JFP 12/21: US Gen. says troops may stay past '14; what if Chinese troops had a base in Texas?
Just Foreign Policy News, December 21, 2011
US Gen. says troops may stay past '14; what if Chinese troops had a base in Texas?
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How would Americans feel if Chinese troops had a military base in Texas?
What if they were patrolling American streets? Making "mistakes" that killed American civilians? What if they were not subject to American law?
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1) The senior US commander in Afghanistan suggested US forces could remain in the country beyond 2014 despite previous signals from President Obama that the bulk of troops would be withdrawn by then, the New York Times reports. Gen. John R. Allen said negotiations with the government of President Karzai on a strategic partnership agreement would "almost certainly" include "a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like." US Special Operations forces would remain at current levels or increase even as conventional troops were reduced, General Allen said; the level of conventional troops will not be drawn down in eastern Afghanistan.
Whether foreign countries will fulfill their pledges to continue to support Afghanistan is not clear, the Times says. Representatives from a number of foreign countries and organizations have raised questions about their longevity in Afghanistan, particularly those in Europe, where economic travails have weakened the appetite for financial commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
2) Despite official assertions of progress in Afghanistan, American battle casualties remain stubbornly high, and the severity of the physical and psychological wounds suffered by young Americans is actually increasing, David Wood reports in the Huffington Post. So far this year, more than 5,000 American troops have been wounded -- about one third of all those injured in Afghanistan since 2001.
3) Senior Pentagon officials said an assertion by Defense Secretary Panetta that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year was based on a highly aggressive timeline and a series of actions that Iran has not yet taken, the New York Times reports. George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said Panetta's comments should not be taken as a prediction that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year. "The secretary was clear that we have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon," Little said.
Little said inspectors from the IAEA remained in Iran and had "good access to Iran's continuing production of low-enriched uranium." Should Iran choose to "break out" - diverting low-enriched uranium to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium - the inspectors could detect it, Little said. "We would retain sufficient time under any such scenario to take appropriate action," he said.
4) Mercosur has signed a trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority, AP reports. It's the first trade deal between the Palestinian territories and a bloc of nations outside the Arab world. But the deal is mostly symbolic because Israel strictly controls imports and exports involving the West Bank and Gaza, AP says.
5) The chief of Pakistan's senate defense committee said the CIA has stopped firing missiles at militants in Pakistan since last month's deadly NATO airstrikes along the Afghan border so as not to "aggravate" already strained ties with Islamabad, AP reports. The 33-day pause is the longest since the program began in 2004.
6) The call to accelerate the transition to civilian rule in Egypt has taken on a new urgency this week, writes Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. A wide range of political forces are calling for the SCAF [the ruling military council - JFP] to cede power to an elected leadership by February 2012.
7) Prime Minister Maliki threatened to abandon a US-backed power sharing government if Iraqiya officials did not end their boycott of the government, the New York Times reports. If Iraqiya's ministers do not show up at future sessions, he said, "we will appoint replacements."
8) Chile has proposed to withdraw its UN military contingent from Haiti starting in 2012, Xinhua reports.
9) Mercosur [Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil] agreed to ban from its ports ships flying the Falkland Islands flag, the Guardian reports. Argentine President Fernández reiterated her call for Britain to agree to talks on the sovereignty of the Malvinas, which Britain has so far refused.
1) U.S. General In Afghanistan Says Troops May Stay Past 2014
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, December 20, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan - The senior American commander in Afghanistan suggested Tuesday that American forces could remain in the country beyond 2014 despite previous signals from President Obama that the bulk of troops would be withdrawn by then. The commander's remarks amounted to the most emphatic signal to date that the United States military intended to secure a presence here, possibly for years.
In an interview with The New York Times, the commander, Gen. John R. Allen, avoided talking about troop levels as America begins to wind down its operations in the war on the Taliban insurgency, now 10 years old. But he said negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai on a strategic partnership agreement would "almost certainly" include "a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like."
Mr. Karzai had, "in fact, just the other day talked about his desire to have conversations with the U.S. about a post-2014 force," the general said. "We would probably see some number of advisers, trainers, intelligence specialists here for some period of time beyond 2014."
