Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pakistani Naval Aviation Base Attacked, 2 Dead

KARACHI, Pakistan - Two Pakistan Navy staff were killed in a militant attack on a naval air base in the country's biggest city of Karachi, where troops were locked in battle with gunmen, a spokesman said May 23.
"One of our officers and one Navy personnel have been martyred," said Commodore Irfan ul Haq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Navy.
"The operation is continuing. They have completely destroyed one of Pakistan's aircraft," he added

Taiwan Still Pushing for Subs, F-16s From U.S.

TAIPEI - Taiwan on May 22 said it was still pursuing its bid to buy eight submarines and dozens of F-16 fighters from the United States despite warming relations with China.
The Taipei-based China Times reported that Taiwan had decided to accept a U.S. proposal of just four conventional submarines to help expedite the arms deal, which has been in limbo since 2001.
"The report is not true. The country's position to seek [eight] diesel-powered submarines and F-16C/Ds has never changed," Taiwan's defense ministry said in a statement.
"The deal is still in the U.S. government's screening process. The ministry will keep pushing for the deal so as to meet Taiwan's self-defense demands."
In April 2001, President George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines to Taiwan as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package to the island since 1992.
Since then, there has been little progress as the United States has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years, and Germany and Spain had reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.
Taiwan also applied to the U.S. government to buy 66 F-16 fighters in early 2007, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.
The Taiwanese defense ministry's statement came after a week-long visit to the United States by the People's Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Gen. Chen Bingde.
Chen said the main source of friction was over Taiwan and renewed his objection to any U.S. arms sales to the island, which China still regards as part of its territory awaiting reunification by force if necessary even though Taiwan has governed itself since 1949.
The United States in January 2010 approved a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, prompting a furious Beijing to halt military exchanges and security talks with Washington.
Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but has remained a leading arms supplier to Taiwan.

British Navy Completes Training Mission in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Britain on May 22 concluded its naval training mission in Iraq, more than eight years after it contributed the second largest contingent of troops to the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Despite having pulled out the vast majority of its troops in mid-2009, the Royal Navy has continued to train Iraqi personnel to defend their territorial waters and offshore oil installations.
"Their contribution was most appreciated and valuable," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. "They have given many sacrifices to stabilize [Iraq] and they were the second-largest force of the coalition.
"Mistakes were made, not only by them, but by all of us," Zebari added, declining to give specific details. "But that doesn't diminish their valuable contribution to training, capacity building and, recently, for the protection of our oil ports at the tip of the Gulf."
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a text message that the British naval training mission had "finished" and, when asked to confirm that there were no more British soldiers or sailors left in Iraq, he replied: "Yes."
About 46,000 British troops were deployed to Iraq in March and April 2003, at the height of combat operations that resulted in Saddam's overthrow and eventual execution for crimes against humanity.
In the aftermath of the invasion, the country was engulfed in a brutal sectarian war which peaked in 2006 and 2007. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died.
Violence has since declined, but attacks remain common.
A total of 179 British personnel died in Iraq in the past eight years.
A small number of service personnel will remain at the British embassy in Baghdad.
"The actual U.K. maritime agreement comes to an end today but pretty much everyone was out [May 19 and 20]," a British defence ministry spokesman said.
"The actual guys came out a couple of days ago."
He added: "There's a few staff left in the diplomatic corps but the deployment of military personnel has finished."
London formally ended military operations in Iraq in April 2009, and pulled out its forces in July that year, but has since been involved in the bilateral naval training mission.
That same year, then-prime minister Gordon Brown opened an independent inquiry into Britain's role in the invasion and its aftermath. The inquiry is expected to issue a final report later this year.
The Royal Navy's role has involved training 1,800 Iraqi personnel on 50 different courses ranging from oil platform defense to handling small arms as part of efforts to secure Iraq's southern oil export terminals, through which the vast majority of its crude exports pass.
About 90 percent of Baghdad's government revenues come from oil sales.
British forces will continue to support NATO's officer training program, while some Iraqi soldiers will attend the army's officer training college at Sandhurst.
Most of Britain's troops were based in the predominantly Shiite southern port city of Basra.
Basra, Iraq's third-largest city and a strategic oil hub, had been under British command since the 2003 invasion, but the province and its airport returned to Iraqi control in 2009.
The withdrawal comes 52 years after Britain's previous exit from Iraq, in May 1959, when the last soldiers left Habbaniyah air station near the western town of Fallujah, ending a presence that dated back to 1918.
It also comes with just months to go before a year-end deadline for the 45,000 U.S. troops still stationed here to withdraw from Iraq under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

Pakistan Asks China to Build Naval Base in Nation

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at a deep-sea port in southwestern Baluchistan province, its defense minister said May 22, while also inferring that Washington was a fair-weather friend.
Ahmad Mukhtar, who accompanied Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a recent visit to China, said the request was made during the trip, when Pakistan thanked Beijing for constructing Gwader Port, on the Arabian Sea.
"However, we would be more grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base was being constructed at the site of Gwader for Pakistan," Mukhtar said in a statement.
The deep-sea port was around 75 percent financed by China, which Pakistan has been trying to draw in as a strategic partner, especially since the discovery and U.S. killing on May 2 of Osama bin Laden north of Islamabad.
The commando raid rattled U.S.-Pakistan relations, with American politicians angered at how the al-Qaida leader had managed to conceal that he was living barely two hours from the Pakistani capital.
Gilani and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao have both made a point of lauding mutual ties, just as Pakistan finds itself under pressure about whether its security services knew where bin Laden was.
"China is an all-weather friend and the closest ally of Pakistan, and it could be judged from the fact that in whichever sectors Pakistan requested assistance during PM's recent visit to China, they immediately agreed with Pakistan," the defense minister's statement said.
India, however, has voiced "serious concern" about defense ties between China and Pakistan and said it would need to bolster its own military capabilities in response.
New Delhi's comments follow reports that China plans to accelerate supply of 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat jets to Pakistan.
Pakistan also last week opened a nuclear power plant in central Punjab province with Chinese help and said Beijing had been contracted to construct two more reactors.