|Asia News Digest
Donors To Hold Conference in Kabul, as Afghan Insurgents Gain
July 20 (EIRNS)As the Afghan insurgents continue to gain ground against the U.S.-NATO Afghan campaign, a July 20 international donors conference has brought together dozens of top-level diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Kabul has been put under an intense security lockdown, which forced many residents to leave the capital. The objective is to secure pledges from donor countries to raise $25 billion, which is sought by Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the conference.
Rifts have begun to emerge within the Coalition over its tense relations with Karzai. The underlying cause is the growing realization that the Afghan campaign has failed miserably, and at great cost. The insurgents, who appeared to have been defeated at the beginning of the war, have since grown from strength to strength, particularly after 2003, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of NATO and the U.S. Army started recruiting more troops to bring the Afghan countryside under their sway. From Operation Anaconda in March 2002 (when the U.S. military, CIA paramilitary officers, and other NATO and non-NATO forces attempted to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Shahi-Kot), to Operation Khanjar in July 2009after U.S. President Barack Obama's first "surge" of 21,000 additional troops (when 4,000 U.S. Marines and 650 Afghan troops moved into the Helmand Valley), Taliban fighters have scored numerous victories in minor skirmishes and medium-intensity encounters with the occupation forces.
Few people put it quite as bluntly as Francesc Vendrell, a retired senior diplomat who served first, the UN in Afghanistan before 2001, and then worked as the top representative of the European Union in Kabul. He recently told the London Guardian that the current military effort to push the Taliban out of Kandahar and Helmand was particularly foolish because these are precisely the areas that, in his view, will have to be handed over to Taliban control.
Pessimism has taken over. A paper by the Afghanistan NGO Security Office articulated what most people believe: that the counterinsurgency program cannot win. It sees this Summer's surge of U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan as the "grand finale" of a Western intervention which is looking to wind itself down. Reports and discussions prior to the conference indicate that back-channel negotiations have begun to accommodate the insurgents in Kabul. But instead of a well-organized effort to talk to the Taliban, there is currently a free-for-all, with a whole range of people and countries trying to make contacts with the Taliban's leadership council.
China Mobilizes To Control Threatening 'Century' Floods
July 18 (EIRNS)China's State Council has put the national and regional governments on notice to deal with the growing danger that flooding this year will reach the scale of the "century" floods of 1998, which killed some 4,000 people. Beijing has set up a new General Command Office To Prevent Flooding and Drought, and a broad-based disaster-relief operation, led by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and manned by the People's Liberation Army, to deal with the crisis. In widespread flooding in southeast and central China, some 400 people have died so far, out of 1.7 million affected by the severe rainfall, mudslides, and flooding. About 2 million hectares of farmland have been damaged, with several hundred thousand destroyed completely. The rainy season, which began in June, is only half over, and already the water level in the Yangtze River system has risen above the danger level. Earlier, droughts affected Summer grain production in China.
The Three Gorges Dam, built for improving flood control on the Yangtze, had to release water from its huge reservoir this week. While many areas along the Yangtze in Hubei province and Chongqing have been inundated, the biggest cities on the lower Yangtze, Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai, have been spared any serious flooding so far.
Earlier this week, the CNN Beijing bureau quoted American Red Cross official Ramsey Rayyis on the Chinese mobilization: "From my experience, the Chinese government and the Chinese Red Cross are doing a commendable job in responding to emergencies. The  Sichuan earthquake was one of the biggest challenges they faced in many, many years. Certainly there were gaps in some of that response, but from what I've seen, they've redeveloped their response plans. The recent flooding and earthquakes have shown they are able to respond efficiently and quickly," Rayyis said. The Chinese leadership "recognize that with a population of this size and the magnitude of the disasters that occur in this country, they have a responsibility to take it seriously.... In many ways, the government is able to come down and directly respond and shoot down the line.... There are of course gaps to that but, for the most part, they are able to act more quickly just because of the nature of their structure."
Cautious Moves To Lower Korea Crisis Level Are Ongoing
July 20 (EIRNS)The U.S. is considering allowing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to accept an invitation to visit Pyongyang, North Korea, multiple diplomatic sources told the South Korean JoongAng Ilbo) yesterday. The sources based said that Han Song-ryol, deputy North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, invited Richardson in May to visit the North in order to discuss various diplomatic issues, including the sinking of the Cheonan.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun reports that "according to sources, Washington has been quietly approached by Beijing to persuade Seoul to show restraint in its response toward Pyongyang, and to refrain from broadcasting military propaganda over loudspeakers near the fortified border and not to conduct provocative war games. Washington's sudden about-face is forcing Seoul to tone down its retaliation plans against Pyongyang, which South Korea says is behind the sinking. Some within the Seoul government have acknowledged that the country may have lost a major diplomatic battle."
Of course, it is a "lost battle" only from a confrontational standpoint. The South Korean population in recent local elections made clear its unease with the then growing South/North escalating tensions, by not "rallying around the flag" and supporting the government in the polls.