Other American officials, including members of the Obama administration, have said 2014 is not a hard deadline for military withdrawal. The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, said this month that the United States was open to keeping forces here if the Afghanistan government asked for them. But General Allen is the highest-ranking American military official so far to explicitly state that possibility.
President Obama has not excluded the possibility of troops staying after 2014, but the issue as has not yet been part of the public discussion.
The general also laid out his vision for American and NATO troops for the next few years.
He expects more military trainers and mentors to come into Afghanistan to work with Afghan troops starting in 2012, he said. Still more would arrive in 2013 as the Afghan security forces were asked to do more. Currently, most Afghan units are partners with NATO forces, and in a number of places the NATO troops still have a dominant role. The idea is that the gradual departure of NATO forces would be cushioned by some Western military support for the Afghan forces in the field.
At the same time, American Special Operations forces, who are heavily involved in many intelligence-driven raids as well as larger and often more dangerous operations, would remain at current levels or increase even as conventional troops were reduced, General Allen said.
The exception may be in eastern Afghanistan, where, General Allen said, "a pretty virulent insurgency" remains a problem and where the level of conventional troops will not be drawn down, because insurgent fighters taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan can quickly deploy across the border.
His comments were a reminder that despite the American public's exhaustion with the war and resentment of its cost, from a military standpoint the effort will require at least three more years. Whether Congress will be willing to commit the tens of billions of dollars needed is far less clear.
Whether foreign countries will fulfill their pledges to continue to support Afghanistan is not clear. Privately, representatives from a number of foreign countries and organizations have raised questions about their longevity in Afghanistan, particularly those in Europe, where economic travails have weakened the appetite for financial commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
2) Afghanistan Casualties More Severe Despite Pentagon's Claims Of Progress
David Wood, Huffington Post, 12/20/21
Washington -- Despite official assertions of progress in Afghanistan, American battle casualties remain stubbornly high, and the severity of the physical and psychological wounds suffered by young Americans is actually increasing.
So far this year, more than 5,000 American troops have been wounded -- about one third of all those injured in Afghanistan since 2001.
The U.S. battlefield death toll in Afghanistan has tapered off slightly, from 437 last year to 348 through Dec. 5 of this year. There were 5,241 soldiers wounded in battle last year, and 5,020 so far this year, according to Pentagon casualty data.
The high number of wounded reflects both the continuing intensity of the fighting, as well as the inability of the U.S. military to defeat roadside bombs and protect the troops against them.
Despite a $22.4 billion Pentagon effort over the past six years, these improvised explosive devices remain the biggest single cause of American casualties, killing or wounding more than 34,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, according to Defense Department data.
In Afghanistan this year, IED attacks are up 7 percent over last year, according to the U.S.-led command in Kabul.
The damage they cause is unrelenting. Among the 96,000 American troops fighting in Afghanistan, amputations are at an all-time high, as are the serious medical side effects of severe trauma.
3) Aides Qualify Panetta's Comments On Iran
Thom Shanker, New York Times, December 20, 2011
Washington - An assertion by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that Iran could have a nuclear weapon as soon as next year was based on a highly aggressive timeline and a series of actions that Iran has not yet taken, senior Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
In an interview broadcast Monday on "CBS Evening News," Mr. Panetta was asked whether Iran could have a nuclear weapon in 2012.
"It would be sometime around a year that they would be able to do it," he said. "Perhaps a little less."
Mr. Panetta said the country's ability to become a nuclear-weapons state could be accelerated if there was "a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel."
He also restated American policy: that it would be unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons, and that no options, including military action, had been taken off the table to prevent that from happening.
But on Tuesday, George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Panetta's comments should not be taken as a prediction that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year.
"The secretary was clear that we have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon," Mr. Little said. "He was asked to comment on prospective and aggressive timelines on Iran's possible production of nuclear weapons - and he said if, and only if, they made such a decision. He didn't say that Iran would, in fact, have a nuclear weapon in 2012."
Mr. Little said inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency remained in Iran and had "good access to Iran's continuing production of low-enriched uranium." Should Iran choose to "break out" - diverting low-enriched uranium to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium - the inspectors could detect it, Mr. Little said.
