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JFP 12/22: For Christmas, a one-day halt to night raids
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 December 2011 - 7:15pm
Just Foreign Policy News, December 22, 2011
For Christmas, a one-day halt to night raids
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
**Action: For Christmas, Help Us Press for a Cease-Fire in Afghanistan
Don't you think it would be a good thing if President Obama would order U.S. forces in Afghanistan to cease offensive actions on Christmas? Wouldn't it be a step forward if, for one night, Afghan civilians knew that U.S. forces wouldn't break into their homes, endangering their lives? Wouldn't that be a great way for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to celebrate Christmas-to take the day off from offensive military action?
Urge President Obama to declare a cease-fire in Afghanistan on Christmas.
Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan
Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on Dec. 24th and 25, the United States will observe an offensive ceasefire in Afghanistan, and urge others to join the ceasefire, as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks. According to recent press reports, a U.S.-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama Administration is already pursuing, while bringing a pause, at least, to universally detested US night raids.
Former Officials Call for President Obama to Reinvigorate Iran Diplomacy
A group of former government officials, diplomats, military officers, and nonproliferation experts issued a letter to President Obama calling for him to reinvigorate direct diplomatic engagement with Iran to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.
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1) The U.S. military acknowledged Thursday that US commanders in Afghanistan made serious mistakes during a cross-border raid last month in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, the Washington Post reports. A report said investigators found inadequate coordination as well as erroneous map information provided by NATO to Pakistani authorities were to blame. The Pentagon expressed "deepest regret" for the loss of life, the closest thing to an apology yet issued by the US, the Post says.
2) Most Americans agree with the decision to end the war in Iraq, CNN reports. Almost eight in ten said they support removal of combat troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Two-thirds say they oppose the war; 53% say the US made a mistake sending troops to Iraq; 51% say it was a "dumb" decision to send troops to Iraq. More than half think the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; seven out of 10 say the money spent on the war is one reason for US economic problems; eight in ten say we could not achieve any more no matter how long troops remained in Iraq.
3) Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, says the Obama Administration has disproved the notion that a large military footprint helps fight terrorism and is now returning the US to a pre-1990 military level in the Persian Gulf, Josh Rogin reports in The Cable. In October, the New York Times reported the administration was planning to increase troop levels in nearby countries. But Rhodes said that's just not the case.
4) Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned Thursday of a conspiracy to oust the government, the Washington Post reports. "There can be no state within a state," Gilani said. "People will have to decide whether they want elected people or a dictatorship in the country."
5) Fatah and Hamas have agreed to form a unified government, which will be sworn in by the end of January, the Guardian reports. Delegates agreed to set up both an electoral commission and a deadline for the establishment of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats. Both sides agreed that all political prisoners currently held in the West Bank and Gaza would be released by the end of January. Egypt has mediated the talks. The US has indicated it will cut millions of dollars in funding to the Palestinian security infrastructure if the current leadership unifies with Hamas.
6) The Netanyahu government accused Britain, France, Germany and Portugal of "interfering with Israel's domestic affairs" after their sharp criticism of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, the New York Times reports. The latest criticism of Israel has come from European capitals that it has long counted among its closest allies, illustrating that Israel is growing more isolated diplomatically over the Palestinian issue, the Times says. [The Israeli government complaint is telling: what Israel does in the West Bank is not an "Israeli domestic affair," since the West Bank is occupied territory, not Israel - JFP]
7) The Peace Corps plans to pull all of its volunteers out of Honduras and stop sending new volunteers to Guatemala and El Salvador because of concerns for their safety, the New York Times reports. The Times notes that Honduras still has not recovered from the coup in 2009. [The Peace Corps decision is an implicit concession by the Administration that the problem of violence in Honduras is much worse than the problem in El Salvador and Guatemala, where it is also clearly very severe - JFP.]
1) U.S.: Poor coordination, mapping data led to Pakistani deaths in cross-border raid
Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, Thursday, December 22, 3:25 PM
The U.S. military acknowledged Thursday that commanders in Afghanistan made serious mistakes during a cross-border raid last month in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
A report about the Nov. 25 incident said investigators found that "inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers," as well as erroneous map information provided by NATO to Pakistani authorities, were to blame for the battlefield blunder, which has added enormous strain to the already fraught relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
The lack of coordination and the incorrect mapping "resulted in a misunderstanding about the true location of Pakistani military units," the Pentagon said in a statement issued early Thursday. "This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placements of units from both sides, contributed to the tragic result."
