

As I write, it is impossible to know definitively what benefits — in intelligence, in national security, in disrupting Al Qaeda — the president’s approval of use of an “alternative set of procedures” might have brought to the United States. Only a thorough investigation, which we are now promised, much belatedly, by the Senate Intelligence Committee, can determine that.

What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact. We can also say that the decision to torture, in a political war with militant Islam, harmed American interests by destroying the democratic and Constitutional reputation of the United States, undermining its liberal sympathizers in the Muslim world and helping materially in the recruitment of young Muslims to the extremist cause. By deciding to torture, we freely chose to embrace the caricature they had made of us. The consequences of this choice, legal, political and moral, now confront us. Time and elections are not enough to make them go away.

Mark Danner, a professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and Bard College, is the author of "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror.” This essay is drawn from a longer article in the new issue of The New York Review of Books, available at www.nybooks.com.

KTAR : UK terror suspect wins payout for police beating

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

UK terror suspect wins payout for police beating

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER | Associated Press | March 18th, 2009

LONDON (AP) - A British terror suspect fighting extradition to the United States was awarded thousands of pounds (dollars) in compensation Wednesday for being assaulted by police during his 2003 arrest.

Computer specialist Babar Ahmad, 34, will receive 60,000 pounds (more than $80,000) in damages after lawyers for Scotland Yard acknowledged that he was subject to gratuitous violence and religious abuse by officers who burst into his southwest London home in a dawn raid on Dec. 2, 2003.

The police admitted that officers repeatedly attacked Ahmad even though he offered no resistance, putting him in a neckhold, wrenching him around by his handcuffs and pulling his testicles.

At one point officers forced him into a Muslim praying position, and one screamed: "Where is your God now?" according to Phillippa Kaufmann, Ahmad's lawyer.

She said the assault continued in a police van as Ahmad was driven to a central London police station.

"You'll remember this day for the rest of your life, do you understand me, you (expletive) bastard?" one officer told him, according to Kaufmann.

Ahmad was released without charge but was re-arrested in August 2004 on a U.S. extradition warrant. He remains in custody.

American officials accused the Pakistani native of running Web sites to raise money for the Taliban, appealing for fighters and providing equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles to terrorists.

Ahmad was also a key figure in the trial of a former U.S. sailor accused of revealing classified information about the movement of Navy vessels and their vulnerability to attack.

Prosecutors had accused Hassan Abu-Jihaad of Phoenix of communicating with Ahmad while on active duty on a U.S. destroyer in 2000 and 2001.

Abu-Jihaad allegedly discussed naval military briefings and praised those who attacked the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000. Officials said a search of Ahmad's computers showed files containing classified information about the positions of Navy ships and discussing their vulnerability to attack.

Abu-Jihaad denied the charges. He was convicted by a Connecticut jury of leaking secret information and providing material support to terrorists in March 2008, but a federal judge overturned the terror conviction this month.

Ahmad's extradition was approved by British officials in November 2005 but he is still battling the move.

Relatives released a statement on Babar Ahmad's behalf saying he was pleased with the judgment.

"I can now put this incident behind me and focus on the fight to prevent my extradition to the United States," the statement said.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

NYT : U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON — The commander of a secretive branch of America’s Special Operations forces last month ordered a halt to most commando missions in Afghanistan, reflecting a growing concern that civilian deaths caused by American firepower are jeopardizing broader goals there.

The halt, which lasted about two weeks, came after a series of nighttime raids by Special Operations troops in recent months killed women and children, and after months of mounting outrage in Afghanistan about civilians killed in air and ground strikes. The order covered all commando missions except those against the highest-ranking leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, military officials said.

American commanders in Afghanistan rely on the commando units to carry out some of the most delicate operations against militant leaders, and the missions of the Army’s Delta Force and classified Navy Seals units are never publicly acknowledged. But the units sometimes carry out dozens of operations each week, so any decision to halt their missions is a sign of just how worried military officials are that the fallout from civilian casualties is putting in peril the overall American mission in Afghanistan, including an effort to drain the Taliban of popular support.

