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Posts tagged ‘NATO’

Crimeans Overwhelmingly Vote for Secession.


SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — The head of the referendum committee in Ukraine’s Crimea region says more than 95 percent of voters have approved splitting off and joining Russia.

Mikhail Malishev said the initial result came after more than 50 percent of the ballots had been counted.

Speaking two hours after polls closed, Malishev said turnout was 83 percent — a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Kiev denounced it as a sham.

Underlining how Moscow’s military takeover of the peninsula two weeks ago has driven Russia and the West into a crisis with echoes of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone and, according to the Kremlin, the Russian and U.S. presidents agreed on a need to cooperate to stabilise Ukraine.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” a White House spokesman said. “The international community will not recognise the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama the referendum was legitimate and he expressed concern about the Ukrainian government’s failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in the country.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the present authorities in Kiev to curb rampant violence by ultra-nationalist and radical groups that destabilise the situation and terrorise civilians, including the Russian-speaking population,” the Kremlin said.

It said Putin suggested European monitors should be sent to all parts of Ukraine because of the violence.

Kiev said Moscow’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea peninsula was in “crude violation” of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Moscow that Washington would not accept the outcome of the vote in the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority and was transferred to Ukraine by Soviet rulers only 60 years ago.

The White House also warned Moscow to expect sanctions while foreign ministers from the European Union, which has major trade ties with Russia, will decide on possible similar action in Brussels on Monday.

But Putin rejected Western accusations that the referendum was illegal, saying it respected the will of the Crimean people, while his foreign ministry said it had agreed with the United States to seek a solution to the crisis through constitutional reform.

 

In Kiev, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk threatened dire consequences for the Crimean politicians who had called the vote, saying separatist “ringleaders” wanted to destroy Ukrainian independence “under the cover of Russian troops”.

“We will find all of them – if it takes one year, two years – and bring them to justice and try them in Ukrainian and international courts. The ground will burn under their feet,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Yatseniuk had just returned from a U.S. trip where he won expressions of moral support but no offers of weapons. Kiev’s pro-European rulers, who took power after last month’s fall of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich to popular unrest, have been as powerless as Western governments to prevent the referendum or buildup of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory.

At a polling booth at a school in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, dozens of people lined up outside to cast their ballots early.

“I have voted for Russia,” said Svetlana Vasilyeva, 27, a veterinary nurse. “This is what we have been waiting for. We are one family and we want to live with our brothers.”

Vasilyeva voiced fears common among some of Ukraine’s native Russian-speakers about the consequences of Yanukovich’s exit after protests in which over 100 people were killed. “We want to leave Ukraine because Ukrainians told us that we are people of a lower kind. How can you stay in such a country?” she said.

But ethnic Tatars – Sunni Muslims who make up 12 percent of Crimea’s population – said they would boycott the vote despite promises by the regional authorities to give them financial aid and proper land rights.

“This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me?” said Shevkaye Assanova, a Crimean Tatar in her 40s. “For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don’t recognise this at all. I curse all of them.”

 

Crimea’s 1.5 million voters had two options: union with Russia or giving their region, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin politicians, the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants – including Moscow.

A local Tatar television channel broadcast the count at one small polling station. It took just a few minutes for officials to stack up the papers, virtually in a single pile. One gave the result as: “166 for, 2 against, 1 spoiled”. By “for” she clearly meant the first option on the paper, for union with Russia.

Russia has the right to keep forces on the Black Sea peninsula, including at its naval base in the port of Sevastopol, under a treaty signed after Ukraine gained independence from the wreckage of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But Ukrainian acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh accused Moscow of going far beyond an agreed limit on servicemen – which he said was 12,500 for 2014.

“Unfortunately, in a very short period of time, this 12,500 has grown to 22,000. This is a crude violation of the bilateral agreements and is proof that Russia has unlawfully brought its troops onto the territory of Crimea,” he said.

This figure had risen from 18,400 on Friday. “Let me say once again that this is our land and we will not be leaving it,” he told Interfax news agency.

Tenyukh later said that the defence ministries in Kiev and Moscow had declared a truce until March 21 during which Russian forces, who have been arriving by boat and helicopter, would leave Ukrainian military facilities untouched.

