JFP 3/22: No plan for Palestinian state; effect of moving drone strikes to DoD disputed

Just Foreign Policy News, March 22, 2013
No plan for Palestinian state; effect of moving drone strikes to DoD disputed

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

HuffPostLive: What Weight Does Obama's Speech Really Hold?
Just Foreign Policy talks to HuffPostLive about Obama's speech in Jerusalem, "two state fakers," and what Americans can do about it.
http://huff.lv/1058sw9

HuffPostLive: Iranians celebrate their New Year under sanctions
Just Foreign Policy joins NIAC in talking to HuffPostLive about how US sanctions on Iran, by not effectively exempting medicine, violate international law.
http://huff.lv/ZXlk67

"Gaza's Ark"
Gaza's Ark will try to break the Gaza blockade from the other side: the blockade on Gaza's exports. A boat will sail out from Gaza carrying Palestinian goods. The campaign will also attack the blockade more broadly. There are many ways to support the campaign, and they can be found here:
http://www.gazaark.org/

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Obama has offered no plan for moving towards creation of a Palestinian state, writes Daniel Levy at Foreign Policy. Levy notes that while Netanyahu repeated his two-state message, he did not incorporate that language or anything approximating it in the coalition guidelines and agreements for his new government. Less than half of Netanyahu's cabinet is on record supporting a two-state deal, and many coalition ministers, deputy ministers, and Knesset members openly advocate the annexation of the West Bank. A key missing piece is that there will be consequences for Israel if it chooses rejectionism, if not from the United States then from Europe and others, Levy writes.

2) On Page 4 of the unclassified 16-page "white paper," Justice Department lawyers tried to refute the argument that international law does not support extending armed conflict outside a battlefield, writes Emory law professor Mary Dudziak in the New York Times. They cited as historical authority a speech given May 28, 1970, by John R. Stevenson, then the top lawyer for the State Department, following the US invasion of Cambodia.

But that speech made claims about US policy that were spectacularly untrue, Dudziak notes. Stevenson claimed that except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, the US had refrained from taking action in Cambodia. But Nixon had begun his "secret" bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier. Far from providing a valuable precedent for today's counterterrorism campaign, the Cambodia bombing illustrates the trouble with secrecy, she writes.

3) Senior U.S. officials say the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA's lethal targeting program to the Defense Department, the Daily Beast reports. The move could potentially toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program's accountability, and increase transparency, Daniel Klaidman writes. The military considers itself bound by international law and specifically the laws of war. The CIA, on the other hand, has signaled that while it follows "all applicable law," international law does not necessarily apply to all of its activities.

But it is not clear that the bureaucratic shift will usher in a new era of openness and accountability, Klaidman notes. Targeted killing operations will likely be run by the highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command. In fact, there's at least a chance that the change could mean less congressional oversight rather than more. There's nothing in the law that says the military has to brief congressional committees about its lethal activities. The CIA, on the other hand, is compelled under Title 50 to notify Congress of its intelligence activities.

4) Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed concern in a speech in Chicago that America's aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism, the New York Times reports.

An administration plan, not yet approved, to gradually move some drone operations that are now run by the C.I.A. to the military may have little practical effect, at least in the short term, the Times says. Because the proposal being examined by the National Security Council would most likely leave drone operations in Pakistan under the C.I.A., the practical impact of such a move in the short term would appear to be quite limited. To date, the vast majority of American drone strikes and other kinds of targeted counterterrorism strikes outside conventional wars have been carried out in Pakistan, where the C.I.A. operates on its own - 365 strikes, by the count of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, compared with about 45 in Yemen and a handful in Somalia.

Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School, disputed the notion that moving the drone strike program entirely to the Defense Department would necessarily make it more open, particularly if it is to be operated by JSOC. "We know JSOC is far more secretive than the C.I.A., and that Congressional oversight is weaker," said Shah.

But Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who studies counterterrorism strikes, said that in the long run, a move away from the covert side of the C.I.A. might make sense, allowing Congress to discuss the strikes and their consequences far more fully in public. "If it's a priority of the president and the secretary of defense, the military can be far more open than the C.I.A.," Zenko said.

5) Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged President Barack Obama in a letter Wednesday to end the war in Afghanistan and provide a minimal number of U.S. troops beyond 2014, the Huffington Post reports. Their letter highlights the reality that the end-date of 2014 for the U.S. combat mission does not necessarily the end for U.S. involvement, HuffPo notes. Their call for limiting the number of troops after 2014 challenges some generals who have called for 20,000 troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. U.S. and NATO officials are discussing a plan of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with American and allied contributions.

