Tibet shut for foreigners

China has barred foreigners from travelling to Tibet until after October 1 celebrations marking the 60th birthday of communist China.

A staffer at the official Lhasa Tourism Bureau said the ban would officially go into effect on Thursday. “Passes for foreign travellers to enter Tibet will be suspended from September 24 to October 8 and that is according to a notice from the Tibet Tourism Bureau,” said the officer. The notice contained no information and no reason for the measure. Officials with the regional government refused to comment. However, travel agents said the ban was already in place. “It started from Monday and passes for foreign travellers are suspended until October 8,” said a staff at the Tibet Youth Travel Service.

The move is the latest sign of intense official concern over security ahead of National Day, which will mark 60 years since Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The government already has sharply ramped up security in the capital, putting thousands of extra police on the streets ahead of the festivities, which will include a military parade, fireworks and mass performances at square. State media reported that outgoing flights would be halted at Beijing’s airport during the parade, and retailers have said they have been banned from selling kitchen knives after two recent stabbings near the square.

Foreign tourists must obtain special permission from China’s government to enter Tibet, the remote Himalayan region where resentment against Chinese control has seethed for decades. China has previously banned foreign tourists from visiting Tibet, including after deadly anti-Chinese riots that erupted in Lhasa and across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008, triggering a massive Chinese security clampdown.

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Spectre of Afghan failure

The top US military commander in Afghanistan has warned that more forces are needed within the next year or the war against the Taliban will be lost, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

General Stanley McChrystal wrote in a classified report: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term while Afghan security capacity matures – risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” The grim assessment of the eight-year conflict was presented to US defense secretary Robert Gates on August 30 and is being reviewed by the White House. McChrystal, who is widely expected to make a formal request to increase the 62,000-strong US force, noted the campaign in Afghanistan “hasĀ  been historically under-resourced and remains so today.”

As such, he wrote “inadequate resources will likely result in failure.” The weak resources “also risk a longer conflict, greater casualities, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure.”

The 66-page document describes a strengthening, intelligent Taliban insurgency. McChrystal also slams the corruption-riddled Afghan government and a strategy by international forces that have failed to win over ordinary Afghans.

“The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power ( by various officials and (The International Security Assistance Forces) own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government,” wrote McChrystal.

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