iNPLACENEWS Blog Has MOVED

September 14, 2008

Hey everyone!  From all the staff to all the readers of our blog and the watchers of our live news programming broadcasted live over the internet directly to your desktop, we want to thank you for all your support and participatiion.  We have relocated our blog to iNPLACENEWS.COM.  There you will find all our blogs, including the old posts, your comments you made, the place to download our free desktop player and all of the current news from around the world.  Stay up-to-date on all the current events by watching our broadcasts, reading our blogs, and watching videos-on-demand.  Again, go to iNPLACENEWS.COM for all the newest blogs and the older posts you love to go back to read.  Thank you again for your time, support, and participation.

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Are US and North Korean Relations Improving?

July 22, 2008


The United States has proposed a mechanism for verifying North Korea’s claims about its nuclear past, Washington’s top envoy to the nuclear talks said Monday.

The proposal was made in Beijing last week, and the U.S. is waiting for a response from Pyongyang, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters.

After giving North Korea the proposal “we … asked them to come back with specific comments,” said Hill, who will assist U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in talks between the foreign ministers of the six nations involved in the nuclear negotiations – China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s main nuclear envoy confirmed the proposal was made to the North.

“The ball is actually in the North Korean court because they already received the draft of verification protocol,” Kim Sook told reporters after talks with Hill. Details of the proposal were not known.

Hill said the six-party talks, to be held Wednesday on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore, are likely to discuss the verification issue.

North Korea submitted a long-delayed list of its nuclear programs last month, though it omitted details about nuclear weapons, alleged uranium enrichment program and possible nuclear proliferation.

In return, Washington announced it would remove the North from its terrorism blacklist and relaxed some economic sanctions on the communist nation. That led Pyongyang to blow up the cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor, to demonstrate its commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.

Six-nation nuclear negotiations were then held in Beijing less than two weeks ago – for the first time in nine months – and produced an agreement on principles for proceeding with verification of North Korea’s claims. One of the principles says the procedure should involve interviews with North Korean nuclear experts.

Hill has said earlier that the U.S. wants to reach agreement with the North on a specific verification protocol by early September. Last week’s proposal offered to the North is believed to be the first draft of the envisioned protocol.

“We’ve always maintained that verification is essential,” Hill said Monday. “We hope to make some progress on that very soon.”

Wednesday’s session would mark the highest-level meeting in the six-country negotiations, which began in 2003 with the aim of convincing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

It would also be the first time Rice has met North Korea’s top diplomat.

China, host of the nuclear talks, praised the planned meeting as a good chance to progress on denuclearization.

“This is the first time that the high-level delegations to the six-party talks have held an informal meeting,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi after talks with his Japanese counterpart. “I think it will be very good for advancing the agenda of the talks.”

Still, Hill played down the meeting’s significance.

“I would not exaggerate its importance,” he said. “I think it’s an opportunity for people to get together and exchange some thoughts informally.”

Article by Jae-Soon Chang
iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Troops Stay Extended Contrary To What Secretary Gates Said

July 3, 2008

The Pentagon has extended the tour of 2,200 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan, after insisting for months the unit would come home on time. The Unit is doing combat operations in the volatile south and will stay an extra 30 days and come home in early November rather than October, according to Marine Col. David Lapan.

Military leaders as recently as Wednesday stressed the need for additional troops in Afghanistan, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, has repeatedly said he did not intend to extend or replace the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, calling their deployment there an extraordinary, one-time effort to help tamp down the increasing violence in the south. Asked about the possibility of an extension in early May, Gates said he would “be loath to do that.” He added that “no one has suggested even the possibility of extending that rotation”; nonetheless, Lapan said Thursday that commanders in Afghanistan asked that the Marines stay longer.

The Pentagon announced in January that the MEU was being ordered to Afghanistan, mostly as a result of failed efforts to press other NATO nations to increase their troop levels at the time had failed. Commanders faced with increasing violence have said they need at least 7,500 more troops in Afghanistan. President Bush and defense officials have said they hope to identify additional units by the end of the year that could go to Afghanistan early next year.

iNPLACENEWS


US and NATO Deaths in Afganistan Outnumber Iraq

June 30, 2008


Militants killed more U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan in June than in Iraq for the second straight month, a grim milestone capping a run of headline-grabbing insurgent attacks that analysts say underscore the Taliban’s growing strength.

The fundamentalist militia in June staged a sophisticated jailbreak that freed 886 prisoners, then briefly infiltrated a strategic valley outside Kandahar. Last week, a Pentagon report forecast the Taliban would maintain or increase its pace of attacks, which are already up 40 percent this year from 2007 where U.S. troops operate along the Pakistan border.