"For the loss of life - and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses - we express our deepest regret," the Pentagon said.
In a briefing for reporters in Washington, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, who conducted the investigation, disputed Pakistan's insistence that the two military border posts that came under withering fire from an AC-130 gunship and Apache attack helicopters were well marked on maps available to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Once the command in Afghanistan received communications from Pakistan that its forces were being fired upon, he said, it provided the Pakistanis with only general coordinates on where the air attack was taking place because of what he called an "overarching lack of of trust" between the two sides.
But even the general location provided was incorrect, he acknowledged, because the U.S. side had used the wrong map template to determine where the attack was taking place.
The Pentagon's expression of "regret" was the closest thing to an apology yet issued by the United States, which has said repeatedly that it would not apologize until all the facts were known. A spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the United States would now offer to make payments to the families of the 24 deceased Pakistani soldiers, as is the U.S. military's practice in the region.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent Pakistani political analyst, said the report could open the door for negotiations on reopening supply lines and other issues that were put on hold as a result of the raid.
However, he said, Pakistani leaders may be slow to warm up to Washington given the extent to which the deadly operation exacerbated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. A growing political crisis in Pakistan that has spurred fears of a coup and strained ties between the army and the civilian leaders is also likely to prevent a prompt, coordinated response.
2) CNN Poll: Americans agree on bringing troops home from Iraq
CNN, December 22, 2011
Most Americans agree with the decision to end the war in Iraq, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday. Almost eight in ten said they support removal of combat troops from that country by the end of this year.
And although 96% are proud of U.S. troops who served in Iraq, just one in three consider the war a victory and more than half call it a stalemate.
President Obama announced the full withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the year's end in October. Now, two-thirds say they oppose the war and more think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to Iraq in the first place 53% to 46% over those who do not think it was a mistake.
Americans are similarly divided over whether they agree with then-Sen. Barack Obama's opinion that it was a "dumb" decision to send troops to Iraq in 2003 - 51% say it was dumb and 45% say it was smart.
More than half think the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but about half say U.S. involvement in the war has had a positive effect on life in Iraq.
When it comes to the U.S., half the nation believes the Iraq war had a negative effect on life here and seven out of 10 say the money spent on the war is one reason for the economic problems facing the country today.
Almost four in ten American say the U.S. only accomplished some of its goals in Iraq, but almost eight in ten say we could not achieve any more no matter how long troops remained in that country.
3) White House: We are returning to a pre-1990 military stance in the Gulf
Josh Rogin, The Cable, Friday, December 16, 2011 - 6:09 PM
President Barack Obama's administration has disproved the notion that a large military footprint helps fight terrorism and, following the end of the Iraq war, is now returning the United States to a pre-1990 military level in the Persian Gulf, according to a White House official.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, told a group of supporters on a private conference call Wednesday that the entire idea of deploying large numbers of troops in the region, which has been U.S. policy since the Gulf War in 1990, is now over.
"The tide of war is receding around the world," said Rhodes. "It's certainly going to be the lowest level, in terms of number of troops, that we've seen in 20 years. There are not really plans to have any substantial increases in any other parts of the Gulf as this war winds down."
Just after the administration announced it was not able to reach a deal with Iraq to extend the U.S. troop presence there in October, the New York Times reported the administration was planning to increase troop levels in nearby countries, such as Kuwait, to account for the risk of Iraq backsliding into violence. But Rhodes said Wednesday that's just not the case.
"I don't think we're looking to reallocate our military footprint in any significant way from Iraq. They won't be reallocated to other countries in the region in any substantial numbers," he said.
Rhodes explained that the scaling back of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf was part of the administration's strategy to "demilitarize" U.S. foreign policy and shift to an approach that favored counter-terrorism tactics. He also said the end of the war in Iraq -- and eventually the war in Afghanistan -- proved that large military deployments are not necessary to deny terrorists safe haven in foreign countries.
"The argument several years ago... was that you needed to have a very large U.S. military footprint so that you could fight the terrorists 'over there,' so they wouldn't come here. But we've demonstrated the opposite, that you don't need to have a large U.S. military footprint in these countries, that you can shrink them and focus on al Qaeda in a far more specific way... and still very much accomplish your national security goals," said Rhodes.
