"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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Jirga announces sanctions against Taliban supporters

From the Daily Times.

A grand tribal jirga of the Salarzai tribes in Bajaur Agency on Friday announced tougher sanctions against supporters of the Taliban.

The new sanctions include the torching of houses and a fine of Rs 1 million for Salarzai tribesmen providing refuge to the militants, tribal elders told Daily Times.

Elders of all the Salarzai tribes participated in the jirga, which also decided that the Taliban would not be allowed to disrupt peace in the Salarzai tehsil.

Addressing the jirga, Malak Manasab Khan, Malak Bakhtawar Khan, Malak Abdul Nasir and Malak Muhammad Younas said, “Pakistan is our country and we don’t want militancy here. Those involved in creating law and order problems in the tehsil have no right to live here.” [emphasis added]

I have stated several times before, the Taliban/Al Qaeda make enemies wherever they go as most Muslims, like most Christians, just want to live in peace, have the liberty to pursue happiness, and support their families. They made enemies in Al Anbar, Iraq and were booted out of this region with the help of a surge of Marines. Jirga councils have often sprung up in Pakistan only to have their members murdered shortly thereafter, thus intimidating the rest of the population from taking further action against them.

It is hoped the recent meeking between Pakistani and US military leaders aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln have accounted for the stabilizing military presence needed in the FATA/NWFP regions to allow jirgas like the one listed above survive to put their actions into deeds.

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Afghanistan's war has a new battlefield

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

In anticipation of a new era in Pakistani politics under president-in-waiting Asif Ali Zardari, the first volleys have been fired in a renewed joint Pakistan-North Atlantic Treaty Organization venture to fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda beyond Afghanistan's borders.

Barely a week after a meeting on the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean between the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, to discuss infiltration points for militants going from Pakistan to Afghanistan and to pin-point al-Qaeda training camps, American special forces carried out two attacks inside Pakistan.

However, according to the Daily Times, the Khyber Pass is closed. This strategic route brings about 70% of all supplies needed by Coalition forces in Afganistan.

Pakistan stopped supplies to the United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan through its western Torkham border on Friday, citing security concerns.

A senior official said the measure followed increasing Taliban threats to trucks carrying the supplies.

“All Afghanistan-bound supplies for the International Security Assistance Force have been stopped as the [Torkham] highway is vulnerable,” Khyber Agency Political Agent Tariq Hayat told Daily Times, dismissing the impression that the decision is a reaction to continued United States attacks in Waziristan.

It will be interesting to watch this situation develop. Has Pakistan committed to the war on terror as discussed by Syed Saleem Shahzad or is Pakistan forcing the US to stop cross border attacks by closing the Khyber Pass? I believe we will have to wait and see how this situation unfolds.

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Iran’s Fantasy: A Renewed Cold War between "Infidels" Russia and America

From Walid Phares at Counter Terrorism Blog.

The post-Soviet world has never been closer to what we knew as the Cold War than right now. Iran is pleased. We should all be concerned. New proxy conflicts may soon emerge.

Why is Iran pleased?

In Iran, strategic planners knew all too well that even though it was the United States which threatened the regime’s ambitions, it was in fact the passive entente between the old foes of the Cold War that allowed Americans to come so close to Iran’s borders. Hence, in order to reverse the Western advance in the Middle East and, more importantly, in order to escape a democratic revolution against the regional tyrannies, the Russo-American entente would have to crumble. Therefore, the current escalation into what looks like—but is not exactly— a return to the Cold war is a “gift from heaven” to the Iranian regime. For even if these tensions do not climax into a full fledge comeback to the post-WWII era, they will and have already allowed Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to break loose from the containment and isolation processes. Here is how.

In the past years after 9/11, Russia worked cooperatively with the West to pressure Iran and its allies in the region at the UN Security Council with the passing of UNSCR 1559 and its subsequent resolutions regarding Syria and Lebanon. Moscow still walked with the international community in pressuring Tehran to cooperate on the nuclear crisis. But in the last few years, Russian-Iranian, and to a lesser degree Russian-Syrian, cooperation began to grow and the attitude of the Kremlin towards U.S. policies in the region became more and more rigid.

Once again, Walid Phares provides an interesting perspective from a Middle East viewpoint. I concur with Mr. Phares. The US needs to ensure we do not resort to Cold War mentality with Russia. We need Russia as a partner against the greater Islamist threat.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan: Banks directed to freeze Taliban accounts

From AKI.

Pakistan's central bank has directed the country's commercial banks to freeze the bank accounts of one of the country's most violent militant groups, the Tehrik-e-Taliban.

The State Bank of Pakistan spokesman, Syed Wasimuddin said that directives had been issued for the closure of all the accounts of the Tehrik-e-Taliban from Monday.

Under the move, no amount can be deposited or withdrawn from their accounts.

Pakistan is beginning to fight earnestly against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, not only with its military instrument of national power as noted by its recent battles, but also its economic instrument as noted by the article above. The people used the diplomatic instrument by electing the PPP into office and not voting for Islamist parties. Pakistani papers have began to report on atrocities committed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda employing the informational instrument of national power. One can call all these instruments now as shaping operations for the eventual defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Pakistan is the last unassailable base for both of these groups.

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Hamas Popularity Waning In West Bank And Gaza - Poll


The popularity of Hamas has declined further among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where the Islamist movement rules, and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, an opinion poll published on Monday found.

The poll, carried out by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, found that the Western-backed president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party enjoys a 14 percentage-point edge over Hamas among Palestinians.

If parliamentary elections were held today Fatah would win 43% of the vote and Hamas 29%, the poll found, representing a sharp decline from the last elections in 2006 in which Hamas won a majority.

Hamas' popularity has steadily declined since their election in 2006. In fact, it can be said that Hamas' take over of the West Bank was an attempt to shore up their popularity. However, now they must manage a government, care for their people, and not just be a terrorist organization. They are failing miserably at this as the polls show.

For a full read, click here.

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Doubts persist as Iraq takes over U.S.-backed patrols

From Yahoo via Reuters.

The United States will begin handing over control to the Iraqi government in October of largely Sunni Muslim local guard units credited with helping contain bloodshed across Iraq.

The current plan calls for the Iraqi government to take over payment of over half of the Sons of Iraq in October focusing on Baghdad.

The Iraqi government will take over payment in October of the 54,000 members of the neighborhood units that operate checkpoints and patrol streets in and around Baghdad, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Kulmayer said in an interview.

It will mark the first major step in a delicate transition that U.S. officials hope will ultimately see 20 percent of the U.S.-backed units incorporated into Iraqi security forces.

Many in the armed units "were former insurgents, and that's why we call this a reconciliation issue," said Kulmayer, who will oversee the transfer of Awakening units to Iraqi control. "It's important that they're now included in the new Iraq."

Under the U.S. and Iraqi plan, those who don't join Iraqi security forces will be given civilian jobs.

How this transition takes place may very well determine the future stability in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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