Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pakistan: "The Taliban's Godfather"? Documents Detail Years of Pakistani Support for Taliban, Extremists U.S. intelligence document confirms that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with both financial and military assistance.

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Washington D.C., August 14, 2007 - A collection of newly-declassified documents published today detail U.S. concern over Pakistan's relationship with the Taliban during the seven-year period leading up to 9-11. This new release comes just days after Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, acknowledged that, "There is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil." While Musharraf admitted the Taliban were being sheltered in the lawless frontier border regions, the declassified U.S. documents released today clearly illustrate that the Taliban was directly funded, armed and advised by Islamabad itself.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the documents reflect U.S. apprehension about Islamabad's longstanding provision of direct aid and military support to the Taliban, including the use of Pakistani troops to train and fight alongside the Taliban inside Afghanistan. [Doc 17] The records released today represent the most complete and comprehensive collection of declassified documentation to date on Pakistan's aid programs to the Taliban, illustrating Islamabad's firm commitment to a Taliban victory in Afghanistan. [Doc 34].

These new documents also support and inform the findings of a recently-released CIA intelligence estimate characterizing Pakistan's tribal areas as a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists, and provide new details about the close relationship between Islamabad and the Taliban in the years prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Declassified State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban's severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan's frontier region.

Also published today are documents linking Harakat ul-Ansar, a militant Kashmiri group funded directly by the government of Pakistan, [Doc 10] to terrorist training camps shared by Osama bin Laden in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. [Doc 16]

Of particular concern was the potential for Islamabad-Taliban links to strengthen Taliban influence in Pakistan's tribal regions along the border. A January 1997 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan observed that "for Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," adding that worries that the "Taliban brand of Islam…might infect Pakistan," was "apparently a problem for another day." [Doc 20] Now ten years later, Islamabad seems to be acknowledging the domestic complications that the Taliban movement has created within Pakistan. A report produced by Pakistan's Interior Ministry and obtained by the International Herald Tribune in June 2007 warned President Pervez Musharraf that Taliban-inspired Islamic militancy has spread throughout Pakistan's tribal regions and could potentially threaten the rest of the country. The document is "an accurate description of the dagger pointed at the country's heart," according to one Pakistani official quoted in the article. "It's tragic it's taken so long to recognize it."

Islamabad denies that it ever provided military support to the Taliban , but the newly-released documents report that in the weeks following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan's intelligence agency was "supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food." Pakistan's Interservice Intelligence Directorate was "using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces." [Doc 15] Other documents also conclude that there has been an extensive and consistent history of "both military and financial assistance to the Taliban." [Doc 8]

The newly-released documents also shed light on the complexity of U.S. diplomacy with Pakistan as the State Department has struggled to maintain the U.S.-Pakistan alliance amid concerns over the rise of the Taliban regime. In one August 1997 cable, U.S. Ambassador Thomas W. Simons advises, "Our good relations with Pakistan associate us willy-nilly, so we need to be extremely careful about Pakistani proposals that draw us even closer," adding that, "Pakistan is a party rather than just a mediator [in Afghanistan]." [Doc 24] In another 1997 cable, the Embassy asserts that "the best policy for the U.S. is to steer clear of direct involvement in the disputes between the two countries [Pakistan and Iran], and to continue to work for peace in Afghanistan." [Doc 22]

As to Pakistan's end-game in supporting the Taliban, several documents suggest that in the interest of its own security, Pakistan would try to moderate some of the Taliban's more extreme policies. [Doc 8] But the Taliban have a long history of resistance to external interests, and the actual extent of Pakistani influence over the Taliban during this period remains largely speculative. As the State Department commented in a cable from late-1995, "Although Pakistan has reportedly assured Tehran and Tashkent that it can control the Taliban, we remain unconvinced. Pakistan surely has some influence on the Taliban, but it falls short of being able to call the shots." [Doc 7]

