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Warns of ‘dismal’ future
BRUSSELS (AFP) – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates issued a stinging rebuke to NATO allies Friday, warning their reliance on US military might is putting the Libya mission and the alliance’s very future at risk.
Gates painted a bleak picture of the state of the 28-nation transatlantic alliance, saying it risked a “dismal” future after years of shrinking budgets that were leaving them short of munitions in the Libyan air war.
“Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines (in Libya) do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they cannot. The military capabilities simply aren’t there,” Gates said in a speech to the Security and Defence Agenda think-tank in Brussels.
He said the NATO-led ground war in Afghanistan had scored important accomplishments but said the mission, along with the Libya war, had reflected chronic underinvestment and at times a lack of political backbone.
In Afghanistan, Gates said it was worrying that an alliance with two million in uniform has “struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops” and faced shortages of helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance and surveillance planes.
Gates acknowledged that the Libyan mission has met its initial military goals of grounding Moamer Kadhafi’s air force and limiting the regime’s ability to launch attacks against civilians.
But he said many allies lacked intelligence and surveillance aircraft and specialists, which meant the US military had to step in to ensure that allied fighter jets could identify and strike targets.
“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference,” Gates said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Africa for trade talks, moved to soften the rebuke, saying the outgoing Pentagon chief’s remarks “underscored how this alliance, the greatest alliance in history, cannot get complacent.”
“We all have to step up and share the burdens that we face in responding to 21st century threats.
Many members are doing just that,” she said, acknowledging that the United States and its NATO allies are all under “financial pressure.”
Kadhafi offered exit ‘guarantees’ amid deadly clashes

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Turkey has offered Moamer Kadhafi guarantees to leave Libya but has yet to receive a reply, as rebels say loyalist forces killed 20 people in a fierce assault on Misrata.
Fresh NATO-led strikes sent up plumes of smoke Friday in Tripoli, where the strongman has his residence and headquarters.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government had offered exit “guarantees” to the embattled Libyan leader, whom rebels have been trying to oust since February following a bloody crackdown on pro-reform protests.
Kadhafi “has no other option than to leave Libya – with a guarantee to be given to him,” Erdogan said on NTV television.
“We have given him this guarantee. We have told him we will help him to be sent wherever he wants to go,” he added, without elaborating.
“Depending on the reply we will get from him, we will take up the issue with our (NATO) allies, but unfortunately we have received no reply so far.”
His comments came after a day of deadly fighting near the port city of Misrata, the rebels’ most significant enclave in western Libya, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Tripoli.
Kadhafi’s forces had bombarded the Dafnia area on Misrata’s outskirts with Grad rockets, heavy artillery and tank shells, a rebel said.
“Twenty people, both civilians and rebels, were killed and more than 80 wounded,” in the sector, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Misrata city centre, he added.
But they had beaten back an attack by loyalist troops, leaving “dead and wounded among the Kadhafi forces,” he said.
In the Libyan capital Tripoli, two loud blasts were heard at about 3:00 pm (1300 GMT), coming from the eastern suburbs of Tajura and Ain Zara, residents told AFP.
Three powerful explosions shook the city centre at around midnight. Other more distant blasts followed.
Tripoli has over the past two days been subjected to the most intense NATO air raids since the international military campaign was launched on March 19 under a UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians.
In Paris, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s daughter Aisha filed a second war crimes complaint against NATO and France over air strikes that killed family members, including three infants, her lawyer said.
In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s special envoy Mikhail Margelov said he would be visiting Tripoli to try to find a solution to the conflict, having met the opposition in their Benghazi stronghold.

Afghan police commander killed in suicide attack
KHOST (AFP) – The commander of a provincial Afghan police rapid reaction force was killed on Saturday in a suicide attack that also claimed another officer’s life and wounded 23 people, police said.
The bomber blew himself up in front of the police unit’s base in the eastern province of Khost on Saturday morning, Khost deputy police chief, Mohammad Yahqoob Mandozai, told AFP.
“The commander of the the unit, Colonel Zaher, along with one policeman has been killed and 23 others, the majority of them civilians, have been injured,” Mandozai said.
“The suicide attacker who was waiting outside the base detonated himself as the vehicle carrying the police commander exited the base.”
Bangladesh police arrest ‘Robin Hood’ burglar

DHAKA (AFP) – A “benevolent burglar” hailed as a modern-day Robin Hood for donating his ill-gotten gains to local orphanages has been arrested in southeastern Bangladesh, police said.
Badiul Haq Nasir, 45, who had earned millions in well-planned heists, was revered in dozens of villages for making large donations to orphanages and mosques, local police chief Babul Akhter told AFP.
“The villagers say he’s a benevolent man – he would help anyone who needed it,” Akhter said, adding though that Nasir lived in a “palatial” house and also owned a lot of property.
The burglar had donated part of the booty of two million taka ($27,000 dollars) from one recent robbery to a mosque in his village, Akhter said.
“Nasir is probably the most efficient burglar in the country. He can break any lock, get into any vault or gold shop by using a screwdriver and wrench,” Akhter said.
Nasir was arrested on Wednesday following a week-long manhunt after he was caught on a security camera breaking into a shop in Bangladesh’s port city of Chittagong.

