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breaking news: 11 soldiers, militants killed in Yemen clashes

A local official in Dofas, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Abyan's provincial capital of Zinjibar, said that five members of the extremist network were also killed during the attack and four more were wounded.

ADEN: Eleven people including top officers have been killed in fierce clashes between Yemen’s army and suspected al Qaeda militants in the country’s restive south, military and local officials said on Saturday.

“al Qaeda elements stationed in Dofas (Abyan province) attacked army units there using machine guns on Friday, killing two officers and four soldiers, and wounding nine others,” a military official in the village told AFP.

The official identified the dead officers as Colonel Mohammed al-Salahi and Colonel Hilal Shamsan.

Medics at a military hospital in the strategic southern port city of Aden confirmed the toll.

A local official in Dofas, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Abyan’s provincial capital of Zinjibar, said that five members of the extremist network were also killed during the attack and four more were wounded.

Militants belonging to the “Partisans of Sharia” (Islamic law), which is suspected of links to al Qaeda, took over much of Zinjibar in May. Thousands of residents have since been displaced by fighting there.

Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi said last week that the United States had provided logistical support to the Yemen military’s 25th Mechanised Brigade, which was until recently besieged by the militants in Zinjibar.

US commanders have repeatedly expressed concern that the jihadists have been taking advantage of a protracted power vacuum in Sanaa to expand their operations.

Since January, protesters have been demanding the ouster of veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia since early June being treated for wounds sustained in a blast at his palace.

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breaking news: unclear if us will be able to pay troops on time: Mullen

Chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

KANDAHAR: It is unclear if the United States will be able to pay troops on time in the event of a debt default, the top US military officer told troops in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pentagon officials were working hard to plan for a potential default but cautioned that the circumstances were extraordinary.

“So I honestly can’t answer that question,” he told troops at Kandahar air base in southern Afghanistan, as several expressed anxiety over budget wrangling in Washington.

Potentially suspending pay to US forces waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is an extremely sensitive subject in the United States and Mullen acknowledged that many troops lived paycheck to paycheck.

“So if paychecks were to stop, it would have a devastating impact,” Mullen said, answering questions from troops.

“I’d like to give you a better answer than that right now, I just honestly don’t know,” he said.

The United States has warned that it will run out of money to pay all of its bills after August 2 without a deal from Congress to raise a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Where US troops fall in priority for payment in a default has not been made clear.

With $172 billion of revenue between August 3 and August 31, the US Treasury could fully fund Social Security payments, Medicare and Medicaid, interest on the debt, defence vendor payments and unemployment insurance, found a study by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center.

But that would leave entire government departments — such as Labour, Commerce, Energy and Justice — unfunded, and many others unpaid, like active-duty troops and the federal workforce.

Mullen said he believed that troops would be paid eventually, and added that there was an expectation US forces, seen as essential to national security, would need to show up for work.

“I have confidence that at some point in time whatever compensation you were owed you will be given,” he said.

“But I don’t know mechanically exactly how that would happen. And it is a huge concern.”

While a group of congressmen pushed forward a bill this week to ensure that the active military servicemen still get paid in the case of default, there’s no firm plan yet.
The White House hasn’t made any assurances and neither has the Treasury Department.

Some financial organisations that service military clients, like USAA and the Andrews Federal Credit Union, have stepped up to say that they will advance pay if there is a default.

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breaking news: top us officials debate drone strikes in Pakistan

The program, which targets Pakistani-based al Qaeda and other militants, has jumped from fewer than 50 in the Bush administration, to more than 200 strikes in Pakistan's ungoverned tribal areas since President Barack Obama took office. Strikes are carried out with tacit Pakistani assent, by drones that fly from Afghanistan.

ASPEN: The White House’s top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan said Friday that taking out three to five key al Qaeda leaders could amount to a ”knockout punch” against the group.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, retired Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said now is the time to keep up US counterterrorist actions in Pakistan, even if they upset the Pakistani government.

Lute said killing al Qaeda successor Ayman al-Zawahri and four of his lieutenants in the next six months could ”significantly jeopardize al Qaeda’s capacity to regenerate.”