Highlights

  • August 1996: Pakistan Intelligence (ISID) "provides at least $30,000 - and possibly as much as $60,000 - per month" to the militant Kashmiri group Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA). Despite this aid, the group is reaching out to sponsors of international terrorism including Osama bin Laden for additional support, and may in the near future become a threat to Islamabad itself as well as U.S. interests. HUA contacts have hinted they "might undertake terrorist actions against civilian airliners." [Doc 10]
  • October 1996: A Canadian intelligence document released by the National Security Agency and originally classified Top Secret SI, Umbra comments on recent Taliban military successes noting that even Pakistan "must harbour some concern" regarding the Taliban's impressive capture of Kabul, as such victory may diminish Pakistan's influence over the movement and produce a Taliban regime in Kabul with strong links to Pakistan's own Pashtuns. [Doc 14]
  • October 1996: Although food supplies from Pakistan to the Taliban are conducted openly through Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISID, "the munitions convoys depart Pakistan late in the evening hours and are concealed to reveal their true contents." [Doc 15]
  • November 1996: Pakistan's Pashtun-based "Frontier Corps elements are utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary - combat" alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. [Doc 17]
  • March 1998: Al-Qaeda and Pakistan government-funded Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA) have been sharing terrorist training camps in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for years [Link Doc 16], and HUA has increasingly been moving ideologically closer to al-Qaeda. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is growing increasingly concerned as Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a leader in Pakistan's Harakat ul-Ansar has signed Osama bin Laden's most recent fatwa promoting terrorist activities against U.S. interests. [Doc 26]
  • September 1998 [Doc 31] and March 1999 [Doc 33]: The U.S. Department of State voices concern that Pakistan is not doing all it can to pressure the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden. "Pakistan has not been responsive to our requests that it use its full influence on the Taliban surrender of Bin Ladin." [Doc 33]
  • September 2000: A cable cited in The 9/11 Commission Report notes that Pakistan's aid to the Taliban has reached "unprecedented" levels, including recent reports that Islamabad has possibly allowed the Taliban to use territory in Pakistan for military operations. Furthermore the U.S. has "seen reports that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance and military advisors."

Pakistan's Noncampaign Against the Taliban

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Despite strenuous entreaties by top U.S. officials, Pakistan has abandoned plans to mount a military offensive against the terrorist group responsible for a two-year campaign of suicide bombings across the country. Although the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been in disarray since an Aug. 5 missile strike from a CIA-operated drone killed its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani military has concluded that a ground attack on its strongholds in South Waziristan would be too difficult.

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Pakistan Beneath the Surface

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Refugees Flee Fighting in the Swat Valley

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The Pakistani military has choked off main roads leading out of South Waziristan, and the country's fighter jets have been pounding targets from the air (an operation Islamabad insists it will continue). But that falls short of the military campaign the U.S. desires. Instead, Pakistani authorities are hoping to exploit divisions within the TTP to prize away some factions, while counting on the CIA's drones to take out Baitullah's successors.(See pictures of refugees fleeing the fighting in Pakistan's Swat Valley.)

U.S. counterterrorism officials worry that a failure to capitalize on the post-Baitullah confusion within the TTP will allow its new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, to consolidate his position and reorganize the group. Officials in Washington say special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal have pressed the Pakistanis to strike while the iron is hot. But after initial promises to launch a ground offensive in South Waziristan, the Pakistanis have backed off.

A top Pakistani general, Nadeem Ahmed, recently said preparation for such an operation could take up to two months. Now there will be no ground assault at all, according to a senior Pakistani politician known to have strong military ties. Instead, the politician tells TIME, the military will try to buy off some TTP factions through peace deals.

This alarms U.S. officials, who point out that terrorist leaders have previously used peace deals to expand their influence. Such deals have been "abject failures that at the end of the day have made the security situation in parts of Pakistan worse," says a U.S. counterterrorism official. "Why the Pakistani government keeps returning to this strategy is a mystery."(See pictures of Pakistan beneath the surface.)

A senior Pakistani military official tells TIME a ground operation in the mountainous wilds of South Waziristan would be too difficult and would risk triggering a "tribal uprising" in a region over which Islamabad has little control.

That assessment is shared by some Pakistan experts in Washington, who say the country's military, despite some success against militants in the Swat Valley, simply doesn't have the ability to confront the TTP head-on. A ground operation would leave the Pakistani army "with its nose bloodied," says Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations. Having "come out of Swat looking reasonably good," Pakistan's generals don't want to risk "taking a morale hit."(Read "Are Pakistan's Taliban Leaders Fighting Among Themselves?")

But the experts — like some U.S. officials — suspect the Pakistani military lacks the desire to eliminate the TTP entirely. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, who conducted the Obama Administration's review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, says the military may simply want "to get the TTP back to where it was two years ago — a malleable force that doesn't attack the Pakistani state, and particularly not the army." A somewhat tame TTP is a useful bogeyman "to keep civilians appreciative of the need for the army to be getting resources and priority attention," Riedel adds.

For the Obama Administration, the Pakistani military's reluctance to take on the TTP doesn't bode well for the pursuit of U.S. interests. Washington would like Islamabad to confront the groups that pose a direct threat to NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan — the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. But "it's not clear that the Pakistanis are prepared to pay more than lip service to that," says Riedel.

