Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Afghanistan: Becoming Iraq

The reports that U.S. and/or NATO forces are killing Afghan civilians at a faster rate than militant insurgents (including the Taliban) are is rather alarming.

While the numbers are disputed, and we don't suspect civilians are killed deliberately, we agree with critics, such as Human Rights Watch, who say military operations there need to be more precise.

"They (NATO) need to be doing it cleaner and doing it better," Human Rights Watch researcher Michael Shaikh told The Associated Press. "Every death has a profound effect on the Afghan population." Those deaths also undermine the credibility of Hamid Karzai's government there, giving the Taliban a stronger foothold in the region.

The war in Afghanistan didn't start out as the one in Iraq did. While not everyone agrees, it could be argued that in the case of Afghanistan, the U.S. government was responding to the Sept. 11 attacks. And although not carried out on behalf of the people of Afghanistan, the purported mastermind of the attacks, Osama bin Laden, was based in Afghanistan, where he benefited from the support of at least some of the population.

The Iraq war, however, was a gargantuan disaster from the start, and is now a protracted, bloody, unjustified war that's done little but make life worse for Iraqis, killing them off by the thousands, costing more American lives than those lost in 9/11 and creating more enemies for us by the minute.

If we're not careful, Afghanistan could turn into another Iraq for us.

India, Bangladesh begin talks

India and Bangladesh began Foreign Secretary-level talks here on Monday after over two years. The discussions will cover trade, transportation, border and security issues.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon leads a four-member delegation while the Bangladesh team is led by Towhid Hussain, acting Foreign Secretary. Sources told The Hindu that the two-day talks began on a positive note.

Mr. Menon told reporters at the airport here on Sunday that he intended to hold substantive discussions on bilateral issues and explore possibilities of taking the ties forward. He hoped to take the relations on an “irreversible higher trajectory.”

He said: “As a friend and close neighbour, India is deeply interested in Bangladesh’s peaceful, democratic and stable development. India wishes Bangladesh continued economic progress and prosperity. We intend to explore how we can further strengthen our bilateral cooperation, and also discuss other matters of mutual interest.”

A Bangladesh Foreign Ministry release said the two sides would have “wide-ranging discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations.”

An opportunity

“The government is of the view that the visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary will be yet another important opportunity to carry on the process of constructive and forward-looking engagement between the two countries,” the release said.

Besides senior officials from both countries, Bangladesh High Commissioner Liakat Ali Chowdhury and Indian High Commissioner here Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty were present.

Floods kill 140 in India

Floods have hit south India, leaving more than 140 people dead.

After days of heavy rains, relief and rescue teams have moved into the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

Rain and thunderstorms led to heavy flooding in many parts of the three states, leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Most of them have been moved to government relief camps but officials say the rain is easing off and they are hoping the situation will soon return to normal.

However the monsoon is now moving up the eastern and western coasts.

Thailand to freeze more ex-PM assets

The Thai government will freeze an additional $147 million in assets believed to be controlled by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, officials said Monday.

The Assets Examination Commission, established after a coup deposed Thaksin last September, has already frozen more than $1.8 billion of his family's wealth pending the outcome of court cases related to charges of corruption and abuse of power.

If the courts rule against Thaksin, the money could be seized by the government.

The committee decided Monday to freeze another $147 million in three bank accounts belonging to Bannaphot Damapong, the brother of Thaksin's wife, said committee spokesman Sak Korseangruang.

Separately, the state Election Commission approved filing criminal charges against nine people for violating election laws during an April 2006 vote called by Thaksin, spokesman Sutthiphol Thawichaikan said. They include two executives of Thaksin's dissolved Thai Rak Thai party — the former defense and transport ministers.

The Constitutional Tribunal last month ordered Thaksin's party dissolved on the same charges, and barred its more than 100 executive members from public office for five years.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon, called the snap election to reaffirm his mandate after facing months of anti-government demonstrations over alleged corruption and abuse of power.

The election was later annulled by the courts. A prolonged political crisis culminated in the bloodless coup while Thaksin was abroad.

Thaksin has since divided his time between a home in London and travel around Asia. He has been ordered to report to Thai police by June 29 to face charges related to a case of failing to report corporate information to the Thai stock exchange.

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