"That allows us in many respects to demilitarize elements of our foreign policy and establish more normal relationships," he added. "That's our posture in the region and its far more in line with where we were before 1990."
4) Pakistani prime minister warns of coup plot
Shaiq Hussain, Washington Post, Thursday, December 22, 10:07 AM
Islamabad, Pakistan - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned Thursday of a conspiracy to oust the government, signaling that tension between his civilian administration and the country's powerful army might be close to a breaking point.
"There can be no state within a state," Gilani said during a function commemorating the birth of Pakistan's founder. "People will have to decide whether they want elected people or a dictatorship in the country."
Gilani's remarks represented a striking shift for a leader who only a week ago dismissed the notion that there was a widening rift between his administration and the security forces. "Every institution of this country, including the Ministry of Defense, is under the prime minister," Gilani asserted.
5) Palestinian factions agree on unified government
President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal finalise groundbreaking deal in Cairo after heated negotiations
Phoebe Greenwood, Guardian, Thursday 22 December 2011 10.22 EST
Tel Aviv - Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to form a unified government, which will be sworn in by the end of January. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal met in Cairo to agree the groundbreaking deal late on Wednesday after days of heated negotiation between representatives of Palestinian political groups led by Hamas and Fatah.
The talks, mediated by Egypt, are part of ongoing efforts to mend the factional divisions that split Gaza from the West Bank in 2007 and led to the collapse of the Palestinian legislative council. There has not been a functioning Palestinian parliament since.
Ghassan Khatib, a spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the progress, saying that in order to the achieve independence through the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority must prioritise reunification.
"We are hopeful the reconciliation will be successful," Khatib said. "We cannot say we are ready for independence and statehood before we have a reunified Palestinian system."
On Tuesday, the delegates agreed to set up both an electoral commission and a deadline for the establishment of a caretaker cabinet of technocrats. Both sides agreed that all political prisoners currently held in the West Bank and Gaza would be released by the end of January.
Washington has indicated it will cut millions of dollars in funding to the Palestinian security infrastructure if the current leadership unifies with Hamas.
6) Israel Accuses 4 Countries of Meddling in Its Affairs
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, December 21, 2011
Jerusalem - In a highly unusual response to criticism from European nations on the Security Council, the Israeli Foreign Ministry bluntly accused the countries of "interfering with Israel's domestic affairs" and warned that they risked making themselves "irrelevant."
The heated diplomatic exchange reflected growing tension and frustration over the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. International criticism has focused on Israeli settlement construction, while Israel blames the Palestinians, and now some European capitals, for placing obstacles in the way of renewing long-stalled direct peace talks.
The Foreign Ministry's response came a day after a joint statement by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, delivered at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The Europeans pointed to repeated Israeli announcements of plans to accelerate construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to a recent spike in violence by radical Israeli settlers, including the burning of mosques.
The Europeans called on Israel to reverse its settlement building plans, saying that they were illegal, sent a "devastating message" and threatened the prospects for a two-state solution.
International condemnation of the construction is not new, but Israel was upset by the unexpected severity of the rebuke.
The latest criticism of Israel has come from European capitals that it has long counted among its closest allies, illustrating that Israel is growing more isolated diplomatically over the Palestinian issue.
7) Peace Corps to Scale Back in Central America
Randal C. Archibold, New York Times, December 21, 2011
Mexico City - The increasing drug and organized-crime violence in Central America has led the Peace Corps to pull out of Honduras and stop sending new volunteers to Guatemala and El Salvador, the organization announced Wednesday.
Peace Corps officials said they had taken stock of the worsening conditions and decided to withdraw their 158 volunteers from Honduras in January and scuttle plans to send 29 recruits to complete their training.
In Guatemala and El Salvador, officials decided to keep the 335 volunteers already in those countries but not to send the 76 recruits who were to begin training there next month. The trainees will be sent to other countries, the corps said.
All three countries have endured a rash of violence primarily related to drug traffickers using Central America as a staging point to ship cocaine to the United States from South America.
A wave of violence has struck particularly hard in Honduras, whose institutions are still recovering from a coup in 2009.
It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world — the highest by some measures — and this month, Alfredo Landaverde, the country’s former antidrug and security adviser who often denounced corruption, was shot to death.
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