JFP 9/17: US strikes kill Afghan women; US demands indefinite detention in Afghanistan

Just Foreign Policy News, September 17, 2012
US strikes kill Afghan women; US demands indefinite detention in Afghanistan

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: Tell President Obama: Free the TPP!
Urge President Obama to release the draft TPP negotiating text and urge your reps. in Congress to press for release of the text. An agreement that could prevent millions from accessing lifesaving medicines should be seen by Congress and the public before it is signed.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/obama-free-tpp

Bill Keller: Mitt and Bibi: Diplomacy as Demolition Derby
"Whether you agree or not with the idea of using force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (followers of this space know I do not) there is no reason to strike now. There are inspectors and monitoring devices at Iran's enrichment facilities to alert us if Iran decides to suddenly start enriching weapons-grade fuel. The only urgency is Netanyahu's calculation that he can use the American presidential election to pressure Obama. That leverage disappears after November 6."
http://keller.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/mitt-and-bibi-diplomacy-as-demolition-derby/

Juan Cole: Top Myths about Iran's Nuclear Enrichment Program
Has Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon? Not according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel's chief of staff, Benny Gantz.
http://www.juancole.com/2012/09/top-myths-about-irans-nuclear-enrichment-program.html

Christian Science Monitor: Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu conducted a US media offensive to scare Americans about Iran's nuclear program. Last November, the Christian Science Monitor published a timeline of Israeli warnings about the "imminent threat" of Iran's nuclear program, going back to 1979.
http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/print/content/view/print/422252

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) President Karzai condemned US-led forces for killing eight women in airstrikes on Sunday and denounced the US for continuing to hold hundreds of Afghan prisoners, the New York Times reports.

In the airstrike, US-led forces were apparently unaware that village women sometimes go into the woods in the early hours of the morning to fetch wood for cooking fires they need to have going by breakfast time, the NYT says. On the detention issue, the US wants a guarantee that the Afghans will leave intact the US detention system that allows the indefinite holding of prisoners before handing over remaining prisoners as it previously promised to do, the NYT says.

2) The Obama administration says a judge's ruling blocking a statute authorizing the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects has jeopardized its ability to continue detaining certain prisoners captured during the war in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. In an appeal of the ruling, the government asserted that Judge Katherine Forrest went beyond enjoining the statute - enacted last year as part of the NDAA - and potentially curtailed detention powers it has been exercising for years under its interpretation of the 2001 authorization to use military force.

The motion focused on language used by Judge Forrest that rejected interpreting the original use-of-force authorization as including the ability to detain "substantial supporters" of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as opposed to people who are actually part of those groups. The judge also called into question the idea that the United States could detain members or supporters of "associated forces" that had no involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The US is holding about 50 non-Afghan prisoners, most of them Pakistani, at the Parwan detention facility at Bagram, the NYT notes.

Robert Chesney, a professor at University of Texas, said that if the appeals court upholds the injunction, it could potentially set up a split on detention authority with the more conservative DC appeals court [which has overwhelmingly deferred to the executive and Congress - JFP], and that could force intervention by the Supreme Court [which has been largely content to let the DC appeals court defer to the executive and Congress - JFP.]

3) An Afghan judicial panel ruled Monday that administrative (i.e., indefinite) detention violates Afghan law, AP reports.

4) Nearly three months since Rep. Rush Holt and other members of Congress sent a letter to the president about "signature" drone strikes, the president's office has not responded, the Lehigh Valley Express-Times reports. "Rep. Holt continues to believe that the concerns that he and his colleagues raised deserve a thorough response from the White House," a Holt spokesman said. "Targeting an entire group of people on the basis of ambiguous 'signatures' is neither precise nor wise, as innocent civilians are too often killed in such strikes," Holt said in June.

5) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told Sunday talks shows that Iran is "six months away from being about 90 percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb," Thank Progress reports. The reality is that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week, it would take Iran at least a year, probably a bit longer, to obtain a bomb once its leaders made the decision to do so, Think Progress notes. A new bipartisan expert report from the Iran Project expounds: "Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile."

6) The significance of the report by The Iran Project saying a military effort to shut down Iran's nuclear program would involve a multiyear conflict that could engulf the region is not just its analysis but the nearly three dozen respected national security experts from both political parties who signed it: including two former national security advisers, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski; former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering; and retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, writes the New York Times in an editorial. But Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to browbeat President Obama into a pre-emptive strike. 70 percent of Americans oppose a unilateral strike on Iran, according to a new poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and 59 percent said if Israel bombs Iran and ignites a war, the US should not come to Israel's defense, the NYT notes.