Many Crimeans hope union with Russia will bring better pay and make them citizens of a country capable of asserting itself on the world stage. But others saw the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin from Ukraine, whose new rulers want to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia’s sway.

Putin defended the vote in a phone call on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying it complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples. “It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of the Crimean people,” a Kremlin statement said.

Putin has said he must protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine from “fascists” in Kiev who ousted Yanukovich. Western powers largely dismiss his characterisation of the new authorities as successors of Nazi-allied Ukrainian forces which fought the Red Army in World War Two.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Kerry on Sunday to encourage authorities in Kiev to stop what he called “massive lawlessness” against the Russian-speaking population.

In their second phone conversation in two days, Lavrov and Kerry agreed to seek a solution to the crisis by pushing for constitutional reforms in Ukraine, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, Kerry told Lavrov that the United States would not accept the referendum result and said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases, a senior State Department official said.

The White House also warned Putin that he faces international isolation that will hurt Russia’s economy. “You can expect sanctions designations in the coming days,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told NBC’s Meet the Press.

The administration is preparing to identify Russians whom the United States will seek to punish with visa bans and asset freezes that President Obama authorised last week.

At the United Nations, 13 Security Council members voted for a draft resolution on Saturday saying the Crimea result should not be recognised internationally, but Moscow exercised its veto while China abstained.

Tensions over Crimea appear also to be spreading in cyberspace. Unidentified hackers brought down several public NATO websites with attacks on Saturday, the alliance said.

Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter that the attacks, which began on Saturday evening, continued on Sunday, although most services had now been restored.

“It doesn’t impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks,” another NATO official said.

A group calling itself “cyber berkut” – named after riot police formally disbanded by the central powers in Kiev – said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as NATO interference in their country.

Apart from Crimea, tension is also running high in parts of the Russian-speaking industrialised east of Ukraine near the border with Russia, with clashes between rival demonstrators that Moscow has seized on to support its case that ethnic Russians are being victimised.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.


Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'

 

By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?’” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine.


Image: Kissinger Offers Blueprint for Defusing Crisis in Ukraine

By Elliot Jager

Resolving the Ukrainian crisis requires Moscow to accept that Ukraine will not again become its satellite, and for the West to accept that Ukraine is too integral to Russian civilization to be treated as just another independent country, Henry Kissinger wrote in a commentary published in The Washington Post.

Kissinger, 90, was U.S. secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He is associated with the realpolitik school of political science, which prefers finding solutions based on diplomacy and power not ideology.

He warned against demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Doing so is no basis for policy but is “an alibi for the absence of one,” he wrote.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

On Ukraine, Kissinger cautioned against confrontation between Russia and the West.

“In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally.”

Do not force an “either-or” choice on the parties, Kissinger argued. “If Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.”

“Ukraine can never be just a foreign country” to Russia, the former secretary of state wrote. It is where “Russian history began.” It’s “polyglot composition” means that “any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other” would result in “civil war or breakup.”

Ukraine has known only 23 years of independence and hundreds of years of foreign rule, he wrote. One part of the country is Russian-speaking and Orthodox Christian; the other is Catholic and Ukrainian-speaking.

The former diplomat offered four principles for diplomats wanting to defuse the crisis:

  • Let Ukraine choose its economic and political associations.
  • Don’t bring the country into NATO.
  • Encourage Ukrainian leaders to create a system of government that reconciles its two parts.
  • Crimea mustn’t be annexed to Russia; it needs autonomy within Ukraine.

Kissinger does not expect either side would find these principles to its absolute satisfaction.

“The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction,” he wrote.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US Drawdown.


Image: Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US DrawdownU.S. soldiers inspect the site of a car bombing outside Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 11

By Elliot Jager

When American troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the Taliban will gain ground and the country will probably descend into chaos, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the Washington Post reported.

The gains achieved by the 2009 troop surge will likely be wiped out.

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that would authorize a contingent of American and international troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training Afghan forces beyond 2014, the estimate takes a bleak view of Afghanistan by 2017.

This downbeat intelligence prognosis is not unanimously shared.

Pessimists see years of U.S. gains being squandered with the Kabul government ultimately losing the big cities. Even if several thousand troops stay behind to conduct counter-terror operations and for training purposes and even if Congress continues to bankroll the country. The intelligence estimate could bolster those who would like to see the U.S. pullout accelerated, the Post reported.

