Thursday, July 7, 2011

Indian, Turkish Navy Ships Meet for Exercises

NEW DELHI - Turkish Navy warships - three frigates and one tanker - are scheduled to arrive in India on July 7 for joint sea exercises planned during last month's visit of India's Navy chief, Chief Adm. Nirmal Verma, to Turkey.
The four Turkish ships, arriving from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, will begin anti-submarine warfare and coordinated attack drills July 10 with and Indian Navy destroyer and two Beas-class frigates, an Indian Navy official said.
While the two countries do not share a border, India considers Turkey part of the extended neighborhood of Central Asia, western Asia and the Arabian Gulf, an Indian Foreign Ministry official said.
India has been building bridges with central Asian countries, and Defence Minister A.K. Antony visited Kyrgyzstan early this week.
"India can take advantage of Turkey's influence in West Asia, Central Asia, the Caspian Sea and Europe by building bridges with Istanbul," said defense analyst Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general.
Indo-Turkish trade, now about $4 billion per year, is expected to rise as the two countries are negotiating opening their markets further, the Indian Foreign Ministry official said.
India and Turkey initiated military ties in 2008.

Turkey Still Hopes To Order First F-35

ANKARA - Although Turkey still plans to buy about 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, it has not formally committed to the U.S.-led program. To do so, it needs to submit a purchase order for a first batch of six aircraft before the end of this year.
"We will have talks [with the Americans] in the months ahead in an effort to resolve some matters," said Murad Bayar, chief of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the government's defense procurement agency. "If we manage to reach an agreement, we expect to order the first six aircraft this year. We expect to reach a deal."
The F-35, whose production is led by Lockheed Martin, will be built by a consortium of nine countries, including Turkey. Other members of the consortium are Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Norway and Denmark.
A few years ago, when Turkey's planned buy of about 100 jets was expected to cost approximately $10 billion, Turkish companies grabbed project work worth up to $5 billion. But the unit price has gone up over the past two years, exceeding $12 billion, according to Turkish officials.
Now Turkish companies seek to raise their share to around $6 billion to stay near the planned 50 percent figure. In addition, the U.S. remains reluctant to share millions of lines of source code that make the plane's flight possible. But Turkey wants access to part of the source code related to operational needs.
But placing an order for the first six aircraft before the end of this year is related mostly to early deliveries, around 2014 and 2015, and failure to do so would not undermine participation in the program, Bayar said.
"If we don't place the first purchase order by the year end, it would not necessarily mean that we have failed to agree. It may mean that we, at this point, may not have the finances," Bayar said. "Anyway, we hope that none of this happens."
The F-35 comes in three variants for conventional takeoff and landing, short takeoff and vertical landing, and for aircraft carrier operations.

Italy Removes Aircraft Carrier from Libya Campaign

ROME - Italy is withdrawing its aircraft carrier the Garibaldi from NATO's operation in Libya to cut 80 million euros ($114 million) in costs, a minister announced July 6.
They also planned to pull out another ship from the mission.
"We have cut back costs in Libya, from 142 million euros forecast in the first half of the year to less than 60 million for the second half," Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said after a government meeting.
The news came after Italy's Cabinet moved to cut spending military spending.
The plan had been drawn up to pull the Garibaldi, its three fighter jets and 1,000 personnel out of the mission as they were "no longer necessary", La Russa said.
The Garibaldi would be replaced by a smaller boat and other planes from military bases would be used, he added.
Another ship would also be withdrawn from the mission as well, he added without elaborating.
Italy has several ships and eight planes deployed in NATO's mission against Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Seven of its air bases are also used by other members of the coalition.
With Italy grappling a financial crisis that has forced it to pass a series of austerity cuts, the government on July 6 said it had decided to gradually reduce its military operations abroad.
Italy has troops deployed in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kosovo and is involved in NATO's military operations in Libya, despite the objections of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Berlusconi's coalition ally.
The League, lead by populist Umberto Bossi, has called for a dramatic reduction in Italy's military presence abroad to free up public funds.
Some 7,200 Italian troops were deployed in 28 countries as of June 30, according to the defense ministry website: 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, 1,700 in Lebanon and 650 in the Balkans.
The finance ministry said July 6 it aimed to save 40 billion euros ($57.1 billion) over the next four years.

