Archive for the ‘al-Qaida’ Category

China calls Tibet youth group `worse than bin Laden’

November 26, 2008

A rundown two-story building in this Himalayan hill station might hardly seem to be the command center of a subversive group jangling the nerves of neighboring China. Monkeys clamber over the rooftop, and any stranger may walk through its front door.

Yet China calls the Tibetan Youth Congress “a terror group worse than (Osama) bin Laden’s” and accuses it of stockpiling guns, bombs and grenades in Tibet for use by separatist fighters.

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers

China alleges that the 30,000-member group has allied itself with al Qaida and with a homegrown Muslim separatist organization in China, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

The president of the congress, Tsewang Rigzin, a former banker who lived in Minneapolis, scoffs at China’s charges, saying his group seeks independence for Tibet but adheres to non-violent principles put forth by the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader whose headquarters are here.

“These are all baseless and fallacious allegations that the Chinese are making,” Rigzin said over a meal of curry at a local restaurant, suggesting that the charges were scare tactics aimed at the Chinese citizenry.

If nothing else, the wildly different views of the Tibetan Youth Congress underscore the chasm between Beijing and Dharamsala over Tibet.

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Pakistan targets militants in 2nd tribal area

November 16, 2008

Pakistani helicopter gunships engaged in a bitter offensive against militants in a northwest tribal region struck targets in a neighboring area Sunday, a sign that the conflict may be widening to other parts of the rugged zone bordering Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in the northwest, Pakistan temporarily suspended oil tankers and trucks carrying sealed containers from using the Khyber Pass, a move that put pressure on a vital supply line for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The media center for the paramilitary Frontier Corps confirmed Sunday that helicopter gunships, backed by artillery, have been pounding suspected insurgent hideouts in Mohmand tribal area since Saturday.

By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press Writer Asif Shahzad, Associated Press Writer

Mohmand is south of Bajur tribal region, an al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold where the military says a three-month-old offensive has killed more than 1,600 suspected militants.

In this Nov 10, 2008 file photo, Pakistani tribal people stand ...
Pakistani tribal people stand near an armored car reportedly hijacked by militants in Khyber region of Landikotel, 34 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of Peshawar, Pakistan. An official said security forces are hunting militants who hijacked 13 trucks carrying military vehicles and other supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.(AP Photo/FILE)

Speculation has abounded that upon taking control of Bajur, the military would set its sights on Mohmand.

The U.S. has praised Pakistani military offensives against insurgents — a separate one is underway in the northwest’s Swat Valley — saying they have helped reduce violence on the Afghan side of the border. American officials have long blamed militants based in Pakistan for planning attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

An official with the media center, who insisted on anonymity in line with military rules, said the strikes were not part of a separate offensive for Mohmand. He would not specify where in Mohmand the aircraft had attacked.

“It is the same operation. There is no new operation,” the official said. The Taliban fighters “had substantial casualties.”

He did not rule out the possibility of militants leaving Bajur for Mohmand, but added, “Wherever they are, wherever they have strong pockets, we have to and we will flush them out.”

The suspension of specific vehicles along the Khyber Pass comes just days after a band of militants hijacked around a dozen trucks whose load included Humvees intended for foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The hijacking near the entrance of the famed pass highlighted the vulnerability of a critical supply line for the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, whose materials are regularly shipped through Pakistan in unmarked, sealed containers.

Government official Bakhtiar Khan would not say Sunday if trucks destined for American and NATO forces were the target of the suspension imposed late Saturday. However, he said security concerns had prompted the suspension, but that it could be lifted as early as Monday.

“The suspension was made to review the security arrangements and that has already been done,” he said. “Along with increasing the security and establishing more checkpoints, we have issued orders to deal with attackers and snatchers more strictly.”

Khan said security forces have been told they can fire upon groups of armed men trying to attack or snatch shipments.

Deteriorating security conditions in the northwest are among myriad problems facing U.S.-allied Pakistan. The South Asian nation also is saddled with a sinking economy, and it is taking steps to borrow $7.6 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan: Militants Kidnapping, Killing Outsiders In Tribal Areas

November 15, 2008

A Canadian journalist abducted this week in Pakistan’s northern tribal region was working on a documentary film for the Al-Jazeera network, media reported Friday.

A handout picture obtained in 2006 shows the logo of Al-Jazeera ...

Beverly Giesbrecht, 52, also known as Khadija Abdul Qahaar, was seized at gunpoint on Tuesday while traveling in the Bannu district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan.

AFP

The daily Globe and Mail, citing Pakistan’s high commission in Ottawa, said the former magazine publisher who runs a website offering Islamic news was on a freelance assignment for the Arab language network when she was taken.

