Sitting in the sands of Northern Darfur last month, there seemed little to suggest that the UN ban on offensive military flights over Darfur was being taken too by the Khartoum Government. Flying at high altitude above us two Antonov aircraft took it in turns to roll barrel bombs off their cargo ramps on to the sub-Saharan desert.
I suppose they were targeting the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels with whom we shared the only cover - a thorn bush in a dried wadi. A few bombs fell quite close, a few hundred metres away, sending chunks of the wilderness skyward in grey, rolling banks of smoke.… Seguir leyendo »
Wriggling under the illumination of media scrutiny after accusations of its involvement in the slaughter in Mumbai, Jamaat-ud- Dawa's response last week was a workmanlike PR counter-move. Journalists were taken on a guided tour of the organisation's headquarters, 30 miles from Lahore, where a civilised lunch of spiced chicken and rice accompanied declarations of innocence, condemnation of the terrorist attack and claims to be nothing more than a charity group involved in relief work.
Terrorists? Not us, guv. But in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, just three weeks before the Mumbai attacks, the advice of PR gurus was noticeably absent when I met a leading official from the group.… Seguir leyendo »
America's President-elect was being watched a lot closer to the front lines of the US War on Terror than he may have been aware on Saturday night.
As Barack Obama's face shone from a huge wide screen television into the officers' mess at a Pakistani army fortress in Khar, in the tribal area of Bajaur, the room shook to heavy artillery blasting from gun positions at the gates. Barely a mile up the road Pakistani troops traded fire with Taleban raiding parties.
“I want to increase non-military aid,” Mr Obama, interviewed on CNN, announced to a handful of officers between explosions.… Seguir leyendo »
Sher Mohammed Akhunzada, senator, warlord and former governor of Helmand, is a cheerful little chap with very small hands, eyes that are three-quarters kind and a wide smile. He is also a man regarded by Britain as so divisive to security in the southern province that Gordon Brown reputedly attempted to extract a promise from President Karzai of Afghanistan never to reinstate him. Something about this combination suggests that life as his prisoner may involve howling and pain, and that not all he says is true.
Nevertheless, over tea and sweets one recent afternoon at his house in Kabul the alleged drug lord and despot was utterly charming.… Seguir leyendo »
Far beyond the borders of Serbia a sickening form of revisionism has prevailed across the years among critics of Kosovo's desire for independence. Some of it is born from a smug desire for controversy. Much of it comes from ignorance. A part of it derives from racism: inscrutable, impoverished, Muslim, their language and culture unlike any other in Europe, Kosovo Albanians are an easy “white nigger” target for the self-satisfied elements of Western Europe's pseudo-political classes.
The argument of the critics of Kosovan independence rests on two bogus tenets of denial. First, they state that Serbia was not responsible for the widescale massacre of Albanian civilians between 1998 and 1999, and propose instead that Serb security fores were somehow tricked into killing thousands of innocents by the provocation of the Kosovo Liberation Army.… Seguir leyendo »
The clock is nearing midnight for the withdrawal of the beleaguered British troops from their base in the palace in Basra. The date at which the 650 soldiers will retire from their position to join their 5,000 comrades at the airport outside the city is imminent. In the two months since they arrived in Iraq this battle group has been under virtual siege, its palace quarters subject to the highest rate of incoming mortar and rocket fire anywhere in Iraq. Little surprise, then, that they have already suffered the worst casualty rate of any British unit serving in Iraq, including that of forces involved in the 2003 invasion.… Seguir leyendo »