Okinawa
7) Tens of thousands rallied Sunday in Okinawa to protest plans to deploy the MV-22 Osprey, the trouble-plagued aircraft, at the Marine base in Ginowan, notes the New York Times in an editorial. Okinawans worry that the plane is prone to crashing. The anger on Sunday reflects frustration over islanders' long-stymied efforts to get the Marines entirely out of Okinawa, the NYT notes. The US has an obligation to listen to the concerns of the residents, the NYT says. It can start by putting the Ospreys someplace else.

Afghanistan
8) An audacious and complex Taliban attack on a heavily fortified base in southern Afghanistan was a reminder that the Taliban remain capable of serious assaults despite the "surge" offensive against them, the New York Times reports. Two Marines were killed in the attack. Six jets, which each cost between $23 million and $30 million when they were first acquired by the Navy were completely destroyed.

9) An Afghan soldier opened fire on six Lebanese civilian contractors working for U.S.-led forces in southern Afghanistan Sunday night, the Washington Post reports. The attack was the third by rogue Afghan security personnel during the weekend, when foreign six troops were killed. Insider attacks have killed 51 NATO troops so far this year.

Iran
10) Iraq has moved most MEK/PMOI members out of Camp Ashraf, a step that could help pave the way to the group being dropped from a U.S. terrorism blacklist, Reuters reports.

Uruguay
11) Despite a divided public, President Mujica's proposal to turn the state into the sole supplier of marijuana has a strong chance of passage in Uruguay's legislature, which the president's party controls, Bloomberg reports. Nicolas Cotugno, the archbishop of Montevideo, said last year that he would support a move to get the cartels out of the pot business, if that would curb drug use.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Karzai Denounces Coalition Over Airstrikes
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, September 16, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/world/asia/karzai-denounces-coalition-over-airstrikes.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Two of the most contentious issues dividing the United States and President Hamid Karzai's administration re-emerged as the Afghan leader condemned American-led forces for killing eight women in airstrikes on Sunday and denounced his American allies for continuing to hold hundreds of Afghan prisoners.

After the coalition initially said that it needed time to investigate Afghan reports of the deaths, by evening it confirmed that the civilians had died in airstrikes launched early Sunday in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. It said the strikes were carried out "solely with the intent of countering known insurgents," and offered its sympathies to the families of those slain. It did not give a number of dead; Afghan officials said eight women who were out collecting firewood had died.

While Mr. Karzai's condemnation was likely to rankle some Western officials, it was in keeping with how he has responded to the killing of Afghan bystanders by both coalition forces and the Taliban, which is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Instead, the presidential palace reserved its strongest language for the continued detention of some 600 Afghans at what was once the main American prison here. Mr. Karzai's office said in a statement that keeping the prisoners was a "serious breach" and a "serious violation" of a deal struck this year, under which the United States agreed to transfer control of the prison to Afghan authorities on Sept. 9.

"The continued holding of Afghans in American custody runs in contradiction with the spirit of mutual friendship," it said. "The people of Afghanistan consider the issue of prisons and detention of their fellow citizens a matter of their national sovereignty."

After a summer in which American and Afghan officials were more often than not on the same page, the confrontational tone of the statement was a sharp reminder of the acrimony that has often characterized relations between Mr. Karzai and his American benefactors. As recently as March, Mr. Karzai referred to Americans as "demons."

The statement came after Mr. Karzai met with Ambassador Marc Grossman, the United States special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who was in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit. The men discussed the prison issue and stalled efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban, the palace said.

The Americans were holding roughly 3,000 people at the prison, which is next to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, when the United States and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding in March that laid out a six-month timetable for the transfer. But Afghan officials say 600 people detained since March remain in American custody, along with about 30 of the original prisoners considered too dangerous to release but too difficult to prosecute because of a lack of admissible evidence.