"We would retain sufficient time under any such scenario to take appropriate action," he said.
4) Mercosur approves Palestinian free trade deal
Raul O. Garces, AP, December 20, 2011
Montevideo, Uruguay - The Mercosur trade group of four South American nations has signed a free trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
It's the first trade deal between the Palestinian territories and a bloc of nations outside the Arab world.
But the deal is mostly symbolic because Israel strictly controls imports and exports involving the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials praise the deal as a step toward peace, but complain that Israel is holding back their economy.
5) Pakistan official says US put drone strikes on hold after deadly NATO raid along Afghan border
Associated Press, December 20, 3:56 AM
Islamabad - The CIA has stopped firing missiles at militants in Pakistan since last month's deadly NATO airstrikes along the Afghan border so as not to "aggravate" already strained ties with Islamabad, the chief of Pakistan's senate defense committee said Tuesday.
The 33-day pause is the longest since the program began in 2004, according to the Long War Journal, a website that tracks the strikes.
Tensions between Pakistan and the United States are at their lowest ebb in years [presumably, AP meant to say the opposite - JFP] following the Nov. 26 airstrikes at the Pakistani army border outpost that killed 24 soldiers. The Pakistani army responded by closing its border with Afghanistan to trucks carrying U.S. and NATO war supplies. It is demanding a complete review of its relationship with Washington.
Javed Ashraf Qazi, the defense committee chief, said he believed the pause in attacks was because the U.S. "does not want to aggravate the situation any further."
Still, Qazai, a former army general who gets high-level briefings because of his position on the committee, said he believed that if the United States had a "high-level" target in its sights then, "I think they would go ahead" and launch a strike . "If they do so, the results could get worse," he said.
Pakistan's government and army have long publicly protested the U.S. drone program, but in private have given their consent. The attacks are very unpopular among ordinary Pakistanis, who generally regard them as an unacceptable breach of sovereignty.
The Long War Journal quoted an anonymous American official as saying the pause was because another attack "push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return."
The CIA drone program began in 2004 to target al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal regions along the Afghan border, but the frequency of the attacks began increasing in 2008. There have been around 60 this year, significantly less than in 2010.
There have been at least two other pauses in the drone program that have coincided with tense tie between Islamabad and Pakistan, including earlier this year when Pakistan was detaining CIA contractor Raymond Davis after he killed two people in the eastern city of Lahore.
6) Egypt's Transition Can't Wait
Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy, Monday, December 19, 2011
The call to accelerate the transition to civilian rule in Egypt has taken on a new urgency this week. A wide range of political forces are calling for the SCAF to cede power to an elected leadership by February 2012. There are many different ideas about how to do this, perhaps through the new Parliament selecting an interim Prime Minister or perhaps by holding Presidential elections at the end of January. All of the ideas have their problems. But those problems pale against the threat to the Egyptian democratic transition posed by the continuing misrule of and escalating resort to violence by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. I believe that the calls for a new President by February should be taken very seriously indeed.
This weekend's anomic violence on Qasr el-Aini Street does not likely augur the rekindling of popular revolution, as the protests were almost completely contained to a few blocks and seem to have attracted little popular sympathy. But the wildly disproportionate, undisciplined, and frankly brutal response by the army does show graphically why the SCAF is rapidly losing its legitimacy to rule among the political elite. It really doesn't matter whether it ordered the violent crackdown against the Cabinet sit-in or undisciplined troops began the violence on their own, since both point to something deeply problematic. Such crises will continue to recur and intensify as long as the underlying problem of military rule remains unresolved.
The greatest political accomplishment during the last bout of violence in November was that the SCAF agreed to to hold Presidential elections and the transfer of power by June. But as one of Cairo's savviest political analysts told me yesterday, "we can't take six more months of this."
The same arguments about the need for a transfer to civilian rule circulated after the horrifying violence which broke out November 19, when the images of tear gas and police brutality shocked Egyptians and the world. That violence outraged Egypt's political elite and ordinary people alike, suddenly bringing back the massive crowds to Tahrir which months of efforts by activists had failed to generate. The Obama administration released a rare public criticism of the SCAF which called for "the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible." Under that pressure, the SCAF replaced Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, formed a largely powerless but determined civilian Advisory Council, and -- most importantly -- agreed to hold the Presidential elections by June 2012 rather than the vague suggestions of some time in 2013.