His comments came in response to former US intelligence chief Dennis Blair, who said that the US should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan. The CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al Qaeda is backfiring by damaging the US-Pakistan relationship, he said.

The program, which targets Pakistani-based al Qaeda and other militants, has jumped from fewer than 50 in the Bush administration, to more than 200 strikes in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas since President Barack Obama took office. Strikes are carried out with tacit Pakistani assent, by drones that fly from Afghanistan.

Publicly, Pakistani officials decry the hits. That tension grew worse after the US unilateral raid into Pakistan on May 2 to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and an earlier incident, in January, when a CIA contractor was held for killing two Pakistani men in Lahore whom he said were trying to rob him.

Pakistan’s ambassador Husain Haqqani acknowledged the drone strikes, but said his government was pushing for a reduction because they’d begun to fray public support.

”Part of the agreement is neither side is going to talk too much about the drone strikes,” he said. ”They’ve taken out many people who needed to be taken out but if the cost is if support for the overall war starts to decline, you have to take that into account.”

Blair suggested that now is the time to give Pakistan more say in what gets hit by drone strikes and when, despite Pakistan’s record of tipping off militants when it gets advance word of US action.

”We should offer the Pakistanis to put two hands on the trigger,” he said, as well as encourage them to send more troops to the ungoverned areas, to challenge the militants.

Blair said the continuing drone strikes are more of a nuisance than a real threat to al Qaeda, and that only a ground campaign by Pakistan would truly threaten it and other militant organizations. The US had been training forces for that purpose until the program was canceled by Pakistan in retaliation for the raid to kill bin Laden.

Al Qaeda ”can sustain its level of resistance to an air-only campaign,” Blair said. ”I just see us with that strategy walking out on a thinner and thinner ledge and if even we get to the far end of it, we are not going to lower the fundamental threat to the US any lower than we have it now.”

Lute countered: ”This is a period of turbulence in an organization which is our arch enemy. This is a period, therefore, that all military doctrine suggests you need to go for the knockout punch.”

Other conference speakers agreed, including Bush administration veteran Fran Townsend, the former chief counterterrorism adviser in the White House.

”This has been the key tool in degrading the al Qaeda leadership,” Townsend said. Without it, she said, al Qaeda would be a far greater threat to the US Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, said the Pakistani government in the past had assented to the strikes, if they were used against major targets.

”The line they drew was boots on the ground, special (operations) forces in Pakistan,” Hadley said. ”We did a limited cross-border operation and it caused a huge outcry to the point where we said we’re not going to do that anymore” unless it was to get bin Laden or his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, ”knowing you’re going to pay in Pakistan public opinion. And we did” after bin Laden was killed.

Blair, who was forced to resign by the Obama administration, says the White House undermined his authority as director of national intelligence by siding with the CIA, instead of telling it to listen to him.

”They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position,” he said.

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breaking news: us sends envoy as ties remain tense

By: Manan
The US State Department on Friday announced that Ambassador Grossman left Washington on Thursday evening on a trip to Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

WASHNGTON: US special envoy Mark Grossman left for Pakistan for talks on the Afghan reconciliation process, as the State Department on Friday rejected media reports that Washington has included Pakistan among rogue states.

“Not true,” said a State Department official when asked to comment on media reports that Washington had included Pakistan among the so-called rogue states whose diplomats would need special permission for travelling outside Washington. They also cannot visit US military installations.

But other US sources told Dawn that US officials did discuss the idea with Pakistani diplomats, hinting that from Aug. 1, they might need permission to travel outside Washington.

Such restrictions already apply to Iran, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority. Iran does not have diplomatic relations with the United States but it does maintain an interest section in Washington.

Diplomats associated with this section are forbidden from travelling outside the capital.

Similar restrictions apply to Iranian diplomats at the UN mission in New York.

Also on Friday, the State Department announced that Ambassador Grossman left Washington on Thursday evening on a trip to Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

“In Pakistan, Ambassador Grossman will meet with senior government officials and will represent the United States at the fourth meeting of the US-Afghanistan-Pakistan Core Group to support the process of Afghan-led reconciliation,” the statement said.

