|Asia News Digest
British Military Moves to Undermine Taliban
The British military has begun a "reconciliation" drive to undermine the Taliban in Afghanistan, reported the London Guardian's military editor Richard Norton-Taylor Feb. 26. British government strategists have decided that no one can win a decisive military victory in Afghanistan. Norton-Taylor wrote that this is a significant shift in tactics, and quoted one senior British official: "We do not use the word 'win' for the war. We can't kill our way out of this problem."
British military officials were also warning that the Taliban are recruiting more suicide bombersjust before the unprecedented attack on Bagram military base today.
The new tactic is to find "Talibs who are sick of fighting" and persuade them to go back to their tribes, while trying to make more deals with tribal elders, and offer captured fighters alternatives to prison. "We are convinced most people do not support the Taliban and want to take a route through it," said one source. The officials are calling the Taliban a "more fluid" organization than al-Qaeda, and therefore more vulnerable. One official said: "The Taliban is not a homogenous group. It is a mixture of characterscriminals, drug dealers, people out of work. There is a wide variety of different people. The Taliban pays them to carry out these attacks, so there are ways to tackle the problem, to split off the disillusioned."
In addition, British officials are concerned that U.S. eradication programs for the Afghan opium poppy harvest would alienate poor farmers and drive them into the hands of the Taliban. This would further endanger British troops. "The Americans are more impatient than we are," said one official, adding that the immediate priority should be to target and disrupt "convoys and laboratories and medium-value drugs traffickers."
China Rejects Cheney Criticism of ASAT Test
Asked about Vice President Dick Cheney's claim in Sydney, Australia Feb. 23, that China's ASAT test did not cohere with its stated peace policy, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang rejected Cheney's assertion, and insisted that China adheres to the path of peaceful development and is "an important force in the maintenance of peace and stability in the world and the region," Xinhua reported Feb. 28. In his regular press conference Feb. 27, Qin said that China is ready to work with the U.S. on all issues.
Russia, North Korea To Discuss Debt, Railway
Russian and North Korean officials will meet in Moscow March 22-23 to discuss debt and the still-unfinished Trans-Korean Railway, according to an official of the two nations' Intergovernmental Bilateral Commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation, Novosti reported March 1. This will be the first meeting of the commission since 2000. The main issue will be North Korea's $8 billion debt to Russia, but, in addition, the commission will discuss plans to continue building the trans-Korean railroad and connecting it to the Trans-Siberian railroad, the possibility of delivering and refining Russian crude oil in North Korea, and Korean laborers in Russia. Representatives of Russia's economics, transport, and finance ministries and the national rail company, Russian Railways, will attend the commission meeting.
Taliban Threaten Broad Offensive in Afghanistan
A Taliban military commander threatened a broad offensive in Afghanistan using suicide bombers and armed forces, in an interview aired on the UK's Channel 4 news. Film footage shown during the interview showed the Taliban commander, Mullah Dadullah, with a group of armed men, speaking from an undisclosed location, saying, "The suicide martyrs ... are countless," with hundreds having registered to go to the front to blow themselves up. "We have hundreds more on the waiting list." Dadullah also said that Osama bin Laden is alive, and that, "only his comrades see him. We [Taliban] exchange messages with each other to share plans. We also go to the battlefield together."
Sources in Washington pointed to this interview in the context of a discussion of an impending attackled by Britain, the U.S., Canada, and Afghanistanto launch attacks on alleged Taliban training camps and positions inside Pakistan.
Indian intelligence and military sources told EIR March 1 that their information is that a major air assault on Pakistan's "Tribal Agencies" areaformally known as the seven provinces under the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA)is being planned by the U.S., that Vice President Dick Cheney delivered this message to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on his visit there the previous week, and that this would possibly occur before any attack on Iran by the Bush Administration.
Taliban Strength Is 'Conventional' Guerrilla War
The Taliban's strength is "conventional" guerrilla war, not suicide bombers, a well-informed Indian intelligence source reported to EIR March 1. Despite the attention being given to the suicide bomber tactic after the attack on the Bagram military base in Afghanistan during the visit by Dick Cheney, and the filmed statements by Taliban Mullah Dadullah shown on British TV (see above), the source stressed that one should not focus exclusively on the suicide bombers, because the Taliban is capable of winning battlesas they have been doing throughout even the winter monthsto control towns and villages, and even the opium-rich Helman province.
Suicide bombers are not used to kill large numbers of peoplerather, they are deployed for psychological effect, especially in cities, such as Kabul, where the security proscribes large conventional-type attacks. Illustrating this point, said the source, is the number of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan killed in 2006. Of the 170 who were killed in 2006 (the largest number in a single yearwith only 520 killed since the anti-terror war was launched in October 2001), only 17 lost their lives to suicide bombers.
The suicide fighters are coming from three sources: Most are Pakistanis from the Tribal Agency area and madrassahs; the second groupwhich is growing rapidlyare Afghanis who are driven by revenge: their families or their wives, or their homes have been destroyed by the U.S. or the allies behind Karzai. The third group are the very poor, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, areas of the Arabian peninsula; money is deposited in their bank accounts to take care of their families after they die.
On background, the old Anglo-American asset, opium warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is recruiting the suicide bombers in large numbers.
China To Plant Jatropha Forest for Biodiesel
By 2010, China plans to plant an area approximately the size of England, or 13 million hectares, with Jatrophaalso called physic nuttrees from which biofuel can be extracted as a source of "clean energy," according to China's State Forestry Administration (SFA), China Daily reported Feb. 28. There are 2 million hectares of Jatropha across the country, which are used to produce non-edible oil for candles and soap. Now, it will be the main ingredient in the production of biodiesel, says the SFA.
Cao Qingyao, spokesman for the SFA, said: "This plan will not only help the country enlarge its green coverage (currently at about 130 million hectares) but also meet increasing demand for energy. And most importantly, it provides clean energy to meet the country's target of sustainable development."
China National Petroleum Corporation, one of the country's three energy giants, has started collaboration with the SFA to develop biodiesel. Jiang Jiemin, head of the corporation, said last month that the group would, by 2010, build a commercial production base with an annual capacity of 200,000 tons of diesel by planting more than 400,000 hectares of trees.