The success of the first round of Parliamentary elections blunted the momentum that had been building for such an accelerated transition. The high turnout and orderly procedures in the first round of elections had left the SCAF feeling clearly vindicated. The SCAF was reportedly furious with the unprecedented public American criticism. They were also, I am told, very unhappy with the November 30 NYT/IHT op-ed in which Steve Cook and I argued that the SCAF was fomenting instability and should be held accountable for their use of violence against civilians, and urged the U.S. to throw its weight behind early Presidential elections.
Instead of getting angry, they should have listened. This weekend's renewed violence has shattered the illusion of their successful management and left their measures in tatters. At least 10 members have resigned the Advisory Council in protest, including the ones who were trying to draft a constitutional framework. The silence of Prime Minister Ghanzoury has painfully illustrated his irrelevance. And the elections -- while vital -- are not alone enough. This week's violence shows yet again the urgent need for an accelerated transition to civilian rule and rebuilding of a national political consensus, before events spin wildly out of control.
7) Iraqi Leader Threatens to Abandon Power-Sharing
Tim Arango and Yasir Ghazi, New York Times, December 21, 2011
Baghdad - Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq threatened on Wednesday to abandon an American-backed power sharing government created a year ago, throwing the country's fragile democracy into further turmoil just days after the departure of American troops.
In a nearly 90-minute news conference aired on tape-delay on state television, Mr. Maliki defied his rivals and pushed back on all fronts in Iraq's burgeoning political crisis, threatening to release investigatory files that he claimed show his opponents have been involved in terrorism.
He told Kurdish leaders that there would be "problems" if they do not turn over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in recent days to escape an arrest warrant on charges he ran a death squad responsible for assassinations and bombings.
The Iraqi leader, a Shiite, also issued a warning to his rivals from Iraqiya, the largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers that includes Mr. Hashemi: if it does not end its boycott of Parliament and the Council of Ministers, he would move to form a majority government that would, in essence, exclude them from power.
If Iraqiya's ministers do not show up at future sessions, he said, "we will appoint replacements."
8) Chile to gradually withdraw UN military contingent from Haiti
Xinhua, December 21, 2011
Santiago, Dec. 20 -- Chilean Defense Minister Andres Allamand announced Tuesday that his country will gradually withdraw its United Nations (UN) military contingent from Haiti starting in 2012.
"We have proposed to the Latin American Defense Council that during 2012, we will begin to withdraw our troops in gradual, proportional and coordinated ways," Allamand said while presenting a report of his ministry's management in Palacio de La Moneda, the seat of President Sebastian Pinera.
About 500 Chilean military and police officers have been dispatched to Haiti since 2004, when the UN decided to intervene in the Caribbean country after a nationwide armed conflict that caused the fall of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
9) Falklands boat ban sparks new row between UK and Argentina
Kirchner accuses Britain of taking Argentina's resources after South American trading bloc bans boats with islands' flag
Lizzy Davies, Tom Phillips, The Guardian, Wednesday 21 December 2011 13.24 EST
The Argentinian president has accused Britain of taking her country's resources and ignoring UN resolutions, as the Foreign Office condemned a move by a South American trading bloc to ban from its ports ships flying the Falkland Islands flag.
Tensions over the long-disputed territory erupted into the open after the decision by Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, to target ships with the "illegal" flag of the Falklands. The Foreign Office said Britain was "very concerned" by what it saw as the "latest Argentine attempt to isolate the Falkland Islands people and damage their livelihoods, for which there is no justification".
But the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, welcomed the ban, thanking her regional allies for their solidarity and criticising Britain. Although refraining from calling for the islands to be declared Argentinian, she asked for fresh talks on the status of the islands.
"The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN security council yet they do not respect a single, not a single resolution," she told the Mercosur summit in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo. "We are not asking them to come here and recognise that the Malvinas are Argentinian, but what we are saying is for them to comply with the UN, sit down and talk, talk, talk."
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