Some observers say the insurgency has gained dangerous momentum. And while June also saw the international community meet in Paris to pledge $21 billion in aid, an Afghanistan expert at New York University warns that there is still no strategy to turn that commitment into success.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted that more international troops died in Afghanistan than in Iraq in May, the first time that had happened. While that trend – now two months old – is in part due to falling violence in Iraq, it also reflects rising violence in Afghanistan.

At least 45 international troops – including at least 27 U.S. forces and 13 British – died in Afghanistan in June, the deadliest month since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, according to an Associated Press count.

In Iraq, at least 31 international soldiers died in June: 29 U.S. troops and one each from the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. There are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 4,000 British forces in additional to small contingents from several other nations.

The 40-nation international coalition is much broader in Afghanistan, where only about half of the 65,000 international troops are American.

That record number of international troops means that more soldiers are exposed to danger than ever before. But Taliban attacks are becoming increasingly complex, and in June, increasingly deadly.

A gun and bomb attack last week in Ghazni province blasted a U.S. Humvee into smoldering ruins, killing three U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter. It was the fourth attack of the month against troops that killed four people. No single attack had killed more than three international troops since August 2007.

“I think possibly we’ve reached a turning point,” said Mustafa Alani, the director of security and terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. “Insurgents now are more active, more organized, and the political environment, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, favors insurgent activities.”

U.S. commanders have blamed Pakistani efforts to negotiate peace deals for the spike in cross-border attacks, though an initial deal with militants has begun to fray and security forces recently launched a limited crackdown in the semiautonomous tribal belt where the Taliban and al-Qaida operate with increasing freedom.

For a moment in mid-June, Afghanistan’s future shimmered brightly. World leaders gathered in Paris to pledge more than $21 billion in aid, and Afghan officials unveiled a development strategy that envisions peace by 2020.

But the very next day, the massive and flawlessly executed assault on the prison in Kandahar – the Taliban’s spiritual home – drew grudging respect even from Western officials.

U.S. Ambassador William Wood said violence is up because Taliban fighters are increasingly using terrorist tactics that cause higher tolls, but that there’s no indication fighters can hold territory. He said June had “some very good news and a couple cases of bad news.”

“The very good news was Paris. There were more nations represented, contributing more than ever before,” Wood told the AP.

The scramble after the jailbreak to push the Taliban back from the nearby Arghandab valley was the other big plus, Wood said. The Afghan army sent more than 1,000 troops to Kandahar in two days.

“Although Arghandab got major press for being a Taliban attack, the real news in Arghandab was that the Afghans themselves led the counterattack, deployed very rapidly and chased the Taliban away,” Wood said.

The worst news, Wood said, was the prison break, and the possible involvement of al-Qaida.

“The Taliban is not known for that level of complex operation, and others who have bases in the tribal areas are,” he said.

Alani agreed: “The old Taliban could not do such an operation, so we are talking about a new Taliban, possibly al-Qaida giving them the experience to carry out this operation.”

Days after the prison attack, an angry President Hamid Karzai threatened to send Afghan troops after Taliban leaders in Pakistan, marking a new low in Afghan-Pakistan relations.

Contributing to the increased death toll is an increase in sophistication of attacks. U.S. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, the top commander of U.S. forces here, said this month that militant attacks are becoming more complex – such as gunfire from multiple angles plus a roadside bomb. Insurgents are using more explosives, he said.

Mark Laity, the top NATO spokesman in Afghanistan, said troops are taking the fight to insurgents in remote areas and putting themselves in harm’s way. One or two events can disproportionally affect the monthly death toll, he said.

“Sometimes it is just circumstance,” Laity said. “For instance you can hit an IED and walk away or not, and what has happened this month is that there’s been one or two instances that there’s been multiple deaths.”

The AP count found that some 580 people died in insurgent violence in June, including around 440 militants, 34 civilians and 44 Afghan security forces. More than 2,100 people have died in violence this year, according to the AP count, which is based on figures from Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials.

Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan at NYU, said the Paris conference shows a strong international commitment to Afghanistan, but he said there is still no strategy for longterm success.

“Let’s focus on the essentials: creating a secure environment for Afghanistan and Pakistan to address their problems and for the international community to eliminate al-Qaida’s safe haven,” Rubin said. “We haven’t been getting there, and we are not getting closer, pledges or no pledges.”

Written by Jason Straziuso

iNPLACENEWS

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.