|Asia News Digest
Obama's Afghanistan Review Looks Like a Lie
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)Two weeks after President Obama announced that his Afghanistan situation review had found great success for his war policy there, another intelligence report has been leaked showing that the real security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The Obama review looks more and more isolated, self-serving, and foolish.
The Obama review was directly contradicted by two National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) leaked for the purpose. Those represented the judgments of the entire U.S. intelligence community, and they found that no Afghanistan security improvement had occurred, or could be expected, given the strategic situation across the border in Pakistan. And a Pentagon study commissioned by Congress, released at the same time, found the same thing: insurgent attacks up 70% since 2009 and tripled from 2007.
The Dec. 27 Wall Street Journal, carried leaked reports from the United Nations, which oversees tens of thousands of UN and NGO aid workers active in Afghanistan. The reports feature two "security/risk maps" of Afghanistan, drawn up in May and October 2010. Comparing the maps shows a marked worsening of security in what were in March the "safe" north-central and "medium risk" northwestern regions of the country. Both regions were blotched with "high risk" zones in the October map, including one just to the north and west of the capital, Kabul. And the "high risk" and "very high risk" zones which cover the southern half and the east of Afghanistan, are just as solid on the October map as on the March map.
"In the course of 2010, the security situation in many parts of the country has become unstable where it previously had not been so," acknowledged Kieran Dwyer, UN Director of Communications in Afghanistan. The director of the "NGO Safety Office," Nic Lee, added, "The country as a whole is dramatically worse off than a year ago, both in terms of the insurgency's spread, and its rate of attacks.
Obama, however, bragged at Bagram Air Base: "Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future." And all this is without mentioning the global opium traffic that Obama's war has fostered from Afghanistan.
Lee: 'No Choice But To Resolve Problem ... Diplomatically'
Dec. 29 (EIRNS)South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on Dec. 29 that his country has "no choice but to resolve the problem of dismantling North Korea's nuclear program diplomatically through the six-party talks." He was speaking in the context of receiving end-of-year reports from the Foreign Ministry, the Unification Ministry, and the Defense Ministry.
This expression of the necessity of engagement contrasts with his own more bellicose statements last week, which indicated a willingness to undertake military action as necessary. China, Russia, and sectors of the American diplomatic community have been pushing restraint on both the North and the South, to prevent a new war which would serve no one's interests other than the British imperial efforts to keep the U.S. and China divided.
The report from the Unification Ministry, which is primarily responsible for relations with the North, was harsher in tone, but also positive. It set three policy goals for 2011: Lead North Korea to change in a positive manner; establish sound inter-Korean relations; and begin preparations for reunification. Despite reports from the ministry spokesman last week that the report would emphasize "reunification by absorption," a provocative statement that implied the intent of "regime change" was not included, according to reports the official Yonhap news agency.
North Korea, for its part, speaking through the editorial voice of the Rodong Sinmun, said its nuclear deadlock with the United States would not have turned "complicated" had Washington followed through with its 1994 pledge to build light-water reactors for Pyongyang. (The U.S. in 2002, under Bush, suspended the construction of two 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors in North Korea.) It reiterated that its recently revealed uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy use only. (The nuclear weapons produced in North Korea used plutonium from the now disabled graphite reactor, not enriched uranium).
The North stated that cooperation over such nuclear development is "an unstoppable trend" around the world. "The issue of nuclear energy development and use is especially drawing keen interest from developing countries whose economies have been prevented from normal development by imperialists," the editorial said. Besides being inarguably true, the North's assertions should have a certain resonance in the South, which, itself, not only relies on nuclear energy, but is basing its export strategy largely on its ability to export such technology, especially to developing countries.
Impending Crisis in Pakistan: Who Pulled the Plug?
Jan. 2 (EIRNS)Pakistan's U.S.-allied ruling party, led by Pakistan People's Party chief Asif Ali Zardari, is now a minority government after one of its coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), quit the Cabinet. A smaller coalition partner, the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (JUI) party, withdrew from the government earlier in December after one of its ministers was sacked. It is evident that the ruling party will have to show its strength in the National Assembly, Pakistan's parliament, to prove it still has the mandate to govern.
According to Anthony Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the government in Islamabad "is not only too weak to meet the U.S.'s short-term priorities even if it wanted to; it's already too weak to meet the long-term priorities that would give Pakistan stability." Cordesman also said the stability of a nuclear weapons-armed Pakistan is a higher strategic priority for the U.S. than the future of Afghanistan. If Pakistan came under Islamist extremist rule, it would be far more threatening as an al-Qaeda sanctuary than Afghanistan ever could be, he said.
Both the MQM and JUI have strong links to the powerful Pakistani military. In addition, MQM's leader Altaf Hussain lives in Britain, and is widely considered to be living under the protection of British intelligence. On Jan. 1, the Washington Post carried a front-page story on Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Kayani, whose disrespect for the Zardari government was made known. On Dec. 2, The News, a Pakistani daily, reported on a meeting in London, where U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs Eric Edelman was present, along with British Permanent Under Secretary for Security Affairs Peter Ricketts, who had just returned from a visit to Pakistan; they reportedly characterized Zardari as having not much sense of how to govern the country. At the same meeting, Britain's Chief of the Defence Staff Jock Stirrup stated that Pakistan is arguably worse off now than a month ago, asserting that, although Zardari has made helpful political noises, he is clearly a numbskull.
Beijing: More Subways, Fewer Autos
Dec. 31 (EIRNS)Five new subway lines were opened yesterday in Beijing, adding 108 km to the system and bringing the total route length to about 300 km. This is still very restricted for a city the size of Beijing, and not even one-third the length of the New York City system, the longest in the world. However, the new lines extend to the outer reaches of Beijing. Planners hope to match the New York system by 2020, despite the fact that Beijing did not even begin intense subway construction until the late 1990s. This year, before the new routes were opened, the Beijing system and New York system both transported about 5 million passengers on a business day.
Just as the lines opened, the Beijing municipal government said it would limit the issuance of new car and micro-van license plates to 240,000 in 2011, about one-third of this year's figure. Sales of automobiles in China will be 50% greater than in the U.S. this year, but China is aware that it is far better to develop public transportation rather than becoming auto-dependent, as the U.S. is.
"China is urbanizing quickly. Road construction cannot ease traffic congestion," Li Xiaosong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications said. "Developing public transport, especially rapid rail transit, is an important move for Beijing and other cities, to ease traffic congestion and improve urban functionality."
The development of light rail is even more impressive beyond Beijing. Nationwide, the country's metro construction is in full swing, as about 30 cities have been building or designing a total of more than 110 metro lines this year, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xi'an, and Chongqing.