Report: N. Korea Paid Bribes for Nuclear Secrets

WASHINGTON - The architect of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program claims North Korea paid bribes to senior Pakistani military officials in return for nuclear secrets in the 1990s, the Washington Post said July 6.
The Post said documents released by nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan purportedly show him helping to transfer more than $3 million to senior officers, who he says then approved the leak of nuclear know-how to Pyongyang.
Khan passed a copy of a North Korean official's letter, which details the transaction, to former British journalist Simon Henderson, who then shared the information with the Washington Post, the newspaper said.
The Post cited Western intelligence officials as saying they believed the letter was accurate, but they said Pakistani officials have denied Khan's claims and argued that it is a forgery.
Khan - considered a national hero in Pakistan because he played a key role in the creation of the Islamic world's first atomic bomb - has long been at odds with Pakistani officials who have insisted he acted alone.
Khan admitted on national television in 2004 that he passed atomic secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya, but he later retracted his remarks and in 2009 was freed from house arrest, although he was asked to keep a low profile.
Those secrets are nevertheless widely believed to have allowed North Korea to develop a uranium route alongside its existing plutonium weapons program.
The letter, dated July 15, 1998, marked "Secret," and purportedly signed by North Korean Workers' Party Secretary Jon Byong Ho, says "the 3 millions (sic) dollars have already been paid" to one Pakistani military official and "half a million dollars" and some jewelry had been given to a second official.
It then says: "Please give the agreed documents, components, etc to (a North Korean Embassy official in Pakistan) to be flown back when our plane returns after delivery of missile components."
In written statements to Henderson, Khan describes delivering the cash in a canvas bag and cartons, including one in which it was hidden under fruit.
Jehangir Karamat, a former military chief said to have received the $3 million payment, and Lieutenant General Zulfiqar Khan, the named recipient of the other payment, both denied the letter's authenticity to the Post.
The Post report could further heighten tensions between Pakistan and the United States, which has long been concerned about Islamabad's nuclear arsenal.
The two uneasy allies have been increasingly divided since the U.S. commando raid in May that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a compound near Islamabad where he had been living for years.

Canada Ends Combat Mission in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Canada ended its nine-year combat mission in Afghanistan on July 7, closing the curtain after the deaths of 157 troops and signaling the start of further American and NATO withdrawals later this year.
The departure of nearly 3,000 soldiers, who took on some of the heaviest fighting in the southern province of Kandahar, comes as Western forces begin to announce gradual drawdowns of troops ahead of a full withdrawal in 2014.
After Canada spent more than $11 billion on the increasingly unpopular war, most of the Canadian soldiers have packed up and gone home.
A change of command ceremony was held at Kandahar airfield to mark the formal end of combat operations, although hundreds of other troops are being sent to work in a training role in the Afghan capital.
Afghan, Canadian and American national anthems were played to a small group of soldiers from each country, before commanders addressed the crowd and formally handed control of the mission to the United States.
"Over the years Canadians, both military and civilian, have made the ultimate sacrifice," Brigadier Gen. Dean Milner, head of the Canadian combat mission, said in his speech to the assembled troops. "Although there is still work to do, (we) are extremely proud of what has been accomplished."
Canadian soldiers first deployed to Afghanistan in early 2002, several months after a U.S.-led invasion of the country to oust the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
They arrived in Kandahar - the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban - in 2006 and have faced a tough fight to overcome a trenchant insurgency in the farming districts north and west of the main provincial city.
"The Canadians had a lot of challenges in Kandahar, not the least was the deep entrenchment of the Taliban insurgents in places like Arghandab, Panjwayi and Maywand (districts)," said Kabul-based analyst Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group. "At the same time, they certainly were able to stabilize different areas of the province at different points of their engagement and were noted for their high level of civilian engagement which set them apart from other NATO forces."
The handover comes a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that 500 troops would go home in 2012, and a fortnight after U.S. President Barack Obama said 33,000 "surge" troops would return by next summer.
France and Belgium have also recently announced modest troop reductions as the Western coalition eyes the end of the 10-year war.
"The picture's very mixed as exit builds," added Rondeaux. "It's difficult to say anyone accomplished the mission perfectly."
In recent weeks Canadian troops have been completing their final patrols, packing up dusty outposts and gathering at the giant Kandahar airfield military base to debrief before starting to catch their flights home.
On July 5, Canada handed control of their last district to U.S. forces in a flag-lowering ceremony, a key symbolic step in the drawdown process, although the Americans had been in place for weeks.
Public opposition to the war in Canada has grown, with a poll earlier this year by Vision Critical/Angus Reid indicating 63 percent of Canadians were against it, compared to 47 percent in 2010.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged in 2008 that troops would leave this year.
After U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, Harper said he believed Afghanistan was "no longer a source of global terrorism."
A separate Canadian training mission involving 950 troops will work in Kabul with Afghan security forces.
Canada will also continue to give aid to Afghanistan, with its overall involvement between now and the end of 2014 expected to cost about US$700 million a year.