Optimists — including some in the Obama administration — say the capabilities of the Afghan army are being underestimated and that the Taliban will be pressured to sue for peace. One administration official said the intelligence estimate is intended only to highlight “potential upsides and downsides” to U.S. policy.

Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations sees continued stalemate in the years ahead depending on how much financial backing the U.S. provides the Kabul government.

If Karzai ultimately agrees to a deal regulating the U.S. and international presence, the country would continue to receive billions in U.S. and other aid.

As of December 28 the number of service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan stands at 127 for a total of 2,301 since America’s longest war began in 2001.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Putin Envies Obama: ‘He Can Get Away With’ Spying Revelations.


President Vladimir Putin says Moscow isn’t controlling National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who has asylum in Russia.

Putin said at a news conference Thursday that any revelations published by Snowden must have come from materials he provided before landing in Russia.

He reaffirms that Russia made providing refuge to Snowden conditional on his halting what he called ant-American activities.

ObamaCareYou Can Win With The Facts 

Putin says he hasn’t met with Snowden and insists that Russian security agencies haven’t worked with him and have not asked him any questions related to NSA activities against Russia.

He says that NSA surveillance is needed to fight terrorism, but that rules and norms must be followed. He says that he “envies” President Obama because — referring to the Snowden revelations — “he can get away it it.”

Putin says that Russia hasn’t deployed missiles to its westernmost Baltic exclave, but sees it as a possible way of countering the U.S.-led missile defense system in Europe.

Putin was asked at a Thursday news conference about a report claiming that Moscow stationed its state-of-the art Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region that borders NATO and EU members Poland and Lithuania.

Both nations have expressed concern, and Washington warned Moscow against making destabilizing moves.

Putin says Russia has long considered the move, but adds that “we haven’t made the decision yet” on deploying them.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Six US Troops Killed in Afghanistan Aircraft Crash.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Six U.S. soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, NATO said, the largest death toll in a single incident to hit the international force in months.

“The cause of the crash is under investigation; however, initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time,” a NATO statement said.

U.S. defense officials said the soldiers killed in the crash, which occurred in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, were American. One person survived the crash but suffered injuries.

Zabul’s deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, said a crash had taken place in the Shah Joy district of Zabul.

A Taliban spokesman claimed on Twitter that Taliban militants had shot down a helicopter on Tuesday in the same district. The Taliban often claims responsibility for incidents in which it is not involved.

Aircraft crashes are not uncommon in mountainous Afghanistan.

The worst such incident was in August 2011 when the Taliban shot down a transport helicopter, killing all 38 people on board, including 25 U.S. special operations soldiers.

The Pentagon said that about 67,000 NATO-led troops remain in Afghanistan, including about 43,000 from the United States. Foreign forces are looking to curtail their decade-long fight there.

The United States continues to press Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a bilateral security deal that would allow Washington to keep some troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of next year.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Karzai Unmoved by US Troop Withdrawal Threat if Afghan Pact Unsigned.


NEW DELHI — Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday dismissed U.S. talk of a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan if he didn’t sign a security agreement as brinkmanship and said he wouldn’t back down on his conditions for the deal.

Karzai was in New Delhi in a burst of regional diplomacy as his ties with Washington have come under renewed strain over his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will shape U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when most international troops will leave.

He told reporters that the United States would have to stop the practice of raiding Afghan homes and help restart a peace process with the Taliban as necessary conditions for the security pact.

“We do believe that the BSA is in the interest of Afghanistan and the Afghan people have given their approval. But we also believe that protection of Afghan homes and the launch of a peace process are absolute prerequisites,” he said.

If Karzai doesn’t sign the deal, Washington says it will have to withdraw its entire force of some 44,500 troops by the end of 2014. Other NATO nations could follow suit leaving Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own.

The complete withdrawal, called the “zero option,” would be similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago. Violence there is now at its highest level in at least five years, and more than 8,000 people have been killed this year, the United Nations says.

“I don’t think America is thinking of the zero option , its brinkmanship they play with us, and even if they did, then come what may,” the Afghan leader said.

U.S. officials have appeared exasperated by Karzai’s stance on the security agreement, which they say is needed to help them plan a future mission that will assist Afghan forces fight militants and that will allow for future aid crucial for the impoverished nation.