Her visa application was supported by two letters from Al Jazeera, verifying she would be doing freelance work, said the newspaper.

“The letters say … she will be reporting on the new government and the wider political situation, including the war on terrorism” for a documentary, high commission spokesman Mammona Malik told the newspaper.

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A gunman ambushed a Japanese reporter and an Afghan colleague Friday, wounding both men and their Pakistani driver in the latest attack on foreigners in Pakistan‘s volatile northwest region in three days.

Security appears to be crumbling in Peshawar, a city of 2 million where an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped Thursday and an American aid worker was killed Wednesday.

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Writer

Motoki Yotsukura, Asahi Shimbun‘s bureau chief, was in a car with Sami Yousufzai, an Afghan who has worked for Western publications including Newsweek, when the assailant opened fire, police said.

Injured Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura arrives at a local ...

“Three armed men intercepted our car, and one of them aimed his pistol at me,” said the Afghan, Sami Yousufzai, from a hospital. “He opened fire when I put up resistance. I got a bullet in my hand.”

Yotsukura was wounded in the leg, police said. The injuries to Yousufzai and the driver also were not life threatening.

Asahi Shimbun reported that Yotsukura, 39, had left earlier Friday from Islamabad on a reporting trip to interview people close to the Taliban.

Officers were investigating whether the attack was an attempted assassination or an attempted kidnapping.

Peshawar and the nearby lawless tribal area have seen a rise in attacks on foreigners. A Chinese, an Afghan and a Pole are currently being held after being seized in the region, which is also home to criminal gangs who kidnap for ransom, drug runners and smugglers.

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Obama faces early test in Iraq

November 7, 2008

Iraq will serve as an early test of Barack Obama’s skill in weighing options and measuring risks. The next few months should give an indication whether he can end the Iraq war without risking new violence that could threaten U.S. interests throughout the Middle East.

Ending the war, which the Congressional Budget Office says costs $145 billion a year, would fulfill an important campaign promise and free up military resources for the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Flag of Iraq

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

But can Iraq stand on its own without the U.S. presence?

After so many sacrifices, can the U.S. afford to watch a country of 27 million people, strategically located next to Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and with one of the world’s major sources of oil, collapse into chaos?

The first signs of where Iraq is headed should come soon after the president-elect takes office Jan. 20, when Iraqis choose ruling councils in most of the country’s 18 provinces.

At the same time, the Iraqis will be assuming more control of Baghdad and integrating former Sunni insurgents into the security forces or civilian government jobs.

If those steps go smoothly, Iraqis will have a real chance of maintaining the security gains since the U.S. troop buildup of last year.

If they don’t, the new president would have to decide whether to slow the U.S. departure despite his promise to remove American combat troops within his first 16 months in office.

Provincial elections have been widely seen as a major step in forging power-sharing agreements among Iraq’s religious and ethnic communities that the U.S. believes are key to lasting peace.

Related:
Obama to Shift Away From Iraq, Toward Afghanistan, Pakistan

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Al-Qaida No. 2 al-Zawahri says US options in Iraq all bad

April 18, 2008

By PAKINAM AMER and KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writers

CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida‘s No. 2 said in an audiotape released Friday that the United States will lose whether it stays in Iraq or withdraws, and he sneered that President Bush just wants to pass the problem on to his successor.
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The message from Ayman al-Zawahri released early Friday on a militant Web site appeared to be one of the most quickly prepared tapes produced by al-Qaida — referring to Congressional testimony only last week by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, in which he recommended a halt to further U.S. troop withdrawals until after July.

Al-Qaida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is seen in this ...
Al-Qaida’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is seen in this image made from videotape posted on Internet in 2005.(AP Photo/AP Television News/ho)

Bush said last week he would give Petraeus all the time needed to reassess U.S. troop strength in Iraq after the current drawdown of U.S. troops ends in July.

“The truth is that if Bush keeps all his forces in Iraq until doomsday and until they enter hell, they will only see crisis and defeat by the will of God,” said al-Zawahri, the deputy of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

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ByqcuFyG3u0U9eCwQ88qs0NUE

Al-Qaida’s No. 2 defends deadly attacks

April 3, 2008

By  PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press Writer 

CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri, rejecting criticism of attacks by the terror network’s followers that have killed thousands, maintained that it does not kill innocent people.

Al-Qaida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is seen in this ...
Al-Qaida’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is seen in this image made from videotape posted on Internet on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2005. Al-Zawahri, rejecting criticism of attacks by the terror network’s followers that have killed thousands, maintained Wednesday that it does not kill innocent people.(AP Photo/AP Television News/ho, FILE)

His comment came during a 90-minute audio response Wedneday that was billed as the first installment of answers to the more than 900 questions submitted on extremist Internet sites by al-Qaida supporters, critics and journalists in December.