American officials have not said anything about the 600 figure, but they have acknowledged holding the men detained before the deal was struck. They also have said they want the Afghans to agree to detain those men indefinitely under stipulations in the Geneva Convention that permit wartime detentions without trial.
[...]
Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan's national security adviser, said in an interview last week that the Afghan government would eventually implement such a system but wanted control of the prisoners immediately. The Americans want a guarantee that the Afghans will leave intact the American detention system that allows the indefinite holding of prisoners deemed dangerous if there is insufficient evidence to try them.
[...]
The airstrikes took place in the Alingar district of Laghman Province. The coalition said the strikes were called in around 2 a.m. during a firefight with insurgents that had been spotted moving through the area.

According to Maj. Lori Hodge of the Air Force, coalition forces "engaged with precision munitions and direct fire" - airstrikes and gunfire - with about 45 insurgents. She could not say how many insurgents were killed.

Coalition forces were apparently unaware that village women sometimes go into the woods in the early hours of the morning to fetch wood for cooking fires they need to have going by breakfast time.

2) U.S. Warns Ruling Impedes Its Detention Powers
Charlie Savage, New York Times, September 17, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/us/politics/us-warns-judges-ruling-impedes-its-detention-powers.html

Washington - The Obama administration warned Monday that a judge's ruling last week blocking a statute authorizing the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects has jeopardized its ability to continue detaining certain prisoners captured during the war in Afghanistan.

In an emergency appeal of the ruling, the government asserted that United States District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest went beyond enjoining the statute - enacted last year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act - and potentially curtailed detention powers it has been exercising for years under its interpretation of the authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Judge Forrest's order "threatens irreparable harm to national security and the public interest by injecting added burdens and dangerous confusion into the conduct of military operations abroad during an active armed conflict," the government wrote in a 38-page filing with the federal appeals court in New York.

The motion focused on language used by Judge Forrest that rejected interpreting the original use-of-force authorization as including the ability to detain "substantial supporters" of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as opposed to people who are actually part of those groups. The judge also called into question the idea that the United States could detain members or supporters of "associated forces" that had no involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"If, following issuance of this permanent injunctive relief, the government detains individuals under theories of 'substantially or directly supporting' associated forces, as set forth in" the National Defense Authorization Act, "and a contempt action is brought before this court, the government will bear a heavy burden indeed," she wrote.

The United States is holding about 50 non-Afghan prisoners, most of them Pakistani, at the Parwan detention facility at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, as well several hundred Afghans. The legal imbroglio comes during a diplomatic tussle with the government of President Hamid Karzai over control of the Afghan prisoners.

The indefinite detention provision in the version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act enacted last year was contentious because lawmakers did not make clear whether American citizens could also be held without trial as wartime prisoners, and they did not specify what kinds of conduct constituted the "support" that could make someone detainable, nor which "associated forces" were off-limits.

Judge Forrest raised the question of how to interpret the original Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, passed by Congress in 2001 because the government argued that the National Defense Authorization Act did not expand the scope of its detention authority. But she disagreed, saying that the government's interpretation went beyond the text of the 2001 authorization.

The 2001 authorization and the new statute, she wrote, "are not the same; they are not co-extensive. Military detention based on allegations of 'substantially supporting' or 'directly supporting' the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or associated forces, is not encompassed within the AUMF and is enjoined by this order regarding the National Defense Authorization Act."
[...]
The executive branch has long relied upon the authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, and those who harbored them, as the basis for its ability to detain people. It has applied judicial rulings about the scope of that authority from habeas corpus cases brought by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to its detention operations in Afghanistan, where courts do not have jurisdiction.

Last year, Congress wrote a new statute codifying a definition of the scope of detention authority derived from the Guantánamo litigation. It said the United States could detain not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but also their substantial supporters as well as associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States and its allies.

In issuing its ruling rejecting some of those categories, the administration said, the district court "has taken it upon itself to disagree with an interpretation of the military's detention authority that had previously been endorsed by all three branches of government. What is more, the district court expressly invites actions for contempt sanctions if the military exercises detention authority in a manner inconsistent with the court's deeply flawed understanding of that authority."

Judge Forrest had previously issued a preliminary injunction against enforcing the statute. While the government had appealed, it did not seek a stay of her preliminary order, which lacked the more expansive language.

But after she made the injunction permanent last week, the Obama administration immediately asked her for an emergency stay, arguing that she was making an "unprecedented" judicial intrusion into wartime matters. When she declined, the government signaled it would go straight to the appeals court.

Robert Chesney, a professor at University of Texas, Austin, who specializes in the laws of war, said that if the Second Circuit appeals court upholds the injunction - even if by narrowing its scope - rather than overturning it on standing grounds, it could potentially set up a split on detention authority with the more conservative District of Columbia appeals court.