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that the delay in finalizing the deal — which U.S. officials had hoped Karzai would sign weeks ago — would impose “damages and costs” on Afghans.

But he added that the Obama administration was not on the verge of abandoning its effort to extend its troop presence in the country.

The security agreement would allow for the presence of nearly 15,000 U.S. and other NATO troops at nine locations around the country, Karzai said.

The agreement includes a provision allowing military raids on Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances — when an American life is directly under threat — but it would not take effect until 2015.

The issue is particularly sensitive among Afghans after a dozen years of war between Afghan and foreign forces and Taliban militants.

Karzai said he also wanted the United States to help him start an open and public peace process with the Taliban, rather than the secret diplomacy it had engaged in in the past.

“Secret talks won’t help,” he said. “U.S. and Pakistan have enough influence over the Taliban to relaunch the peace process.”

Karzai, who discussed the U.S. security deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also held talks with the leaders of Iran and Pakistan this month.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Hagel Backs NATO Force in Afghanistan Post-2014.


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told American troops on Sunday that he backed a NATO force playing a role in Afghanistan after 2014, as Washington and President Hamid Karzai wrangle over a stalled security pact.

Hagel travelled to the southern province of Helmand to meet troops a day after further tensions over the security pact that would allow NATO forces to stay in the country after next year.

“I believe there is a role for our coalition partners and the United States, but that depends on the Afghan people,” Hagel told US soldiers in a question-and-answer session.

“If the people of Afghanistan want to continue that relationship, then we will.”

US commanders were looking at “a new phase for our mission to train, assist, advise and counter-terrorism,” he said.

Meetings with Karzai have been customary over the years for Pentagon chiefs, but Hagel said Saturday after his arrival that he had no plans to meet the Afghan president during his weekend visit.

As President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser, Susan Rice, and top diplomat, John Kerry, had already had frank discussions with Karzai urging him to sign the security agreement, Hagel said there was no point in him repeating the US position.

“There’s not much I can add in a meeting with President Karzai to what’s already been said,” he said on Saturday.

Hagel did meet the Afghan defence minister, who assured him the security agreement would be signed in “a timely manner”.

Karzai, who visited Iran on Sunday, initially endorsed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), but has since refused to sign and issued fresh demands.

The agreement sets the legal conditions to permit US and other forces to operate in the country beyond 2014.

But without a signed deal, countries ready to send troops to a post-2014 training mission cannot make budget plans or secure political approval, Hagel said.

Karzai has said the signature could take place after elections in April, but Hagel said that would push the timeline into mid-2014 as the polls are expected to result in a run-off vote.

Eventually there will be “a cut-off point” to cancel a post-2014 mission, he said Saturday, adding that he was “not prepared to give a date on that”.

He said a meeting of NATO defence ministers in February would be crucial for military planners and governments “and some answers are going to be required at that NATO ministerial”.

There are currently 46,000 American troops and 27,000 soldiers from other coalition countries in Afghanistan, and almost the entire NATO-led force is scheduled to pull out by the end of next year.

With the long war in Afghanistan often overlooked in the US and Europe, he told the group of Marines and US Army troops on Sunday that they were not forgotten.

“I know more than occasionally you wonder if anybody is paying attention, whether anybody cares,” he said. “But we do. Our country cares, we do know what you’re doing.

“And we appreciate it, very much.”

Under a proposed post-2014 mission, roughly 12,000 troops — mostly American — would remain in the country to train Afghans and counter Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In 2011, the US withdrew from Iraq when it failed to secure a similar troop status accord.

 

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

Karzai Accuses US of Cutting Afghan Military Supplies.


Image: Karzai Accuses US of Cutting Afghan Military Supplies

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Washington Sunday of withholding military supplies to press him to sign a bilateral security deal that will shape the U.S. military presence after most foreign troops leave in 2014.Washington, which swiftly denied the assertion, has said that unless the pact is signed promptly, it could pull out most of its troops, as it did in Iraq two years ago.

“The cutting of fuel supplies and support services to the Afghan army and police is being used as a means of pressure to ensure Afghanistan . . . signs the Bilateral Security Agreement,” a statement from Karzai’s palace said.

