From Volume 8, Issue 1 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 6, 2009
Asia News Digest

NATO's Main Supply Route in Afghanistan Closed

Dec. 30 (EIRNS)—In a development which could become a major crisis as President Barack Obama prepares to take over responsibility of Afghanistan War, the northern supply line that passes through the Khyber Pass connecting Peshawar in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Torkham in Afghanistan—the southern route now goes through Chaman in Baluchistan—has been closed, as the Pakistani Army battles the insurgents who are now regularly disrupting the long supply line starting at the Port of Karachi. The northern route will be opened when the Pakistani Army clears the insurgents, Islamabad said.

Washington is planning to bring in another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, raising the total to about 97,000. Meanwhile, the supply line, which starts at the Port of Karachi, about 1,200 km from the Khyber Pass, is coming under increasing attack from insurgent groups who are battling the Pakistani Army inside Pakistan. Reports indicate that the Pakistani Taliban are now organizing to hit the supply line at the Port of Karachi itself.

As a result of these developments, Washington has now opened talks with the Central Asian nations to allow a land access to Afghanistan, an unnamed U.S. official told AFP. Such a supply line has to travel through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan to enter northern Afghanistan. This would obviously entail getting approval of the Russians.

U.S., NATO To Expand War on Terror to Pakistan's Tribal Areas

Jan. 2 (EIRNS)—In what could be a major expansion of foreign troops in the Indian Subcontinent, there are reports that the U.S. and NATO are negotiating with Pakistani authorities to include Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan, in its war on terror. The war on terror was launched by Washington in the Winter of 2001 against Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Reports indicate Pakistan's Chief of Armed Services Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani's visit to Kabul on today may lead to an agreement to such a proposal. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani will be meeting his Afghan counterpart, Gen. Bismillah Khan; Gen. David D. McKiernan, the American chief of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; and other military officials. Ostensibly, the subject of discussion will be U.S. Centcom chief Gen. David Petraeus' proposal to add four U.S. combat brigades in 2009.

Last September, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen underlined this new strategy at a Congressional hearing in Washington. The revised strategy called for Afghanistan to include militants' safe havens in Pakistan in its area of concern. Mullen had indicated that the U.S. and NATO already had an understanding with Pakistan on implementing this strategy.

In Lahore, Pakistan, Anatol Leiven, Professor of War Studies at Kings College, U.K., told the Pakistani daily The News, that the Obama Administration may try to extend the war on terror from Afghanistan to the tribal regions of Pakistan. "Any major terrorist incident with al-Qaeda footprints in the U.S. might result in the U.S. strikes and ground invasion of the FATA," the News quoted Leiven's press release saying.

China Takes Measures on Migrant Unemployment Crisis

Dec. 28 (EIRNS)—China held a two-day "rural work" conference focussed on the rapid increase in unemployment among migrant workers who have flooded into the export zones, but are heading home as their factories close. While the conference pledged to maintain stable rural agricultural development and increases in farmer income, Xinhua reported that the meeting mandated that "infrastructure construction projects in both urban and rural areas should employ as many migrant rural workers as possible in 2009," and that additional public works jobs should be provided to migrants. They also announced credit extensions, tax breaks, and government consulting advice for jobless migrants who start their own businesses.

India and South Korea to Build Myanmar-to-China Gas Pipeline

Dec. 29 (EIRNS)—Myanmar has signed a deal with a consortium of four Indian and South Korean firms, to pipe natural gas into China, according to the New Light of Myanmar. This 30-year deal exemplifies the mounting economic cooperation between Myanmar and its neighbors, and the failure of the British campaign to keep Myanmar in chaos and backwardness, to facilitate drug-runners control over the country. It is of note that the U.S., since Cyclone Nargis last May, has effectively broken from the British, and cooperated with the UN and ASEAN in providing some aid to Myanmar.

South Korea's Daewoo and Korea Gas Corporation, and India's ONGC Videsh and GAIL, developed the gas field, and will build the pipeline from the offshore Shwe reserves in southwest Myanmar, with Daewoo owning 51% of the project. The conflict between China and India over who would get the gas from the region was won by China, but India's participation in the pipeline goes against the British efforts to aggravate China-India tensions over the project.

Will the UN Turn Against the British on Myanmar?

Dec. 29 (EIRNS)—The UN special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, in an interview with the Washington Post, declared the British effort to isolate and impoverish Myanmar through sanctions and threats of military action to be a total failure; he also called for "financial incentives" to Myanmar as a precondition for any easing up on Aung San Suu Kyi, the British-trained opposition leader, who has been held under house arrest for most of the last 19 years.

According to the Post leak by Colum Lynch and Michael Abromowitz, "Gambari outlined his strategy in a confidential paper he presented last month to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In it, according to senior UN officials who have seen the document, Gambari endorses building on the relations Burma [Myanmar] established with the outside world after Cyclone Nargis struck the country in May. He also calls for an increase in development assistance to Burma and proposes that wealthy countries expand the nation's access to foreign investment, the officials added."

One UN official told the Post: "What we need is for the U.S. and the U.K. to be softer and for the Chinese and the Indians to be harder." Suu Kyi, seeing the direction Gambari and the UN were moving, refused to meet with Gambari when he last visited Myanmar.

Myanmar was a test case for the "humanitarian military intervention" now being demanded by London against Zimbabwe. The Brits wanted to send in the military after the cyclone in May, claiming that the military junta was refusing to aid the victims and would steal any aid provided from the West. Their gambit failed when the U.S. military refused to play along, and delivered tons of aid directly to the junta. This facilitated a three-way deal among Myanmar, the UN, and ASEAN to coordinate aid, which was highly successful.

Although then-Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden have sponsored sanctions legislation against Myanmar in the past, all three have made clear that they reject the neocon refusal to talk and negotiate with leaders on George Bush's enemies list, and want to work with China and India on the problems in Myanmar.

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