That outcome could persuade the Supreme Court to intervene again on detention matters, something he said executive branch officials "don't want at this point because they can't do any better than they've done" with the District of Columbia circuit.
[...]

3) Afghan judicial panel rules US-favored administrative detention is against Afghan law
Associated Press, Monday, September 17, 3:21 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-judicial-panel-rules-us-favored-administrative-detention-is-against-afghan-law/2012/09/17/76a8b79c-00ee-11e2-bbf0-e33b4ee2f0e8_story.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - An Afghan judicial panel ruled Monday that administrative detention violates Afghan law, potentially thwarting a U.S. plan to hand over Afghan detainees that American officials believe should continue to be held without a trial.

President Hamid Karzai's office announced in a statement that a top-level judicial panel met earlier in the day and decided that the detention of Afghan citizens without a court trial "has not been foreseen in Afghan laws" and therefore could not be used.


The U.S. government has long held Afghans captured in operations inside the country without trial, arguing that they are enemy combatants and therefore can be detained for as long as their release might pose a danger to the international coalition.

Afghan laws have come into play only since the signing of a deal in March in which the U.S. agreed it would hand over all Afghan citizens to the Afghan government - acceding to a key Karzai demand to pave the way for a pact allowing for the long-term presence of U.S. forces in the country.
[...]

4) U.S. Rep. Rush Holt still has not received White House response from military drone letter
Phillip Molnar, The Express-Times, Monday, September 17, 2012, 6:01 AM http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/hunterdon-county/express-times/index.ssf/2012/09/us_rep_rush_holt_still_has_not.html

Rep. Rush Holt wants President Barack Obama to check his mailbox.

Nearly three months since Holt, D-Hunterdon, and 26 other members of Congress sent a letter to the president about the use of military drone strikes, the president's office has not responded.

"Rep. Holt continues to believe that the concerns that he and his colleagues raised deserve a thorough response from the White House," Holt spokesman Thomas Seay said last week.
[...]
The letter, signed by 24 Democrats and two Republicans, cited an article by The Washington Post that claimed the president had given increased authority for a drone campaign in Yemen.

According to the article, American forces would be permitted to fire on suspected terrorists even when the identity of those killed would not be known.

The Post reported the forces could fire on targets based on intelligence "signatures" -- patterns of behavior that are detected through signal intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance -- and that indicated the presence of an important operative or plot against U.S. interests.

"Targeting an entire group of people on the basis of ambiguous 'signatures' is neither precise nor wise, as innocent civilians are too often killed in such strikes," Holt told The Express-Times in June.

The letter was signed by Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Charles Rangel and others.
[...]
The letter asked for an explanation of "signature" strikes and ways forces could ensure drone killings are legal and what follow-up is done after a civilian is killed.
[...]
Since May 2011, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recorded up to 116 U.S. drone strikes in Yemen but only 39 have been confirmed by officials. The nonprofit claimed 60 to 163 civilians had been killed in Yemen by U.S. covert action since 2001.

5) Misinformation On Iran's Nuclear Program Pervades Sunday Talk Shows
By Ben Armbruster on Sep 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm
http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/09/17/858531/sunday-shows-misinformation-iran/
[...]
Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - who repeatedly referred to Iran having a "nuclear weapons program" (U.S. and Israeli intelligence and the IAEA do not believe Iran has made the decision to go that far) - appeared to be trying to rev up fears about a potential Iranian nuclear weapon, saying on NBC's Meet the Press:

NETANYAHU: I think that as they get closer and closer and closer to the achievement of the weapons-grade material, and they're very close, they're six months away from being about 90 percent of having the enriched uranium for an atom bomb.

It's unclear what Netanyahu is saying Iran is six months away from exactly. But whatever he meant, the reality is that, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week, it would take Iran at least a year, probably a bit longer, to obtain a bomb once its leaders made the decision to do so. A new bipartisan expert report from the Iran Project expounds: "Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile."

One key point on Iran's timeline for building a bomb is that the U.S. and its allies would most likely know when the clock starts ticking. As Panetta said last week, "We have pretty good intelligence on them. We know generally what they're up to. And so we keep a close track on them."