“We haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else,” al-Zawahri said, according to a 46-page English transcript that accompanied the audio message posted on Web sites linked to al-Qaida.

The answer was in response to the question: “Excuse me, Mr. Zawahri, but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency’s blessing the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?”

Al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington in 2001, while its affiliates in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria regularly set off bombs in crowded urban areas that have taken thousands of lives.

“If there is any innocent who was killed in the mujahedeen’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity,” al-Zawahri said.

He went on to accuse al-Qaida’s opponents of being the ones who kill innocent people. He also charged that “the enemy intentionally takes up positions in the midst of the Muslims for them to be human shields for him.”

A banner bearing the logo of al-Qaida’s media arm, al-Sahab, appeared earlier in the day on Web sites linked to the network to announce that al-Zawahri’s first round of answers.

Al-Zawahri, the chief deputy to Osama bin Laden, said in the audio that he had chosen approximately 100 questions to answer.

Al-Sahab announced in December that al-Zawahri would take questions from the public posted on Islamic militant Web sites and would respond “as soon as possible.”

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PcBuc3LQvCzNYoHB2s0NUE

NATO confronting new threats

April 2, 2008
By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer

BUCHAREST, Romania – NATO‘s latest security worries go far beyond Taliban fighters or al-Qaida extremists: They include computer hackers, threats to global energy supplies and climate change profiteers.
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World leaders gathered in Bucharest for this week’s NATO summit are debating what role the trans-Atlantic alliance can play in containing “cyberterrorists,” “hacktivists” and other emerging menaces that experts concede are untraditional, but still potentially lethal.

NATO needs to gear up for “iWar” — systematic attacks on the Web that could disrupt commerce worldwide by using crippling computer worms to shut down consumer online services such as Internet banking — warns Johnny Ryan, a researcher with the Institute of International and European Affairs.

“iWar will proliferate quickly and can be waged by anyone with an Internet connection,” Ryan cautioned in an analysis for NATO.

“In the short term, iWar poses a gathering threat to NATO members,” he said. “NATO must approach the problem as an immediate threat and strive to develop practical defensive cooperation.”

NATO member Estonia suffered a series of paralyzing and economically devastating cybercrime attacks last year that it blamed on Russia, which has denied involvement.

The attacks “raise questions about the alliance’s ability to protect its newest members,” said Stanley Kober, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Securing vulnerable energy infrastructure may be an even more pressing concern, NATO officials said Wednesday as the summit got under way.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has been pushing for a new “strategic concept” that would define the alliance’s role in dealing with the threat.

“Many of these challenges will not trigger a classical military response. But they will require allies to support each other — politically, economically, and perhaps also militarily,” de Hoop Scheffer told a security forum in Brussels, Belgium, last month.

His spokesman, James Appathurai, told reporters Wednesday that the 26 NATO allies hoped this week to lay the groundwork for a new blueprint on how to tackle evolving security challenges.

Energy has also become a worry for NATO as Russia tightens control of its most important natural gas fields. Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy monopoly, controls key pipelines that supply gas to Western Europe.

The U.S. is prodding NATO to take a larger role in energy security — something Washington considers a major post-Cold War menace.

“I think there’s an increasing recognition in the United States that these are growing issues,” said Stephen Larrabee, a senior security analyst for the RAND Corp. think tank.

Climate change — already a major concern on a wide range of fronts — is starting to preoccupy NATO as well.

De Hoop Scheffer says the alliance may have to be ready to protect food and water supplies if global warming makes them scarce and tensions create enough economic or political instability to nudge nations to the brink of war.

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana gave a bleak assessment in a March 3 report warning that climate change threatens to undermine international security.

“It is important to recognize that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature — they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests,” the report says, warning: “Unmitigated climate change … will lead to unprecedented security scenarios.”

But any attempt to push the new threats to the forefront likely will run into resistance from allies pressing NATO to get back to basics, said Julianne Smith, Europe program director for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Many countries would like to see NATO return to its core mission,” she said. “I just find it hard to believe that NATO is going to be able to reach consensus on any of these issues.”

NATO’s core function is defined in its 1949 founding treaty, which states that all members will come to each others’ aid if any are attacked by an outside power.

Bush sees NATO backing missile defense

April 2, 2008
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent

BUCHAREST, Romania – President Bush expressed confidence Wednesday that NATO will bolster its combat forces in Afghanistan and endorse a missile defense system for Europe that Russia has opposed.
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U.S. President George Bush, right, and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, shake hands after making remarks to the media during their meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, April 2, 2008. Bush has expressed confidence that NATO will endorse a missile-defense system for Europe and pledge additional troops for Afghanistan, during his visit to Romania.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


“I’m optimistic that this is a going to be a very successful summit,” Bush said, sitting alongside NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hours before the 26-nation military alliance opened three days of meetings with a leaders’ dinner.