Karzai said last week he might refuse to sign the deal until after Afghanistan’s presidential election in April 2014.

U.S. officials said logistical problems in Pakistan might have given rise to the alleged delays in deliveries.

“There has been no stoppage in the delivery of requested fuel and we continue to process all orders as soon as they are received,” the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said in a statement.

Karzai’s relationship with the United States has worsened since he invited thousands of elders to vote on the security deal last week and then ignored their advice, which was to sign it promptly.

Even after the pact’s terms were settled after about a year of wrangling, Karzai has since added conditions that include the release of all Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and an end to military operations involving Afghan homes.

On Thursday Karzai denounced his Western allies for bombing an Afghan home and killing a child, an accusation the NATO-led force has promised to investigate.

If the bilateral pact is not signed, Western aid running to billions of dollars will be in jeopardy and confidence in the fragile economy could collapse amid fears that Afghanistan will slip back into ethnic fighting or civil war.

Diplomats said Karzai may have overplayed his hand, raising the risk of a complete U.S. withdrawal from a country where Western troops have fought Taliban militants for the past 12 years. Karzai’s domestic critics say he is playing a dangerous game with Afghanistan’s future security.

The decade-long security deal would mandate the size and shape of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the NATO combat mission ends next year. Without it, the United States would be unable to keep troops in Afghanistan, and most other nations would be likely to withdraw theirs too.

Afghanistan faces a potent Taliban insurgency and is still training its own military.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

US-Afghan Deal Falters as Karzai Talks Tough.


Image: US-Afghan Deal Falters as Karzai Talks Tough

Tuesday, 08 Oct 2013 03:30 AM

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A security deal to allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaida was at risk of collapse Tuesday after President Hamid Karzai said he was prepared to walk away from negotiations.

The United States has pushed for the bilateral security pact (BSA) to be signed by the end of this month so that the U.S.-led NATO military coalition can schedule its withdrawal of 87,000 combat troops by the end of next year.

But Karzai said he refused to be rushed into signing the deal, and would first seek approval from a traditional grand assembly to be convened in a month’s time.

“The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways,” Karzai said in a BBC interview in Kabul.

According to the Afghan government, talks ground to a halt over U.S. demands for the right to conduct unilateral military operations after 2014, and on how the United States would pledge to protect Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week described the deal as “critically important” and said he hoped it would be signed by the end of October.

The collapse of a similar agreement with Iraq in 2011 led to the United States pulling all its troops out of the country, which is currently suffering its worst sectarian violence since 2008.

But Kabul has dismissed the possibility that the United States may enact the “zero option” of a complete pull-out after its troops have fought the Taliban for 13 years since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Karzai is keen to secure a legacy as a strong leader before he steps down next year, and his stance on the BSA matches his incendiary accusation that the NATO war effort has caused “a lot of suffering” without delivering any gains.

“The president is trying to show he’s tough, he’s not a puppet, he’s not giving in easily and he’s there for his people,” Waheed Wafa, the director of Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, told AFP.

“Criticizing the West has become a habit of the president’s. Maybe it is because it is his last days in office,” Wafa said, adding the BSA deal could still be signed after tortuous last-minute negotiations.

After Karzai’s latest comments, Washington said it remained committed to talks and urged Kabul to stay focused on concluding the deal.

“We’ve made progress, but these kind of negotiations are complex with any country,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We always expected there would be sticking points and bumps in the road . . . We need to really be focused on this agreement and get it done soon.”

President Barack Obama this week said he would consider a limited US mission after 2014 only if the Afghan government “was willing to work with us in a cooperative way that would protect our troops.”

One key bone of contention is how the security pact should define an attack on Afghanistan that would trigger U.S. protection.

“We believe that when terrorists are sent to commit suicide attacks here, that is also aggression,” Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said recently, referring to Pakistan-based militants whom Afghanistan believes are supported by Pakistan’s intelligence services.

Karzai officially suspended BSA talks in June in a furious reaction to the Taliban opening a liaison office in Qatar that was presented as an embassy for a government in waiting.

The Taliban regime was driven from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001 for sheltering the al-Qaida leaders behind the 9/11 attacks.

Since then the Islamist rebels have fought a bloody insurgency, and both the United States and Afghan governments now back peace talks to end the conflict.

© AFP 2013

Source: NEWSmax.com

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