Ambassador Grossman will also meet senior officials in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as part of ongoing consultations with Afghanistan`s neighbours and international partners.

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breaking news: sc, govt soften positions to avert standoff

Ending the proceedings within half an hour, the Supreme Court bench took a couple of hours to issue an order on Friday that gently threw the ball back into the government’s court.

ISLAMABAD: Both the government and the judiciary appeared on Friday to have backed away from their hardline positions on the transfer of a senior bureaucrat.

Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed the Supreme Court that he had failed to meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to discuss the
transfer of former establishment secretary Sohail Ahmed and needed more time.

Ending the proceedings within half an hour, the Supreme Court bench took a couple of hours to issue an order that gently threw the ball back into
the government’s court.

The six-judge bench hearing the Haj scandal case ordered that Mr Ahmed, who had been sent down from the prestigious post to an officer on special duty (OSD), should be given a post — any post — within seven days.

It said that Hussain Asghar, the Inspector General of Police in Gilgit-Baltistan, should be reinstated in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) whenever he was relieved from his current post.

Former law minister Babar Awan said the government would respect and implement the orders of the Supreme Court.

The attorney general described it as “a beautiful order” that would go a long way in defining the domain of both the judiciary and the executive.

Talking to reporters, he said he would contact the Gilgit-Baltistan police chief later in the day and that he would be re-assigned as FIA director to resume the Haj scandal investigation.

Sohail Ahmed had been made an OSD after he issued a notification without the consent of the prime minister to bring Mr Asghar back to the post of FIA director.

The court accepted the prerogative of the chief executive in matters of transfer and posting of senior government officers, but held that the July 26 notification of relegating Sohail Ahmed to a sinecure post of OSD was unsustainable in the eyes of law.

The notification will cease to exist and Mr Ahmed will resume his post as establishment secretary if he is not posted to any other position within the stipulated time.

The detailed order dictated by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry encompassed the entire chain of events in the Haj scandal and cited the landmark judgment of holding the act of former military dictators of proclaiming emergency as illegal to establish that the Supreme Court believed that the democratic dispensation must prevail.

It noted that through the July 31 judgment the court had saved the oath of President Asif Ali Zardari to protect the system and avoid chaos.

The court ordered FIA Director General Tehseen Anwar Shah to provide every facility, including relocating the earlier investigative team under the command of Mr Asghar, as soon as he reported to him.

Citing three conditions from the Civil Establishment Code and Efficiency and Discipline Rules of 1973 which needed to be met to relegate officers to the position of OSD, the court held that none of those existed in the case of Sohail Ahmed.

We wish the prime minister had given us some reaction on the issue which the court had sought through the AG, the order said and conceded that the competent authority had the power to transfer or post officers to any position, but under certain conditions.

In the absence of any reaction from the prime minister, the court said, it was compelled to pass the order because it could not let a straightforward and upright officer to suffer.

Highlighting the fact that a capable officer should not be penalised, it cited a number of judgments from foreign jurisdiction to establish that the competent authority could at best transfer the officer to any other position instead of demoting him to OSD.

The court made it clear that it had all the respect for parliament and the executive for they made laws and then left them to the court for interpretation.

It praised the role of parliament in adopting the 18th and 19th Amendments.

It said the executive was required to perform its well-defined functions, but the purpose of initiating proceedings in the Haj scandal was to ensure that corrupt practices should be checked.

The court said it had the right to review any administrative action of the executive and there were thousands of cases in which it had exercised jurisdiction and acted as the final arbiter of check and balance.

“This is the reason that the independence of judiciary is guaranteed in the Constitution,” the order said, emphasising that the court could not compromise its independence and had asserted it many times in the past especially after Nov 3, 2007.

Referring to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Supreme Court, the order referred to the 1996 Hawala case in which the Indian Supreme Court had taken over the charge of the CBI to ensure that the investigation of the corruption case was carried out under its supervision.

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