Archive for the ‘defense minister’ Category

Afghanistan, Missile Defense To Dominate Munich’s Annual Security Conference

February 8, 2008

February 8, 2008

BERLIN (AFP)–A raging Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe were set to send the sparks flying at the annual Munich security conference this weekend.

But fresh from a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Lithuania, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to make little headway in pressing Washington’s aims, particularly when it comes to Afghanistan, experts and diplomats believe.

“Afghanistan is going to be the centerpiece of the conference,” said Daniel Korski from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“America will continue to make the point for more burden sharing and more troops…There will be a continuation of the rhetoric and the Americans will bring out the bogeyman of NATO’s failure.”

But Gates is likely to draw a blank, Korski added: “Spain, Germany, France and Italy will not be able to provide the reinforcements requested.”

Commanders in Afghanistan have been calling for around 7,500 extra troops for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. ISAF currently comprises 42,000 troops from 39 countries.

In fierce fighting more than 6,000 people, including nearly 220 international soldiers, were killed there last year – the most since the U.S.-led toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The U.S. wants Germany, France, Spain and Italy not only to boost troop numbers but also to aid U.S., U.K., Dutch, and Canadian forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in the south of the country.

Germany for instance leads ISAF in the relatively calm north of Afghanistan but with elections looming in 2009 and public support for Berlin’s six year-old Afghan mission slipping, it is wary of becoming further enmeshed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government stresses instead the reconstruction role of its 3,200 troops, and last week Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung rejected a sharply-worded request by Gates for more help in the south.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Prime Minister ...
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, right, review the honour guard at the Berlin Chancellery on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008.
(AP Photo/Fritz Reiss) 

Jung says he will defend this position in Munich.

Germany’s refusal means other countries are also unlikely to step up to the plate, and this in turn could see the existing alliance unravel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has threatened to withdraw his country’s 2,500 troops unless NATO provides reinforcements.

Since 2002, 78 Canadian soldiers and a senior diplomat have died in roadside bombings and in fighting. Next month sees a crunch vote in Ottawa on whether to extend Canada’s combat mission beyond February 2009.

Gates is also unlikely to get an easy ride over sausages and beer in Munich when it comes to Washington’s plans to site parts of a missile defense shield in eastern Europe.

The 10 planned interceptor missile sites in Poland and associated radar stations in the Czech Republic, which the U.S. wants operational by 2012, are designed, Washington says, to intercept projectiles fired from “rogue states” like Iran.

But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is expected to use his appearance in Munich to hammer home Moscow’s strong dislike for the plans, since the installations will be placed on what it sees as its doorstep.
Sergei Ivanov
Sergei Borisovich Ivanov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used a Polish newspaper interview on Thursday to accuse Washington of imperialism and seeking to encircle Russia with the project.

“When you look at a map, it becomes clear that everything is concentrated around our borders,” he told Gazeta Wyborcza.

The annual security conference in the Bavarian capital will bring together around 250 delegates from 50 countries including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and Mohamed El Baradei, head of the U.N. atomic agency.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Jakob Gijsbert “Jaap” de Hoop Scheffer

NATO urged to do more in Afghanistan

February 7, 2008

From combined dispatches
(Peace and freedom thanks AP, Reuters, CNN, ABC)
.
Senior U.S. officials yesterday turned up the heat on NATO allies to do more in the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, warning that a planned influx of 3,000 Marines is unlikely to halt the deterioration of security there.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in London that Western countries must prepare their citizens for a long fight, while in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said a failure in Afghanistan would put “a cloud over the future” of NATO.
.
The remarks came amid a drumbeat of discouraging news on several fronts, including a new U.N. report predicting another bumper opium crop that will help to fund the insurgency.
.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said during a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, that more foreign troops are needed. The threat from the Taliban “is much higher than anticipated in 2001,” he told reporters.
.
Germany agreed yesterday to boost its force in the country by 200 troops but refused to let them serve in the south where they might face combat. In Canada, which has 2,500 troops fighting in the south, it became clear that an effort to extend the mission could bring down the Conservative-led government.
.
A British think tank said that country’s relief efforts in Afghanistan were failing, undermining military gains.
.
Britain’s Department for International Development in embattled Helmand province “is dysfunctional, totally dysfunctional. Basically it should be removed and its budget should go to the army, which might be better able to deliver assistance,” said the president of the Senlis Council, which has long experience in Afghanistan.
.
The Taliban staged more than 140 suicide missions last year, the most since it was ousted from power in late 2001 by the U.S.-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks. “I do think the alliance is facing a real test here,” Miss Rice said at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in London. “Our populations need to understand this is not a peacekeeping mission” but rather a long-term fight against extremists, she said. 

Mr. Gates said he was not optimistic that the addition of 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan this spring will be enough to put the NATO-led war effort back on track. He has sent letters to every alliance defense minister asking for more troops and equipment but has not received any replies, he said during a Senate hearing. 

All 26 NATO nations have soldiers in Afghanistan and all agree the mission is their top priority, but only the Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch and Danes “are really out there on the line and fighting,” Mr. Gates said.