The summit has been troubled by divisions, most notably opposition from France and Germany to giving Ukraine and Georgia a plan for eventually joining NATO. Bush indicated that was an open question because any NATO member can block it.

“We’ll see,” he said, saying one country was still an issue.

Bush has pushed NATO countries to commit more troops to the 47,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan. At least 10 countries, including France, Germany, Norway and Poland, have announced they would do so. Bush would like to see more.

“I feel good about what I’m hearing from my fellow leaders about their desire to support Afghanistan,” the president said. “I think if tomorrow we get clarification on troop support … the people of Afghanistan are going to be more than grateful.” He did not mention any specific numbers of additional troops.

The U.S. is the biggest contributor of troops in Afghanistan, numbering 17,000 in the NATO-led force and 14,000 in a U.S.-led contingent in eastern Afghanistan that trains Afghan forces and hunts al-Qaida. The U.S. presence is set to expand by 3,500 Marines, most of them dedicated to the NATO mission.

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McCain Major Foreign Policy Address

March 30, 2008

 March 27, 2008

Los Angeles (myfoxla.com)  —  The United States needs to work more closely with democratic nations and restore its image as a world power, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said today in downtown Los Angeles.
US. Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain is ... 
“We can’t build an enduring peace based on freedom by ourselves, and we do not want to,” McCain said during a breakfast meeting of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the Westin Bonaventure hotel.

“We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact — a league of Democracies — that can harness the vast influence of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and  defend our shared interests.”

In his speech — titled “U.S. Foreign Policy: Where We Go From Here” —  McCain also reiterated his stances that the United States cannot withdraw from Iraq, that torture of prisoners must stop and the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay must be closed.

“America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model,” McCain said. “How we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad. … We can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured.”

McCain, who recently toured the Middle East and Europe, said the United States must do more to collaborate with democratic nations.

“The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone,” the Arizona senator said.

“Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed,” he said. “We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies.

“… Leadership in today’s world means accepting and fulfilling our responsibilities as a great nation,” he said. “One of those responsibilities is to be a good and reliable ally to our fellow democracies.”

McCain’s comments were a departure of sorts from the Bush Administration, which has been criticized for employing a go-it-alone policy.

But McCain said again he would not advocate the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

“We have incurred a moral responsibility in Iraq. It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible and premature withdrawal,” McCain said.

Democratic candidates Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., have both pledged to gradually withdraw U.S. troops if elected.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, criticized McCain’s speech as “empty rhetoric” that does nothing to distance him from the policies of President Bush.

“His new appreciation for diplomacy has no credibility after he mimicked President Bush’s misleading case for a unilateral war of choice when it mattered most,” Dean said. “Why should the American people now trust John McCain to offer anything more than four more years of President Bush’s reckless  economic policies and failed foreign policy?”

Foreign policy is considered an area of strength for the 71-year-old McCain, but today’s speech comes eight days after he made a high-profile gaffe.

In a news conference in Amman, Jordan, during a congressional fact- finding trip, McCain told reporters he continues to be concerned about Iranian authorities  “taking al-Qaida into Iran, training them and sending them back.”

When asked about that statement, McCain said, “Well, it’s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaida is gong back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., then whispered to McCain, who said, “I’m sorry. The Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaida.”

Democrats pounced on McCain’s misstatement.

“Not only is McCain wrong on Iraq again, but the bigger problem is either that either he doesn’t understand the problems facing Iraq and basically  the whole Middle East or he’s willing to ignore the facts on the ground,” Luis Miranda, a deputy communications director with the Democratic National Committee, told City News Service.

“Whichever one of those two things it is, it’s just not worthy of inspiring trust.”
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McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rodgers told The New York Times last week that “John McCain misspoke and immediately corrected himself by stating that Iran is, in fact, supporting radical Islamic extremists in Iraq, not al- Qaida — as is reflected in the transcript.

“The reality is that the American people have deep concerns about the Democratic candidates’ judgment and readiness on matters of national security and that’s why the DNC launched their attack.”
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 Text of U.S. Senator John McCain’s remarks at the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California:


tion

When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house in New London, Connecticut, and a Navy officer rolled down the window, and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  My father immediately left for the submarine base where he was stationed.  I rarely saw him again for four years.  My grandfather, who commanded the fast carrier task force under Admiral Halsey, came home from the war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day. 

In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home to the country they loved so well.  I detest war.  It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description.  When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue.  The lives of a nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed.

Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; econom ies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war.  

Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly.  Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.  However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. I am an idealist, and I believe it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure, and American ideals that are transforming the world, the principles of free people and free markets, advance even farther than they have.  But I am, from hard experience and the judgment it informs, a realistic idealist. I know we must work very hard and very creatively to build new foundations for a stable and enduring peace. 

We cannot wish the world to be a better place than it is.  We have enemies for whom no attack is too cruel, and no innocent life safe, and who would, if they could, strike us with the world’s most terrible weapons.  There are states that support them, and which might help them acquire those weapons because they share with terrorists the same animating hatred for the West, and will not be placated by fresh appeals to the better angels of their nat ure.  This is the central threat of our time, and we must understand the implications of our decisions on all manner of regional and global challenges could have for our success in defeating it.

President Harry Truman once said of America, “God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose.”  In his time, that purpose was to contain Communism and build the structures of peace and prosperity that could provide safe passage through the Cold War.  Now it is our turn. 

We face a new set of opportunities, and also new dangers.  The developments of science and technology have brought us untold prosperity, eradicated disease, and reduced the suffering of millions.  We have a chance in our lifetime to raise the world to a new standard of human existence.  Yet these same technologies have produced grave new risks, arming a few zealots with the ability to murder millions of innocents, and producing a global industrialization that can in time threaten our planet.

To meet this challenge requires understanding the world we live in, and the central role the United States must play in shaping it for the future.  The United States must lead in the 21st century, just as in Truman’s day.  But leadership today means something different than it did in the years after World War II, when Europe and the other democracies were still recovering from the devastation of war and the United States was the only democratic superpower.  Today we are not alone.  There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies.  There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia that wield great influence in the international system.

In such a world, where power of all kinds is more widely and evenly distributed, the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone.  We must be strong politically, economically, and militarily.  But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy, by defending the rules of international civilized society and by creating the new international institutions necessary to advance the peace and freedoms we cherish.  Perhaps above all, leadership in today’s world means accepting and fulfilling our responsibilities as a great nation.

One of those responsibilities is to be a good and reliable ally to our fellow democracies.  We cannot build an enduring peace based on freedom by ourselves, and we do not want to.  We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact — a League of Democracies — that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests. 

At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust.  Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”  Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.  We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies.  When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right.  But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them. 

America must be a model citizen if we want others to look to us as a model.  How we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad.  We must fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundation of our society.  We can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured.  I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.

There is such a thing as international good citizenship.  We need to be good stewards of our planet and join with other nations to help preserve our common home.  The risks of global warming have no borders.  We and the other nations of the world must get serious about substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years or we will hand off a much-diminished world to our grandchildren.  We need a successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner.  We Americans must lead by example and encourage the participation of the rest of the world, including most importantly, the developing economic powerhouses of China and India. 

Four and a half decades ago, John Kennedy described the people of Latin America as our “firm and ancient friends, united by history and experience and by our determination to advance the values of American civilization.”  With globalization, our hemisphere has grown closer, more integrated, and more interdependent.  Latin America today is increasingly vital to the fortunes of the United States. Americans north and south share a common geography and a common destiny.  The countries of Latin America are the natural partners of the United States, and our northern neighbor Canada.

Relations with our southern neighbors must be governed by mutual respect, not by an imperial impulse or by anti-American demagoguery.  The promise of North, Central, and South American life is too great for that.  I believe the Americas can and must be the model for a new 21st century relationship between North and South.  Ours can be the first completely democratic hemisphere, where trade is free across all borders, where the rule of law and the power of free markets advance the security and prosperity of all.

Power in the world today is moving east; the Asia-Pacific region is on the rise.  Together with our democratic partner of many decades, Japan, we can grasp the opportunities present in the unfolding world and this century can become safe — both American and Asian, both prosperous and free.  Asia has made enormous strides in recent decades. Its economic achievements are well known; less known is that more people live under democratic rule in Asia than in any other region of the world.

Dealing with a rising China will be a central challenge for the next American president.  Recent prosperity in China has brought more people out of poverty faster than during any other time in human history.  China’s newfound power implies responsibilities.  China could bolster its claim that it is “peacefully rising” by being more transparent about its significant military buildup, by working with the world to isolate pariah states such as Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe, and by ceasing its efforts to establish regional forums and economic arrangements designed to exclude America from Asia. 

China and the United States are not destined to be adversaries.  We have numerous overlapping interests and hope to see our relationship evolve in a manner that benefits both countries and, in turn, the Asia-Pacific region and the world.  But until China moves toward political liberalization, our relationship will be based on periodically shared interests rather than the bedrock of shared values. 