Yet the Sunday show pundits got this all wrong as well. "President Obama said our intelligence service will give us a pretty long lead time in understanding where Iran is," George Will said on ABC's This Week, adding, "I think he may have a faith in the ability of our intelligence services to draw lines and put down markers as to where the Iranian program is that we simply actually don't have."

And on Meet the Press, Bod Woodward and Andrea Mitchell echoed Mr. Will:

MITCHELL: [Obama administration officials] believe somehow in this notion that they will have the intelligence, they will know when the Ayatollah makes a political decision, and they will still have the time. And arguably in the past, we've learned that intelligence is not that precise. [...]
WOODWARD: If you study intelligence, as I have for about 40 years, and Jeffrey and I were talking about, some day we're going to write a book called "The Unintelligence of Intelligence" because it's just often wrong.

Again, here's what the Iran Project's report has to say on this issue:

'Iran today is probably the most "watched" country in the world - not just by the United States and the IAEA, but by other nations as well. To carry out a secret, parallel nuclear weapons program, Iran would need to divert both safeguarded material and some of the country's relatively small network of well-qualified experts in centrifuge enrichment; such diversions would almost certainly be detected. While there are differences of opinion on this issue, we believe it would be extremely difficult for Iran to hide a nuclear program devoted to weapons development. No monitoring and detection system is failure-proof, but Iran has little reason to be confident that it could get away with creating a secret program to produce fissile material for a weapon.'

[...]

6) No Rush to War
Editorial, New York Times, September 14, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/opinion/no-rush-to-war.html

Amid the alarming violence in the Arab world, a new report about the costs of a potential war with Iran got lost this week. It says an attack by the United States could set back Iran's nuclear program four years at most, while a more ambitious goal - ensuring Iran never reconstitutes its nuclear program or ousting the regime - would involve a multiyear conflict that could engulf the region.

The significance of the report by The Iran Project is not just its sober analysis but the nearly three dozen respected national security experts from both political parties who signed it: including two former national security advisers, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski; former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering; and the retired Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is trying to browbeat President Obama into a pre-emptive strike. On Tuesday, he demanded that the United States set a red line for military action and said those who refuse "don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel." Later, Mr. Obama telephoned him and rejected the appeal. On Friday, Mr. Netanyahu suggested in an interview that Israel cannot entirely rely on the United States to act against Iran's program.

Leaders need flexibility and ambiguity, not just hard and fast red lines. And it is dangerous for Mr. Netanyahu to try to push the president into a corner publicly and raise questions about Washington. Is that really the message he wants to send to Tehran?

There is no reason to doubt President Obama's oft-repeated commitment to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. But 70 percent of Americans oppose a unilateral strike on Iran, according to a new poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and 59 percent said if Israel bombs Iran and ignites a war, the United States should not come to its ally's defense.
[...]

Okinawa
7) Ospreys in Okinawa
Editorial, New York Times, September 14, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/opinion/ospreys-in-okinawa.html

Tens of thousands of people rallied on Sunday in Okinawa to protest plans to deploy the MV-22 Osprey, the trouble-plagued tilt-rotor aircraft, at the United States Marine Corps base in the city of Ginowan. The Marines want to bring in 24 Ospreys to replace a fleet of Vietnam-era helicopters, but Okinawans, turning out in one of the largest anti-American protests in years, are bristling.

The Osprey has a terrible reputation as a prime example of a hugely expensive, dubiously useful weapons systems. Okinawans don't care about the misspent money. They worry that the plane is prone to crashing. To many residents, who have borne the heavy burden of the American military presence in Japan, deploying the Osprey on the island is rubbing salt into an old wound.

The first dozen Ospreys to reach Japan have been grounded while the Japanese government reviews the plane's safety record. Marine officials insist that the Osprey's notorious defects have been worked out and that it is safe and reliable. But, in April, an Osprey crashed in Morocco, killing two Marines. Another crashed in Florida in June. Though officials blame pilot error for the accidents, that has hardly eased local fears in densely crowded Okinawa, which has seen hundreds of crashes and emergency landings of military jets and helicopters since the 1950s, several of them fatal.

The anger on Sunday was not just about two dozen planes. It reflects frustration over islanders' long-stymied efforts to get the Marines entirely out of Okinawa. Japan and the United States struck a deal in 2006 to close Futenma, move several thousand Marines off the island and shift others to a new base on Okinawa's less-populated northeast coast. But many Okinawans saw this agreement as inadequate, and it went nowhere. A deal reached in April to move 9,000 Marines has also been stalled.

