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Qaeda threat from Pakistan, Afghanistan has reduced: UK

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* British PM says more British soldiers could die still
* Afghan insurgency needs political, not just military solution

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday said the threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan had reduced, but progress could still be undone and warned more British troops would be killed in Afghanistan.

Reporting to the British parliament after his first trip to Afghanistan, Cameron said although combined efforts of international and Afghan forces and of Pakistani forces on the other side of the border had led to significant progress, “political surge” was needed in the country.

“Today I am advised that the threat from al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reduced,” he said.

“But I am also advised that if it were not for the current presence of United Kingdom (UK) and international forces, al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan and the threat to the UK would rise,” he said.

Cameron highlighted progress in boosting the Afghan National Army, telling legislators that 17,000 new recruits had joined the ranks in six months until March 2010, an increase of almost 20 percent.

However, he said the Afghan police were assessed to be ineffective or barely able to operate in six of the 13 provinces covered by US General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic plan for Afghanistan.

Cameron stressed that efforts to bolster Afghanistan’s own security forces were crucial to the international coalition’s overall strategy, along with military efforts to oust Taliban fighters from villages and towns.

Military action: He said there would be no solution to the Afghan conflict by military means alone.

“Insurgencies usually end with political settlements, not military victories, and that is why I have always said that we need a political surge to accompany the military one,” he said.

Getting individual Taliban fighters to put down their weapons was a first step, Cameron said, but long-term stability depended on a wider reconciliation process.

He said he had agreed on this with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who plans to reach out to insurgents to try to bring an end to the conflict, during his visit last week. Cameron said he would double the operational allowance British soldiers received while on active service in the country.

Pakistan push in N.Waziristan needs time: general

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By William Maclean

AMMAN:Pakistani forces, under U.S. pressure to enter the militant bastion of North Waziristan, will do so but in their own time and when adequate resources are available, a Pakistani general said on Monday.

Lieutenant General Sardar Mahmood Ali Khan, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that such a big task in the mountainous northwest was not “firefighting” and had to be done in sequence with other battles.

Pakistan has come under fresh U.S. pressure to send troops into north Waziristan after a failed bombing in New York claimed by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, which has fighters in northwestern areas including North Waziristan.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Jordan of special operations force commanders, Khan said the army was still busy consolidating its operations following an earlier push into South Waziristan and needed to adhere to a schedule for what he called a long campaign.

Asked if troops would eventually go into North Waziristan, home to a complex web of militant groups, to attack fighters there, he replied: “Of course, all these areas which are affected are on our agenda, yes.”

“LONG DRAWN WAR”

“It is a long-drawn battle, a long-drawn war, and we are continuing and there is a definite plan, there is a definite strategy which is being followed. It is just not firefighting, because there’s a whole lot of areas affected by this (militancy).”

“Given the limitation of resources and troops involvement and not to leave one portion undone and going to another (too soon), it is sequential. In every area we have already got forces which are busy consolidating.”

Some Western officials have questioned the determination of Pakistan to tackle militants while the long-time U.S. ally addresses other problems, from a sluggish economy to power cuts that have made the government unpopular.

Pakistan has proven capable of capturing militants, including some of al Qaeda’s most notorious heavyweights. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was arrested in Pakistan in 2003.

But Khan said North Waziristan’s geography made it an exceptionally difficult region in which to wage war and suggested any move into the region could not be done lightly.

He referred to a presentation on mountain warfare given at the conference by a special forces colleague, Major General Farrukh Bashir, commander of the Pakistani military’s Special Services Group.

Bashir enumerated many obstacles to mountain fighting, including difficulties in helicopter use, in achieving surprise, the need for large numbers of troops acclimatised for high altitude, and very restricted manoeuvrability.

Bashir told the audience: “Pakistan has the capacity and resolve to defeat militancy. We only expect the international community to understand the nature of the conflict. Some conflicts are very difficult to bring to an end quickly.”

Asked if he would accept more U.S. special forces to Pakistan, Khan declined to reply directly, noting there had been a limited number of these forces doing training in Pakistan for some time and they continued to play that role.

Another participant in the conference, organised by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, was Major General Charles Cleveland, Commander of Special Operations for U.S. Central Command, which includes Afghanistan.

He told Reuters he had “no idea” whether more special forces would be going to Pakistan and added that it was not his decision to make.

Mullah Omar names new deputies

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* Qayum Zakir and Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor appointed to replace Baradar

LAHORE: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has appointed two of his top Taliban commanders from the south to replace his former deputy and long-time comrade-in-arms Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who was arrested by Pakistani forces in Karachi last month.

Abu Zabihullah – a senior Taliban operative who has supplied accurate information to Newsweek in the past – says that the one-eyed Taliban leader has confirmed Abdul Qayum Zakir – a former Guantánamo Bay inmate – and Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor – a portly and personable rear-echelon leader – as his deputies, replacing Baradar. Their appointments, Zabihullah said, are meant, “to convey a good message that, despite our leader’s arrest, the Taliban is back to business-as-usual operations without a problem”.

As one of their first orders of business only three days ago, Zakir and Mansoor reshuffled several shadow provincial governors in an effort to improve the insurgency’s effectiveness.

Unlike Baradar, who may have favoured testing the waters for some kind of eventual peace talks, they are both focused on trying to keep the insurgency as strong and as intact as possible.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 24, 2010 at 6:01 am