The United States did not single-handedly win the Cold War; the transatlantic alliance did, in concert with partners around the world.  The bonds we share with Europe in terms of history, values, and interests are unique.  Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union as we continue to support a strong NATO.  The future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, addressing the dangers posed by a revanchist Russia, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.

We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia.  Rather than tolerate Russia’s nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization’s doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.

While Africa’s problems — poverty, corruption, disease, and instability — are well known, we must refocus on the bright promise offered by many countries on that continent.  We must strongly engage on a political, economic, and security level with friendly governments across Africa, but insist on improvements in transparency and the rule of law.  Many African nations will not reach their true potential without external assistance to combat entrenched problems, such as HIV/AIDS, that afflict Africans disproportionately.  I will establish the goal of eradicating malaria on the continent — the number one killer of African children under the age of five.  In addition to saving millions of lives in the world’s poorest regions, such a campaign would do much to add luster to America’s image in the world.

We also share an obligation with the world’s other great powers to halt and reverse the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The United States and the international community must work together and do all in our power to contain and reverse North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and to prevent Iran — a nation whose President has repeatedly expressed a desire to wipe Israel from the face of the earth — from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  We should work to reduce nuclear arsenals all around the world, starting with our own.  Forty years ago, the five declared nuclear powers came together in support of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and pledged to end the arms race and move toward nuclear disarmament.  The time has come to renew that commitment.  We do not need all the weapons currently in our arsenal.  The United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament consistent with our vital interests and the cause of peace.

If we are successful in pulling together a global coalition for peace and freedom — if we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity, I believe we will gain tangible benefits as a nation. 

It will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.  This challenge is transcendent not because it is the only one we face.  There are many dangers in today’s world, and our foreign policy must be agile and effective at dealing with all of them.  But the threat posed by the terrorists is unique.  They alone devote all their energies and indeed their very lives to murdering innocent men, women, and children.  They alone seek nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction not to defend themselves or to enhance their prestige or to give them a stronger hand in world affairs but to use against us wherever and whenever they can.  Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House, for he or she does not take seriously enough the first and most basic duty a president has — to protect the lives of the American people.< /P>

We learned through the tragic experience of September 11 that passive defense alone cannot protect us.  We must protect our borders.  But we must also have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate, and deny them bases in failed or failing states.  Today al Qaeda and other terrorist networks operate across the globe, seeking out opportunities in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, and in the Middle East.

Prevailing in this struggle will require far more than military force.  It will require the use of all elements of our national power: public diplomacy; development assistance; law enforcement training; expansion of economic opportunity; and robust intelligence capabilities.  I have called for major changes in how our government faces the challenge of radical Islamic extremism by much greater resources for and integration of civilian efforts to prevent conflict and to address post-conflict challenges.  Our goal must be to win the “hearts and minds” of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists.  In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.

We also need to build the international structures for a durable peace in which the radical extremists are gradually eclipsed by the more powerful forces of freedom and tolerance.  Our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are critical in this respect and cannot be viewed in isolation from our broader strategy.  In the troubled and often dangerous region they occupy, these two nations can either be sources of extremism and instability or they can in time become pillars of stability, tolerance, and democracy.  

For decades in the greater Middle East, we had a strategy of relying on autocrats to provide order and stability.  We relied on the Shah of Iran, the autocratic rulers of Egypt, the generals of Pakistan, the Saudi royal family, and even, for a time, on Saddam Hussein.  In the late 1970s that strategy began to unravel.  The Shah was overthrown by the radical Islamic revolution that now rules in Tehran.  The ensuing ferment in the Muslim world produced increasing instability.  The autocrats clamped down with ever greater repression, while also surreptitiously aiding Islamic radicalism abroad in the hopes that they would not become its victims.  It was a toxic and explosive mixture.  The oppression of the autocrats blended with the radical Islamists’ dogmatic theology to produce a perfect storm of intolerance and hatred. 

We can no longer delude ourselves that relying on these out-dated autocracies is the safest bet.  They no longer provide lasting stability, only the illusion of it.  We must not act rashly or demand change overnight.  But neither can we pretend the status quo is sustainable, stable, or in our interests.  Change is occurring whether we want it or not.  The only question for us is whether we shape this change in ways that benefit humanity or let our enemies seize it for their hateful purposes.  We must help expand the power and reach of freedom, using all our many strengths as a free people.  This is not just idealism.  It is the truest kind of realism.  It is the democracies of the world that will provide the pillars upon which we can and must build an enduring peace.