Pakistan's Noncampaign Against the Taliban

Taliban Advance: Is Pakistan Nearing Collapse?

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Taliban Advance: Is Pakistan Nearing Collapse?

 

Pakistani police officers in a shrine in Buner, Pakistan, on April 18, 2009

Pakistani police officers in a shrine in Buner, Pakistan, on April 18, 2009

B.K.Bangash / AP

The move by Taliban-backed militants into the Buner district of northwestern Pakistan, closer than ever to Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, have prompted concerns both within the country and abroad that the nuclear-armed nation of 165 million is on the verge of inexorable collapse.

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On Wednesday a local Taliban militia crossed from the Swat Valley — where a February cease-fire allowed the implementation of strict Islamic, or Shari'a, law — into the neighboring Buner district, which is just a few hours drive from Islamabad (65 miles, separated by a mountain range, as the crow flies). ((See pictures on the frontlines in the battle against the Taliban.)

Residents streaming from Buner, home to nearly a million people, told local newspapers that armed militants are patrolling the streets. Pakistani television stations aired footage of Taliban soldiers looting government offices and capturing vehicles belonging to aid organizations and development projects. The police, say residents, are nowhere to be seen. The shrine of a local Muslim saint, venerated across the country, was closed. The Taliban, which adheres to a stricter version of Islam than is practiced in most of Pakistan, hold that worship at such shrines goes against the teachings of Islam.

Meanwhile courts throughout the Malakand division, of which Swat and Buner are a part, have closed in deference to the new agreement calling for the implementation Shari'a, law. "If the Taliban continue to move at this pace they will soon be knocking at the doors of Islamabad," Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of one of the country's Islamic political parties, warned in Parliament Wednesday. Rehman said the Margalla Hills, a small mountain range north of the capital that separates it from Buner, appears to be "the only hurdle in their march toward the federal capital," The only solution, he said, was for the entire nation to accept Shari'a law in order to deprive the Taliban of their principal cause.

The fall of Buner is raising international alarm. Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized the situation was a danger to Pakistan, the U.S. and the world. "We cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state," Clinton said. She also accused Pakistan's leaders of "basically abdicating to the Taliban and the extremists" by signing the cease-fire agreement. (Read "Will Pakistan Toughen Up on the Taliban?")

Even before the fall of Buner, the capital was in a state of panic. Private schools were closed for two weeks for fear that militants would attempt a siege, along the lines of the Taliban attack on a police academy in Lahore last month. And an unspecified threat against foreigners two weeks ago resulted in the closure of the U.S. embassy and the British High Commission for a day.

On Sunday, just a week after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari signed a provision allowing for the implementation of Islamic law in Malakand, Sufi Mohammad, the local religious leader who negotiated the accord (and who is father-in-law to the local Taliban leader), announced that he would not recognize the Supreme Court of Pakistan, even in cases of appeal. He also said that while the Taliban fighters would adhere to the peace agreement, they would not give up their arms. (Read "Can Pakistan Be Untangled from the Taliban?")

Read "A Pakistan Police Academy Under Fire"

Read "Benazir Bhutto: Aftermath of an Assassination"

Pakistan launches Taliban assault

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Pakistan launches Taliban assault

Fierce fighting has broken out as Pakistan's army launched an air and ground offensive against Taliban militants in the South Waziristan area.

Officials said 30,000 troops, backed by artillery, had moved into the region where Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is based.

Militants were reported to be offering stiff resistance as troops advanced from the north, east, and west.

A curfew was imposed in the region before the offensive began.

There have been several co-ordinated Taliban attacks in recent days, killing more than 150 people in cities across Pakistan.

AT THE SCENE

Syed Shoaib Hasan

Syed Shoaib Hasan, BBC News, South Waziristan border

The fighting in South Waziristan is fierce and it is intense. Local administration officials say the Taliban are resisting fiercely as troops try to push into their territory.

Dozens of casualties have taken place, they say, and both sides are using heavy weapons.

Meanwhile locals from South Waziristan are facing great difficulty in leaving the area. All roads have been blocked by the military which is using them to transport ammunition and arms into the heart of the battle.

The transport and communication network has been effectively crippled. The casualties are now expected to rise as the terrain gets difficult for ground troops to operate in against the battle-hardened Taliban.

Eyewitness: At the edge of war

Pakistan's top army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas confirmed that a fully-fledged assault had begun and said that an offensive could last up to two months.

"The objective is to clear this terrorist organisation from the area, who has taken over the area, turned these state institutions, organisations out and has taken the entire population hostage," he told the BBC.

He added that intense fighting was expected during the course of the operation.