He said he would be “a nag on this issue” when he meets NATO defense ministers today and tomorrow in Europe.

But there was little evidence yesterday that the allies are prepared to increase their contributions.

In Berlin, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters Germany will send around 200 combat soldiers to northern Afghanistan this summer to replace a Norwegian unit, but would not move them to the nation’s endangered south. 

“If we neglected the north,” where conditions are relatively peaceful, “we would commit a decisive mistake,” Mr. Jung said. 

In Ottawa, a spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Stephane Dion said Mr. Dion had been told by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a parliamentary vote to extend Canada’s mission would be treated as a matter of confidence, meaning the minority government will fall if it fails. 

Canada has already said it will not extend the mission if other NATO countries do not increase their contributions.

In Tokyo, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime predicted that this year’s production of opium poppies would be close or equal to last year’s record of 477,000 acres. Taliban rebels receive up to $100 million from the drug trade, the agency estimated. 

The Taliban “are deriving an enormous funding for their war by imposing … a 10 percent tax on production,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency.

Mr. Gates told the Senate hearing that he worries “a great deal” about NATO evolving into “a two-tiered alliance, in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples’ security, and others who are not.”

Overall, there are about 43,000 troops in the NATO-led coalition, including 16,000 U.S. troops. An additional 13,000 U.S. troops are outside NATO command, training Afghan forces and hunting al Qaeda terrorists.

Related:
SecDef Gates, Admiral Mullen Testify Before SASC

Israel: Olmert’s future rides on Lebanon war report

January 28, 2008

By Joshua Mitnick
January 28, 2008

TEL AVIV — The final report this week of an inquiry into the handling of the 2006 war in Lebanon could determine the fate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government just as it settles into peace talks with the Palestinians.
Mr. Olmert was nearly forced to resign after the preliminary report of the Winograd Commission described his authorization of the war as a “serious failure.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080128/FOREIGN/730733882/1001

Afghan rebels’ arms suppliers assailed

December 26, 2007

By Betsy Pisik
The Washington Times
December 26, 2007

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay last night accused Pakistan and Iran of supplying weapons to insurgents, only half an hour before a rocket disrupted his Christmas game of field hockey with the troops here.
Witnesses described a plume of smoke and a column of orange flame in the direction of the impact, which was audible from a mile away.
Elsewhere, two European diplomats who went to one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions have been asked to leave the country, wire agencies reported.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071226/FOREIGN/408248327/1001

Japan: “Significant” Missile Defense Success

December 18, 2007

HONOLULU (AP) – Japan is now the first U.S. ally to shoot down a mid-range ballistic missile in a test from a ship at sea. Japan’s top government spokesman says this is very significant for Japanese national security. He says the government plans to continue bolstering its missile defense systems by installing necessary equipment and conducting tests. Tokyo has invested heavily in missile defense since North Korea test-fired a long-range missile over northern Japan nearly 10 years ago. It has installed missile tracking technology on several navy ships and has plans to equip three additional vessels with interceptors. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency calls the test “a major milestone” in U.S.-Japanese relations.
In this photo provided by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, ... 
In this photo provided by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Japanese Aegis Destroyer JS Kongo in the warter off Kauai, Hawaii, Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. The Japanese military became the first U.S. ally to shoot down a mid-range ballistic missile in space, about 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean, fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, run by the U.S. Navy, with the interceptor fired from the ship at sea in a test Monday.
(AP Photo/Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, HO)

Japan shoots down test missile in space – defense minister

December 18, 2007

TOKYO (Thomson Financial) – Japan said Tuesday it had shot down a ballistic missile in space high above the Pacific Ocean as part of joint efforts with the United States to erect a shield against a possible attack from North Korea.Japan tested the US-developed Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptor from a warship in waters off Hawaii, becoming the first US ally to intercept a target using the system.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba described the successful test as “extremely significant.” “We will continue to strive to increase the system’s credibility,” he told reporters, insisting the missile shield was worth the high cost.

“We can’t talk about how much money should be spent when human lives are at stake.” Japan plans to spend a total of 127 billion yen over the four years to March 2008 on missile defense using the US-developed Aegis combat system, according to the defense ministry.

The naval destroyer Kongou launched the SM-3 which, at 7.12 am Japan time (2212 GMT Monday), intercepted the missile fired from onshore earlier, the navy said in a statement.

Officials said the interception was made around 100 miles (160 kilometers) above the Pacific. Japan plans to install the missile shield on four Aegis-equipped destroyers by March 2011, including the Kongou.

If the SM-3 system fails to intercept its target in space, the second stage of the shield uses ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors to try to shoot it down.

Japan introduced its first PAC-3 missile launcher at the Iruma air force base north of Tokyo in March, one year ahead of schedule, amid tense relations with North Korea which tested a nuclear device for the first time in October last year.

Japanese authorities aim to increase the number of locations equipped with the PAC-3 system to 14 by March 2011.