|Asia News Digest
U.S. Congressman: Afghanistan Operations Are 'Futile'
June 27 (EIRNS)Breaking what seems like a monolith of views in the U.S. Congress toward the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Air and Land Forces subcommittee, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hi.), said in an interview with The Hill published today, that he wants the United States out of Afghanistan immediately, calling operations there "futile," in trying to effect political change in a country with a tangled history.
"We are finished there, militarily speaking. There is no useful purpose for our troops there," Abercrombie stated. The military should withdraw now, he said, though he stressed that the U.S. could keep "isolated pockets" of special operators there.
Apparently, Abercrombie's views have been molded by increasing evidence in recent days that, like the Tet offensive by the North Vietnamese in 1968, which made clear to the Johnson Administration what the reality was then on the ground, the gathering strength of the Taliban over the last two years, in particular, the rapid "Talibanization" of bordering Pakistan's Tribal Agencies (districts), and the zooming Afghan opium production, indicate that the U.S. and NATO troops have not only failed in their immediate mission, which was to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and capture Osama bin Laden, but have also failed to make any headway in their long-term objective to stabilize Afghanistan. In fact, the occupying forces, not unlike those in Iraq, are losing ground, by further destabilizing not only Afghanistan, but also the region around it.
Maoist Violence Emphasizes Indian Disparities
June 27 (EIRNS)Using the anti-poor, discriminatory economic policy of the Manmohan Singh-led government in New Delhi as the raison d'être, India's Maoists once again resorted to violence, by blowing up a railway station and disrupting public transport system across several Indian states, on the second day of their two-day nationwide strike.
India's economic policy, which has become GDP-growth-centered and increasingly disassociated from the realities on the ground, has ignored the fact that some parts of the country are reeling under Maoist-terrorist threats and becoming altogether ungovernable.
The Indian Maoists, known in the 1960s as "Naxalites," have proliferated. They have taken control of a huge swath of land running from the state of Bihar in the North all the way to the state of Tamil Nadu in the South, encompassing highly underdeveloped areas of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh. The common thread that runs through this massive stretch of land is: underdevelopment and poverty
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, rebels called out employees of a coffee-extracting plant from work near the port city of Vishakhapatnam, and blew it up.
Authorities in many mineral-rich regions of south, east, and central India suspended public transport. Shops were shut in rural areas and mining operations in the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were suspended. On June 26, a train engine was blown up and another set ablaze in Jharkhand. Rebels also set fire to five trucks transporting minerals in the state.
Another Feather in Bush's 'War on Terror' Cap
June 27 (EIRNS)Which one is a better option for Afghanistan? Getting swamped by heroin, or returning to Taliban-style Islam? No doubt, the Bush-Cheney Administration says, the first option is better. When the U.S. Special Forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, opium production was down to less than 1,000 tons, and opium was processed inside Pakistan's Tribal Agencies bordering Afghanistan. Five years later, Afghanistan's opium production is up almost seven-fold, breaking annual production records, and the processing of opium into heroin is now being done almost entirely within Afghanistan. Who can deny the U.S. "success" in shifting Afghanistan from a trading to a processing nation, with 50,000 foreign troops keeping the Taliban under control?
On June 25, representative of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Christina Orguz, told AFP in Kabul, that Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of opium, "had until two years ago exported the illicit drug almost exclusively in its raw form." But now "the amount of the opium being processed [in Afghanistan], I think, is around 90%at least the lion's share."
Orguz added that, "now more and more of the opium is being processed into morphine and into heroin. And this indicates sophistication that we didn't have in this country before." No one knows, or even seems to want to know, how this sophistication was implanted in Afghanistan. No one knows, because all are battling the Taliban.
China Continues To Support Role of U.S. Dollar
June 26 (EIRNS)Yi Gang, assistant governor of the People's Bank of China, said that the dollar is one of the safest investment options, Bloomberg reported from a closed session addressed by Yi at the Singapore World Economic Forum today. China has some $1.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. Yi said that China will continue to keep the "bulk" of its forex reserves in dollars, because of the "important" role of the dollar as the primary currency for trade and foreign direct investment. Yi said that Asian central banks will continue to hold most of their reserves in dollars. "Safety, return, and liquidity are the three most important elements that people should consider when they talk about reserves," Yi said. "As far as we're concerned, the serious reduction of the dollar reserve is a small probability." Adjustments in its dollar holdings will be "incremental," he said.
South Korean Unions Strike Against Free Trade Pact
June 29 (EIRNS)The Hyundai and Kia auto unions have joined a nationwide strike by the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU), in protest against the U.S-South Korean Free Trade Agreement (FTA), signed by both governments, and pending approval in both legislatures. The strike has been attacked the employers of the metal workers, and by the government. Hyundai Motors filed a lawsuit against the head of the KMWU and 22 other members.
Some 40-100,000 workers joined the strike. The Police announced that they would be rounding up 17 union leaders, as they have warrants for their arrest for an "illegal" strike, since it is supposedly not over labor issues. One union official said that the FTA "will threaten the employment of workers, and will pit American workers against Korean workers in a race to the bottom."
The walkout took on a whole new dimension, when all of the 16,000 Kia KMWU members and 25% of the KMWU workers for Hyundai joined in. On June 28, the walkout lasted four hours, with plans to stay out for six hours on June 29.
U.S. Offers Military Operations Across the Philippines
June 29 (EIRNS)Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, has offered military help to the Philippines, in fighting the New People's Army throughout the nation. Visiting in Manila, Keating was asked by the Philippines Inquirer on June 28 if the United States is considering going beyond its current aid in fighting the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao, to fight the NPA. Keating responded: "We're just right now focused on the Abu Sayyaf group, but if the government of the Philippines tells us that they need help on the New People's Army, we would consider and respond. So, yes."
U.S. military operations in Mindanao against Abu Sayyaf are already pushing the envelope regarding Philippine Constitutional restrictions on foreign soldiers fighting on Philippine soil. To join in against the nationwide, 38-year-old insurgency of the communist NPA, would be considered my many to be over the top. The NPA was engaged in peace talks with Manila until President Bush placed the group on the U.S. "terrorist list" in 2002, despite strong objections from the Philippines government. The Arroyo government is now pushing a "final solution" to the NPA, which is serving as a cover for political death squads targetting leftist politicians and journalists.
Indian Observers Concerned Over Nimitz's Docking
June 29 (EIRNS)The Indian government's decision to allow the American nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to dock at the Chennai harbor in southern India July 1-5, as a part of closer India-U.S.A. alliance in strategic matters, has raised concerns among Indian observers who believe that anti-U.S. Islamic militants could be provoked to commit a violent act in India, if not against the Nimitz itself.
A statement issued by the Nimitz command on June 5, said: "USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 began conducting missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) June 3 following the ship's first port visit in the Middle East." The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) entered the Arabian Gulf May 23 along with the USS John C. Stennis CSG and the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. Upon arrival in the Gulf, the Nimitz CSG participated in Expeditionary Strike Force (ESF), training with the other carrier and expeditionary strike groups, before making its first Middle East port visit May 28-June 2.
The Nimitz visit has two security implications which need to be guarded against: the possibility of terrorist strikes on either the U.S. personnel coming ashore, or on Indian personalities visiting the ship; and the possibility of aggravated terrorism against Indian targets after the visit is over, one Indian intelligence analyst pointed out. The visit comes a few days before the first anniversary of the terrorist strikes in suburban trains of Mumbai last year, when 184 civilians were killed.