Dozens of casualties have already been reported by local officials as both sides used heavy weapons.

The bodies of three Pakistan soldiers were taken to the northern town of Razmak. There have also been unconfirmed reports of militant deaths.

Nearly all communications in the region were down after the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower at Tiarza, local officials said.

WAZIRISTAN ASSAULTS AND PEACE DEALS

March - April 2004: Two-week assault where military suffered heavy casualties, ending in peace deal with militant Nek Mohammad

January - Feb 2005: Peace deal with Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud ends significant army presence there

December 2007 - January 2008 - Army operation in Mehsud area partially successful but ended in peace deal with Baitulalh Mehsud

October 2009 - Army launches offensive

Reports from the area are sketchy as it is difficult and dangerous for foreign or Pakistani journalists to operate inside South Waziristan.

Aerial bombardments in the the Makeen area, a stronghold of the Mehsud tribe and a key army target, were also reported by local officials and witnesses.

One resident of Makeen town described the onset of fighting.

"We heard the sounds of planes and helicopters early Saturday. Then we heard blasts. We are also hearing gunshots and it seems the army is exchanging fire with Taliban," Ajmal Khan told the Associated Press news agency by telephone.

Hakimullah Mehsud in late 2008

Hakimullah Mehsud is the new leader of the Pakistan Taliban

The ground operation comes after weeks of air and artillery strikes against militant targets in the region, which lies close to the Afghan border.

Thousands of civilians have fled South Waziristan in anticipation of the offensive.

Aid agencies say that many more are expected to flee but the tough terrain and the Taliban's grip on the area will present difficulties.

Transport has been difficult as roads have been blocked by the military.

FORCES IN WAZIRISTAN

Pakistan army: Two divisions totalling 28,000 soldiers

Frontier Corp: Paramilitary forces from tribal areas likely to support army

Taliban militants: Estimated between 10,000 and 20,000

Uzbek fighters supporting Taliban: Estimates widely vary between 500-5,000

Challenges in Waziristan

Pakistanis reflect on offensive

There is a huge army presence on the road between Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, says the BBC's Islamabad correspondent Shoaib Hasan, near South Waziristan.

On his way to South Waziristan, he passed several army convoys on the road.

The mobilisation came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani held a meeting of the country's senior political and military leadership.

Lengthy planning

Recent militant attacks were seen as an attempt to divide public opinion, but they appear to have strengthened the resolve of the government, which says the Taliban must now be eliminated, our correspondent added.

A family flee Waziristan region near the Afghan border ahead of fighting

Pakistanis have fled the Afghan border region as troops move in

The army has been massing troops near the militants' stronghold for months - ever since the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province announced a ground offensive in South Waziristan on 15 June.

Pakistan's government has been under considerable pressure from the US to tackle militancy there.

North and South Waziristan form a lethal militant belt from where insurgents have launched attacks across north-west Pakistan as well as into parts of eastern Afghanistan.

South Waziristan is considered to be the first significant sanctuary for Islamic militants outside Afghanistan since 9/11.

It also has numerous training camps for suicide bombers.

map


Are you currently in South Waziristan? Have you left your home due to the prospect of a military attack? Have you seen army convoys? Send us your stories using the form below.

Pakistani soldiers captured the hometown of the country's Taliban chief Saturday

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SLAMABAD – Pakistani soldiers captured the hometown of the country's Taliban chief Saturday, a strategic and symbolic initial prize as the army pushes deeper into a militant stronghold along the Afghan border. An army spokesman said the Taliban were in disarray, with many deserting the ranks.

The 8-day-old air and ground offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region is a key test of nuclear-armed Pakistan's campaign against Islamist militancy. It has already spurred a civilian exodus and deadly retaliatory attacks.

Washington has encouraged the operation in the northwest because many militants there are believed to shelter al-Qaida leaders and are also suspected to be involved in attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has also kept up its own missile strikes in the lawless tribal belt, including a suspected one that killed 22 Saturday.

The battle for Kotkai town was symbolically key because it is the hometown of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and one of his top deputies, Qari Hussain. It also lies along the way to the major militant base of Sararogha, making it a strategically helpful catch.

The fight was intense, taking several days and involving aerial bombardment, officials said.

The majority of homes in the town were converted into "strong bunkers" and it also was home to a training camp for suicide bombers, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told reporters. Troops had begun ridding it of land mines and roadside bombs.

"Thank God, this is the army's very big success," Abbas said. "The good news is that (communications) intercepts show that there are differences forging among the Taliban ranks. Their aides are deserting them."