If you look at the great arc that extends from the Middle East through Central Asia and the Asian subcontinent all the way to Southeast Asia, you can see those pillars of democracy stretching across the entire expanse, from Turkey and Israel to India and Indonesia.  Iraq and Afghanistan lie at the heart of that region.  And whether they eventually become stable democracies themselves, or are allowed to sink back into chaos and extremism, will determine not only the fate of that critical part of the world, but our fate, as well.  

That is the broad strategic perspective through which to view our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many people ask, how should we define success?  Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is the establishment of peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic states that pose no threat to neighbors and contribute to the defeat of terrorists.  It is the triumph of religious tolerance over violent radicalism. 

Those who argue that our goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong, just as they were wrong a year ago when they declared the war in Iraq already lost.  Since June 2007 sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq has been reduced by 90 percent.  Overall civilian deaths have been reduced by more than 70 percent.  Deaths of coalition forces have fallen by 70 percent.  The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi.  People are going back to work.  Markets are open.  Oil revenues are climbing.  Inflation is down.  Iraq’s economy is expected to grown by roughly 7 percent in 2008.  Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local and provincial grassroots level.  Sunni and Shi’a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning.  Political progress at the national level has been far too s low, but there is progress. 

Critics say that the “surge” of troops isn’t a solution in itself, that we must make progress toward Iraqi self-sufficiency.  I agree.  Iraqis themselves must increasingly take responsibility for their own security, and they must become responsible political actors.  It does not follow from this, however, that we should now recklessly retreat from Iraq regardless of the consequences.  We must take the course of prudence and responsibility, and help Iraqis move closer to the day when they no longer need our help.

That is the route of responsible statesmanship.  We have incurred a moral responsibility in Iraq.  It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible, and premature withdrawal.  Our critics say America needs to repair its image in the world.  How can they argue at the same time for the morally reprehensible abandonment of our responsibilities in Iraq?

Those who claim we should withdraw from Iraq in order to fight Al Qaeda more effectively elsewhere are making a dangerous mistake.  Whether they were there before is immaterial, al Qaeda is in Iraq now, as it is in the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Somalia, and in Indonesia.  If we withdraw prematurely from Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq will survive, proclaim victory and continue to provoke sectarian tensions that, while they have been subdued by the success of the surge, still exist, as various factions of Sunni and Shi’a have yet to move beyond their ancient hatreds, and are ripe for provocation by al Qaeda.  Civil war in Iraq could easily descend into genocide, and destabilize the entire region as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions.  I believe a reckless and premature withdrawal would be a terrible defeat for our security interests and our values.  Iran will also view our premature withdrawal as a victory, a nd the biggest state supporter of terrorists, a country with nuclear ambitions and a stated desire to destroy the State of Israel, will see its influence in the Middle East grow significantly.  These consequences of our defeat would threaten us for years, and those who argue for it, as both Democratic candidates do, are arguing for a course that would eventually draw us into a wider and more difficult war that would entail far greater dangers and sacrifices than we have suffered to date. I do not argue against withdrawal, any more than I argued several years ago for the change in tactics and additional forces that are now succeeding in Iraq, because I am somehow indifferent to war and the suffering it inflicts on too many American families.  I hold my position because I hate war, and I know very well and very personally how grievous its wages are.  But I know, too, that we must sometimes pay those wages to avoid paying even higher ones later.

I run for President because I want to keep the country I love and have served all my life safe, and to rise to the challenges of our times, as generations before us rose to theirs.  I run for President because I know it is incumbent on America, more than any other nation on earth, to lead in building the foundations for a stable and enduring peace, a peace built on the strength of our commitment to it, on the transformative ideals on which we were founded, on our ability to see around the corner of history, and on our courage and wisdom to make hard choices.  I run because I believe, as strongly as I ever have, that it is within our power to make in our time another, better world than we inherited.

Thank you.

Commentary: Momentous day for Pakistan, Bhutto’s legacy

March 18, 2008
By Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari is the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and widower of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in Pakistan in December.

In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, ...
In this handout photo released by Pakistan Parliament House, Asif Ali Zardari, left, widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party waves as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif looks on during the National assembly’s first session at Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday, March 17, 2008. Pakistan inaugurated a new parliament on Monday dominated by opponents of President Pervez Musharraf who have vowed to crimp his powers and review his U.S.-backed policies against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
(AP Photo/Pakistan Parliament House, HO)

(CNN) — Monday was a momentous day for the people of Pakistan, but a bittersweet day for me.

Sitting in the gallery watching a democratically elected National Assembly headed by the Pakistan Peoples Party and its coalition partners, I thought of the terrible price paid for this moment of liberty. I thought of the many jailed, beaten, tortured, and exiled. I thought of all of those who had their reputations assaulted. I thought of the undermining and dismantling of Pakistani civil society. I thought of the attacks on the independence and autonomy of the judicial system. I thought of the censorship of the press, emergency rule and martial law.