CIA chief in bridge-building talks with Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (AFP) – CIA chief Leon Panetta held talks with top Pakistani military and intelligence officials in Friday, an official said, amid a crisis in relations after the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The difficult relationship between the two countries – allies in the “war on terror” – has come under severe strain since US commandos swooped on the Al-Qaeda chief’s compound in city of Abbottabad, home to a military academy.
Panetta’s visit to Islamabad came on the day when the United States said it had nearly completed a drawdown in military personnel from Pakistan as demanded by Islamabad after relations plummeted over last month’s killing of bin Laden.
The CIA chief discussed the security situation with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the director general of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according a Pakistani security official.
The official confirmed that issues arising out of the bin Laden operation were also discussed at Friday’s meeting.
There was no official word from the Pakistan army while a spokesman from the US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.
Vice Admiral Michael LeFever, US defence representative in Pakistan, made the announcement about the troop drawdown in a statement released by the US embassy, but left the door open to future security assistance.
“We recently received a written request from the government of Pakistan to reduce the number of US military personnel here and we have nearly completed that reduction,” said LeFever.
The United States confirmed on May 25 that it had begun pulling some American troops out of Pakistan after the Pakistani military asked for a scaling back.
Most of the US personnel are special forces that train and advise Pakistani troops as part of a long-running effort to counter Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants, who are concentrated largely in the northwest on the Afghan border.
The withdrawal underscored the crisis between Washington and Islamabad in the aftermath of a unilateral US raid that killed bin Laden on May 2, despite US diplomatic efforts to smooth over tensions.
Pakistan faces mounting American pressure to open a ground offensive against insurgents in its lawless tribal region.
Washington has called the semi-autonomous region the most dangerous place on Earth and the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda, where Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked networks have carved out strongholds.


Somali interior minister killed in suicide attack
MOGADISHU (AFP) – Somali Interior Minister Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan was killed Friday in a suicide attack at his home, apparently carried out by a woman, senior security officials told AFP.
“The minister died in hospital,” Adan Mohamed said. “The information we have so far indicates that a young woman, the minister’s niece, carried out the attack.”
The statement was confirmed by other security sources, who said the woman had stayed at the minister’s Mogadishu home for the last three days.
“The minister passed away and was killed in a terrorist attack,” Information Minister Adulkarim Jama told Radio Mogadishu.
A number of other people were also wounded in the explosion which happened as the minister hosted a meeting with other colleagues, said a second official, Ibrahim Siyad.
The suicide attack was the third in Mogadishu in less than two weeks, all claimed by Somalia’s Islamist Shebab rebels, who are engaged in a protracted battle with the country’s weak, western-backed government for control of the Horn of Africa nation.
“The leader of the Shebab declared on the Islamic radio station Alfurqan that they were the perpetrators of the attack that killed the interior minister,” the station announced.
The Shebab are currently facing an unprecedented offensive launched the by the transitional government and backed by the African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu (AMISOM).
Soldier were immediately deployed to reenforce the areas of Mogadishu currently under government control in case of further attacks, residents said.
US sends counterintelligence agents to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military is sending 80 counterintelligence agents to Afghanistan to help stem the threat of Taliban infiltration in the Afghan security forces, The New York Times reported late Friday.
They will enhance the vetting of recruits, review profiles of soldiers being trained, the paper reported, citing unnamed military officials.
They will also generally work to improve procedures to identify those most vulnerable to recruitment by the Taliban and its supporters.
Some of the agents have already arrived, and the rest are expected soon, the newspeper noted, citing Lieutenant Colonel David Simons, a spokesman for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.
Fighting between the Taliban and US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan has become deadlier each year since the 2001 invasion.
Washington sent an extra 30,000 American troops onto the battlefield last year in a bid to deliver a decisive blow.
The 130,000 international troops today in the country are due to start limited withdrawals from July, with the Afghan police and army scheduled to take control of security gradually before the end of 2014.

Chavez undergoes surgery in Cuba

CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on Friday to treat an abscess in his pelvic area and is recovering, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said.
According to Maduro, the surgery was performed early Friday in Havana and had “satisfactory results for the health” of the Venezuelan leader, who had already “begun the recovery process.”
Chavez has been on an official visit to Cuba since Wednesday.
Maduro said the abscess was discovered during a medical check-up performed on Chavez “by a trustworthy medical team.”
The check-up “revealed the existence of an abscess in the pelvic area, which prompted President Hugo Chavez to decide to immediately undergo a corrective surgical procedure,” the statement said.
Chavez also urged the Venezuelan people to “continue consolidating the Bolivarian Revolution” during his recuperation.
Last month, the 56-year-old Venezuelan leader was sidelined by a knee injury that forced him to stay away from public events for nearly a month.