Abbas said some of the fleeing Taliban have shaved their beards and cut their hair to try to blend in with the civilian population. Taliban spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

Three soldiers and 21 militants died in the most recent fighting in the region, the army said. Because it has blocked access to South Waziristan, independently verifying the data is all but impossible.

The government has forged ahead in South Waziristan despite a wave of violence that has put the nation on edge. Some 200 people have been killed in a variety of militant attacks across the country this month.

The U.N. says some 155,000 civilians have fled the region. In Dera Ismail Khan, a gritty town near South Waziristan where many of those fleeing have congregated, the refugees reacted to the news of Kotkai's capture with suspicion.

"They are making tall claims of conquering Waziristan in a few weeks, but we think this is not doable even in five to six years," said Azam Khan Mehsud, who hails from the Makeen area.

Others noted that Pakistan had failed at least three times before to wrest the region from the Taliban and said they feared the damage the army might cause.

"Years ago, the army suddenly started an operation and we all had to leave our area in the clothes we were wearing," said Abdul Samad Khan, 65, a farmer from the Spinkai Raghzai area. "When we returned to our area all our homes were either bombed, bulldozed or torched. Our animals were missing. Now imagine, if they come with more might, what they will do with our area."

The army has deployed some 30,000 troops to South Waziristan to take on some 12,000 Taliban militants, including up to 1,500 foreign fighters, among them Uzbeks and Arabs.

The U.S. has launched scores of missile strikes at militant targets in Pakistan's tribal belt over the past year, killing several top insurgents including former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

The latest strike hit Chuhatra village in the tribal region of Bajur on Saturday, local government officialMohammad Jamil said.

The target appeared to be Faqir Mohammad, a prominent Taliban leader, but he is believed to have escaped the hide-out by minutes, Jamil said. Most of the 22 killed were Afghan nationals, he said.

Pakistan formally protests the missile strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and raise sympathy for the Taliban, while the U.S. rarely discusses the attacks. However, analysts believe the two sides have a secret deal allowing the strikes.

The U.S. has shown no sign of easing the drone-fired attacks even as Pakistan is waging its own fight in the tribal areas. Asked if the missile attacks are a distraction or help, the army spokesman said Pakistan would prefer to go it alone.

"We do not want any assistance or interference from outside," Abbas said.

He added that a mysterious explosion Wednesday in North Waziristan — initially described by intelligence officials as a suspected U.S. missile attack — had turned out to be a blast caused when explosives being loaded onto a vehicle accidentally detonated.

Also Saturday, a military helicopter crashed in the Bajur tribal region, killing three officials, the army said, adding that the crash was an accident, not caused by any militant attacks.

President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency

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WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency and empowered his health secretary to suspend federal guidelines at hospitals and speed up how infected people might receive treatment in a disaster.

The declaration that Obama signed late Friday means Health andHuman Services chief Kathleen Sebelius to bypass federal rules when opening alternative care sites, such as offsite hospital centers at schools or community centers, if needed.

Hospitals could modify patient rules — for example, requiring them to give less information during a hectic time — to quicken access to treatment, with government approval.

The declaration, which the White House announced Saturday, allows HHS in some cases to let hospitals relocate emergency rooms offsite to reduce flu-related burdens and to protect noninfected patients.

Administration officials said the declaration was a pre-emptive move designed to make decisions easier when they need to be made. Officials said this was not in response to any single development on an outbreak that has lasted months and has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States.

It was the second of two steps needed to give Sebelius extraordinary powers during a crisis. On April 26, the administration declared swine flu a public health emergency, allowing the shipment of roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states in case they eventually needed them. At the time, there were 20 confirmed cases in the U.S. of people recovering easily. There was no vaccine against swine flu, but the CDC had taken the initial step necessary for producing one.

"As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic," Obama wrote in the declaration.

He said the pandemic keeps evolving, the rates of illness are rising rapidly in many areas and there's a potential "to overburden health care resources."

Because of vaccine production delays, the government has backed off initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million doses would be available by mid-October. As of Wednesday, only 11 million doses had been shipped to health departments, doctor's offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The government now hopes to have about 50 million doses of swine flu vaccine out by mid-November and 150 million in December.

The flu virus has to be grown in chicken eggs, and the yield hasn't been as high as was initially hoped, officials explained.

Swine flu is more widespread now than it's ever been. Health authorities say almost 100 children have died from the flu, known as H1N1, and 46 states now have widespread flu activity.

Worldwide, more than 5,000 people have reportedly died from swine flu since it emerged this year and developed into a global epidemic, the World Health Organization said Friday. Since most countries have stopped counting individual swine flu cases, the figure is considered an underestimate.

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