But of course more than anything else, I thought of my beloved wife, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, who sacrificed her life for her beliefs and her country. This was the day of her triumph, the vindication of her long battle for the restoration of democracy. For my country, this was a day of celebration. But for me and our children, this day was also a day of tears. Democracy had come to Pakistan, but at a terrible, terrible price.

Last week, the two largest political parties in Pakistan agreed to form a coalition government that would restore democracy and bring stability to our country. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which I lead after the assassination of my wife, has joined the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, to form a broad-based, democratic, liberal government in Pakistan — an umbrella of reconciliation and consensus. The new prime minister, from the PPP, will be announced within the next few days.

In agreeing to form a coalition government Mr. Sharif and I have responded to the mandate given by the people of Pakistan in the February 18 election. Pakistan’s people no longer want to live under the thumb of a dictator. They want an end to terrorism and violence and wish to join the rest of the modern world in the pursuit of peace and prosperity. They want to restore the supremacy of the people’s house, the National Assembly, and free it from the sword of Damocles of a marginal presidency with inflated, unconstitutional authority.

Pakistan’s political leaders and people have suffered from the politics of personal destruction; we have been battered by dictatorship; we have seen civil society taken apart and a free and independent judiciary destroyed. We have seen international assistance, secured in the name of fighting terrorism, diverted towards making Pakistan’s affluent few richer. We have seen progress on education, health and women’s rights stopped and reversed. But now, with renewed confidence in democratic parties like the PPP and PML-N, it is time for the rebirth of a democratic, vital and progressive Pakistan.

Some fear a coalition government would lack the necessary strength to tackle Pakistan’s myriad problems. But cooperation between the country’s biggest political parties, representing an overwhelming majority of the people, would bring greater stability than one-man rule. Together, the PPP and PML-N will be able to build a strong civil society. That would go a long way to erasing the scars of militarism and militancy. We will focus on providing education and employment at the grassroots levels so the country’s youth can play an integral role in building a strong national economy.

Under the rule of Pervez Musharraf, extremists were allowed to thrive along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The key to improving security there is not to make citizens in Pakistan’s tribal areas feel like second-rate citizens kept under lock and key, caught between the threats of violence from militants and the military. Rather, we must let all of our citizens, including those in the Federally Administered Tribal Area, know they are part participants in the growth of Pakistan’s economy and civil society.

Fostering a better level of trust and understanding among the people in the border areas, and delivering on their key needs, is essential to enhancing security in the FATA and throughout Pakistan. While immediate steps must be taken to hunt down identified terrorists, the long-term solution to extremism lies in respecting the will of the people and in providing them with a means of livelihood at every level — food, clothing, shelter, jobs and education. By talking to and respecting our people, we will be able to isolate the extremists and terrorists.

Those of us who are now in a position of leadership seek, in my wife’s words, “a tomorrow better than any of the yesterdays we have ever known.” We see a Pakistan where all children, regardless of their socio-economic standing or their gender, are guaranteed compulsory and quality primary and secondary education. We see a Pakistani educational system of quality teachers, who receive decent salaries, and teach in modern classrooms with state-of-the-art computers and technology. We see a Pakistan where political madrassas that teach hatred are closed, and educational institutions that focus on science and technology flourish.

The PPP has a vision to build a nation that is one of the great capital markets of the world; a revitalized nation that will generate international investment. We look forward to the complete electrification of all of our villages, the purification of our nation’s drinking water, the privatization of the public sector, the expansion of the energy sector, the development of our export industries, the modernization of our ports and the rebuilding our national infrastructure. All of these elements are essential to a Pakistan where a democratically elected government, with the mandate of the people, confronts and marginalizes the forces of extremism and terrorism wherever they may exist in our nation. In other words, I see the Pakistan for which my wife lived and died.

Pakistan’s democracy has not evolved over the past 60 years because the generals believed they should intervene in politics and run the country. The army’s misperception of itself as the country’s only viable institution, and its deep-rooted suspicion of the civilian political process, has prevented democracy from flourishing. The PPP and its allies will reverse the current regime’s suppression of civil society and free speech. We will establish a Press Complaints Commission similar to that of the United Kingdom and stand up for the democratic rights of citizens to freely establish television and radio stations, subject to the basic legal framework.

While the tasks ahead are not easy, the Pakistan Peoples Party plans to work in good faith with its fellow democratic parties and our coalition allies to achieve our goal of building a new, progressive Pakistan. Everything will not come at once. The reformation of Pakistan — politically, economically and socially — will be a long and complex process. But we are determined to begin and we are determined to succeed.

We did not come this far, we did not sacrifice this much, to fail.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.