A United Nations report released last month specifically blamed clandestine missions by commando units for contributing to a surge in civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2008. The report concluded that the number of civilian casualties rose nearly 40 percent compared with 2007, although it found that suicide bombings and other Taliban attacks were the primary cause.

Military officials said the halt was ordered in part to allow American commanders time to impose new safeguards intended to reduce the risk of civilian deaths. They said it was also intended to help the military release information about civilian casualties more quickly, to pre-empt what some said have been exaggerated accounts by Afghan officials.

According to senior military officials, the stand-down was ordered by Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the secret commando units.

The rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan has soured relations between American commanders and the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai, who has vocally criticized the raids.

The stand-down began in mid-February, and the raids have since resumed. It is unclear, though, whether the Special Operations missions are being carried out with the same frequency as before the halt.

At least two Special Operations ground raids in December helped fuel the tensions between the American military and Mr. Karzai. In one case, American troops raided a compound in Khost Province in an attempt to capture a Qaeda suspect. The suspect was taken into custody, but several civilians were killed and a 4-year-old boy was bitten by an attack dog used in the operation.

During another December raid, American troops killed six Afghan police officers and one civilian in Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan. An American military spokesman called the killings a “tragic case of mistaken identity.”

Some top civilian and military officials in Afghanistan say they believe that Mr. Karzai and some of his aides have at times exaggerated reports of civilian casualties to fuel anti-American sentiment for domestic political purposes. Mr. Karzai will run for re-election this year and is under political pressure to speak out against Afghan deaths at the hands of American troops.

Still, there is little dispute that the increased intensity of American military operations in Afghanistan last year has contributed to the rise in the civilian death toll. As President Obama sends thousands more troops to the war-ravaged country, some officials worry that each civilian death may only drive Afghans toward the Taliban and other militant groups.

One senior official said that procedures had been set up to allow American troops to report more quickly the number of enemy and civilian deaths after a specific operation, and to quickly disseminate the information to Afghan officials in Kabul, the capital, and at the local and provincial levels.

Officials also said the military had adopted new procedures aimed at reducing civilian casualties, but they did not specify what those procedures were.

Col. Gregory S. Julian, a spokesman for Gen. David D. McKiernan, who commands all American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, last week denied that there had been any halt to Special Operations missions. On Monday, however, Colonel Julian seemed to acknowledge that the stand-down had occurred, but he said his boss was not behind the order.

“General McKiernan takes the issue of civilian casualties very seriously, but he did not direct the pause in operations,” Colonel Julian said.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is in charge of American forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, supported the decision to suspend the Special Operations missions, according to a senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing classified military units. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

General McKiernan had issued a broad order on Dec. 30 that underscored the commitment of allied forces to reducing the risk of civilian casualties. He ordered that Afghan security forces should lead “all searches and entries of Afghan homes, mosques, religious sites or places of cultural significance,” unless there was a “clear and identified danger” coming from a building.

General McKiernan’s two-page directive followed American military operations last year that left dozens of civilians dead.

In perhaps the most notable case, American airstrikes on Aug. 22 in a village in western Afghanistan killed far more civilians than American commanders initially acknowledged.

A military investigator’s report found that more than 30 civilians, not 5 to 7 as the military had long insisted, had died in the airstrikes against what was believed to be a Taliban compound in Azizabad. The strikes were in support of allied ground forces, including American Special Operations forces.

The Afghan government initially insisted that 90 civilians died in the raid, and it never fully accepted the American military’s revised death toll.

An Official’s Grim Assessment

PARIS — As the United States prepares to commit 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the commander of NATO and American forces there said Monday that the coalition was “not winning” the war against the resurgent Taliban in parts of the country.

The commander, Gen. David D. McKiernan, said there were areas in the north, east and west where coalition and Afghan forces were winning the battle to curb the Taliban.

“But there are other areas — large areas in the southern part of Afghanistan especially, but in parts of the east — where we are not winning,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

“More has to happen along multiple lines of operation in order for anybody by any metric to say that the Afghans are winning or the efforts of the coalition are winning,” he said.

President Obama also said recently that the United States was not winning the Afghan war.