For too long, Okinawans have seen promises but no movement. The United States has an obligation to tread lightly in Okinawa and to listen to the concerns of the residents. It can start by putting the Ospreys someplace else.

Afghanistan
8) Audacious Raid on NATO Base Shows Taliban's Reach
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, September 16, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/world/asia/green-on-blue-attacks-in-afghanistan-continue.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - An audacious Taliban attack on a heavily fortified base in southern Afghanistan did far more damage than initially reported, destroying or severely damaging eight attack jets in the most destructive single strike on Western matériel in the 11-year war, military officials said Sunday.

While other attacks have caused greater loss of life, the assault late Friday at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, one of the largest and best-defended posts in Afghanistan, was troubling to NATO because the attackers were able to penetrate the base, killing two Marines and causing more than $200 million in damage. "We're saying it's a very sophisticated attack," said a military official here. "We've lost aircraft in battle, but nothing like this."

The complex attack, which NATO officials said was conducted by three tightly choreographed teams of militants wearing American Army uniforms, was a reminder that the Taliban remain capable of serious assaults despite the "surge" offensive against them. Now the offensive is over, and nearly 10,000 American Marines have left Helmand Province, a critical stronghold for the Taliban, over the past several months.
[...]
The 15 insurgents conducting the attack lost no time from the moment they blew a hole in the perimeter at one of the closest points to the airfield, military officials said. They then raced toward their targets, shooting and setting fire to parked Marine AV-8B Harrier jets and destroying three refueling stations, even as a quick reaction force was mustering to fight them off, a military official said. "It was a running gun battle for a while, two and a half hours, nonetheless they were able to get to the aircraft before we could intercept them," a military official said, noting that because it happened at night it was difficult until daylight to be sure that all the insurgents had been killed or captured. All but one was killed; the remaining insurgent is in custody, the military said.

Two American Marines were killed in the attack, and nine coalition personnel, including a civilian contractor, were wounded, the military said in a statement. Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, is doing a tour of duty as a helicopter pilot and was stationed at Camp Bastion at the time of the attack, but was not hurt. Camp Bastion is home mostly to British soldiers, while the neighboring camp, known as Leatherneck, has American Marines and other service members.

Six of the jets, which each cost between $23 million and $30 million when they were first acquired by the United States Navy, according to a General Accounting Office report, were completely destroyed and two more were so severely damaged it was unlikely they could be repaired. Also badly damaged were three refueling stations and three soft-skinned aircraft hangars, the military said in a news release.

Determining how it was possible for the insurgents to penetrate and severely damage such a well-defended base, particularly one with clear lines of sight across miles of mostly flat plain, will be important in determining whether this was a unique attack or one that could be replicated either in targeting Western bases or Afghan ones, military experts said.

"The Taliban retain the command and military planning infrastructure to put together complex and sophisticated attacks," said Stephen Biddle, a professor at George Washington University with expertise in defense studies.
[...]
This year's toll from what are known as insider or green-on-blue attacks - green being American military parlance for indigenous forces, blue for its own - has become one of the most visible signs of the challenges faced by the NATO-led coalition as it nears the end of its role in Afghanistan's war.

The second attack of the weekend, which was Sunday in Zabul Province, was the deadlier of the two latest incidents, with four coalition service members killed. The coalition said in a terse statement that the attack was "suspected to involve members of the Afghan police" and was under investigation.
[...]
The six deaths brought to 51 the number of coalition service members killed this year in insider attacks. The toll has already well exceeded last year's total of 35 killed in such violence.

9) Afghan soldier wounds foreign contractors; mob tries to storm U.S. base in Kabul
Sayed Salahuddin and Richard Leiby, Washington Post, September 17, 1:35 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/afghan-shooter-wounds-foreign-contractor-police-attacked-in-violent-protests-in-kabul/2012/09/17/b18aef14-00c7-11e2-bbf0-e33b4ee2f0e8_story.html

Kabul - An Afghan soldier opened fire on six Lebanese civilian contractors working for U.S.-led NATO forces in southern Afghanistan on Sunday night, causing minor injuries, coalition officials said Monday. The attack was the third by rogue Afghan security personnel during the weekend, when foreign six troops were killed.

The member of the Afghan National Army fired shots at six contractors riding in a vehicle near Camp Garmsir, a shared base in southern Helmand province, said Lt. Col. Hagen Messer, a coalition spokesman. Some of them were wounded, but Messer said he could not provide a specific number.

Another Afghan soldier disarmed the attacker and took him into custody, Messer said, adding that the assailant thought he was targeting foreign troops.

Over the weekend, six international troops - four Americans and two British - died after Afghan forces opened fire on them, the latest deaths in a spate of so-called insider attacks that have killed 51 NATO troops so far this year.

In Kabul, meanwhile, about 500 Afghan demonstrators attacked police with stones and sticks Monday while trying to storm a U.S. military base in the capital, authorities said. It was the first violent anti-American protest in Afghanistan over a video that Muslims worldwide have condemned as blasphemous.

Fifteen police were wounded, none seriously, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammad Najib said. The protesters also destroyed a police vehicle and torched a police post, he said.

Some demonstrators said they turned against the police after being prevented from breaching the main gate and walls surrounding Camp Phoenix, a U.S. Army base in the eastern part of the capital.

"We wanted to attack Camp Phoenix to kill the Americans but were stopped by the Afghan police, and we had to attack the police," said protester Ajmal Hotak, a 26-year-old shopkeeper.

Chanting "Death to all infidel countries," the demonstrators demanded punishment for those who made the anti-Muslim film. They also called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
[...]

Iran
10) Most Iranian dissidents moved from Iraq camp
Reuters, Sun, Sep 16 2012
http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/16/iraq-iran-dissidents-idINDEE88F07M20120916

Baghdad - Iraq has moved most Iranian dissidents out of a camp they have lived in for decades to a former U.S. military base in Baghdad, officials said on Sunday, a step that could help pave the way to the group being dropped from a U.S. terrorism blacklist.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said that about 680 members of the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) were transferred from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya on Sunday, representing the last major relocation of members of the group and ending a standoff.

"Of the 3,280 residents originally in Camp Ashraf, only a small group now remains on a temporary basis to arrange the details pursuant to the closure of the camp," said Martin Kobler, special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Iraq.
[...]

Uruguay
11) Uruguay Sees Green in Plans for a State-Run Marijuana Monopoly
Lucia Baldomir and Eric Martin, Bloomberg, Sep 13, 2012 4:00 PM CT
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-13/uruguay-sees-green-in-plans-for-a-state-run-marijuana-monopoly.html

For decades, Uruguay has been best known for the tranquil beaches of Punta del Este and picturesque Colonia, a 17th century town on the Rio de la Plata. One of South America's smallest nations, it may soon have another claim to relative fame as home to the world's first government-run marijuana market.

Leaders in Mexico, Colombia, and other Latin American nations wracked by cartel violence are calling for a new approach in the U.S.-led war on drugs. Uruguay President Jose Mujica's solution is to not just legalize pot but turn the state into the sole supplier, replacing dealers who often engage in turf wars as they move $30 million to $40 million of the drug illegally each year, according to Uruguayan government estimates.

Despite a divided public, the proposal has a strong chance of passage in Uruguay's legislature, which the president's party controls, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Sept. 17 issue. State involvement would "spoil the market" for pot dealers, "because we will sell it a lot cheaper than what they're selling it for on the black market," Mujica, 77, told CNN last month.

Marijuana possession for personal use has already been decriminalized in Uruguay, although distribution remains illegal. Under Mujica's proposal, Uruguayans older than 18 would be able to register for a monthly pot ration of up to 30 grams (1.06 ounces), though sales to foreigners would remain prohibited.

Sales would be taxed, with proceeds funding treatment for addicts of harder drugs. The government estimates there are about 150,000 marijuana users in Uruguay and that it, or a private contractor, would have to plant 150 to 200 hectares (370 to 490 acres) to meet demand.
[...]
Mujica began campaigning for the law in July, when crime was spiking, but he has yet to see results. In a recent survey by private pollster Cifra, 66 percent of respondents opposed legalizing pot sales.

The president has said he will bow to public opinion, but Secretary of the Presidency Alberto Breccia said in July that a new survey must be conducted once the full legislative language of the proposal is finalized and publicly available. "If I had to bet money, I'd say some version of this will pass, but it's not a sure thing," says Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights and social justice advocacy group.

Among the converts is Nicolas Cotugno, the archbishop of Montevideo, who said last year that he would support a move to get the cartels out of the pot business, if that would curb drug use.
[...]

---
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just 'Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews


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