That remaining force, the size of which remains under discussion, is still not very well-known by the public, wrote Anatol Lieven in the New York Review of Books. "A very strange idea has spread in the Western media concerning Afghanistan: that the U.S. military is withdrawing from the country next year, and that the present Afghan war has therefore entered into an 'endgame.' The use of these phrases reflects a degree of unconscious wishful thinking that amounts to collective self-delusion."

6) The mandate of the U.N. mission in Haiti includes ensuring "individual accountability for human rights abuses and redress for victims," note Charanya Krishnaswami and Muneer Ahmad of the Yale Law School's Transnational Development Clinic in the Washington Post. But instead of fulfilling its obligations to the 600,000 Haitians affected by a cholera outbreak it caused, the UN is hiding behind a claim of immunity. International law requires the UN to provide a way for parties to bring claims against UN forces, they note. The same convention the UN cites as bestowing legal immunity says the UN must "make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement" for claims that arise from its missions. Although it has signed about 50 peacekeeping agreements since 1990, not once has the UN set up a claims commission, a World Justice Project analysis noted last August.

Afghanistan
7) The US military and the Afghan government have reached a deal on the pullout of US special operations forces and their Afghan counterparts from a strategic eastern province after complaints that they were involved in human rights abuses, AP reports. It was a symbolic victory for Karzai, who has long complained that US special operations forces and their Afghan partners are outside his control, AP says. It will also speed the handover of security in the province.

Haiti
8) Haiti's most prominent political party said Thursday it will try again to run candidates in upcoming legislative elections after being banned in the two most recent votes, AP reports. Maryse Narcisse, a spokeswoman for the political party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said the Lavalas Family party plans to run in the still-unscheduled vote.

Officials blocked the party from elections in 2009 and 2010, saying its representative, Aristide, was not present to sign paperwork. Aristide had been in exile in South Africa since he was toppled [in a US-backed coup - JFP] in 2004. Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011 despite opposition from the US.

The U.N. and other International partners have rebuked Haitian officials for not holding the elections, AP notes, saying Haiti risks isolation if the vote isn't held before year's end.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Nice Speech, Mr. President
Obama said all the right things in Jerusalem. Now what?
Daniel Levy, Foreign Policy, March 21, 2013
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/03/21/nice_speech_mr_president_obama_israel

[Levy is director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, based in London. He is also senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and a board member of the New Israel Fund.]

Something odd happened during Wednesday's press conference between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. When asked to address the Palestinian issue, the U.S. president on three occasions said that he would have more to say when he spoke directly to the Israeli people. The apparent takeaway is that for Obama, spending (wasting?) too much time trying to make progress with the Israeli prime minister on the Palestinian question is an exercise in futility -- a recognition that the politics would have to change first and that the Israeli public would be key to any political shift.

When Obama finally did get around to addressing that Israeli public in Thursday's speech in Jerusalem, the president made the point unequivocally: "Political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see." Some might say Obama was following his own domestic playbook, as he has on issues from taxes to budget cuts to gun control. It's as if he sees Bibi as an obstacle to change on par with the House Republicans or the Tea Party.
[...]
So far so good, Mr. President. Great speech, but what next? The visit has offered nothing new on the programmatic side, no plan for going forward. My hunch is that Obama knows that putting Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas back in a room together will achieve nothing, and that he is in no great hurry or places no great faith in those talks. Obama will also be very aware that while Netanyahu repeated his two-state message in their press conference, he nonetheless did not incorporate that language or anything approximating it in the coalition guidelines and agreements for his new government. Less than half of Netanyahu's cabinet is on record supporting a two-state deal, and many coalition ministers, deputy ministers, and Knesset members openly advocate the annexation of the West Bank. Obama presumably also knows that making one speech and then hoping that the Israeli public will do the rest of the work is not serious.

If Obama does decide to prioritize a peace deal during his second term, and that is a big if, an admittedly optimistic take could look like this: Secretary of State John Kerry might shuttle between the parties to discuss the parameters and even convene direct or trilateral talks. He will also court support from Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Obama in his Ramallah press conference with Abbas seemed to rule out a focus on incremental steps for their own sake (he might be tempted by the idea of a Palestinian state with interim borders, but on that too Netanyahu's best offer will fall short of providing an opening). Progress will be elusive; Netanyahu will offer little.

Eventually, if Kerry makes a convincing case, the president might conclude that a moment of choice has arrived and put forward his own terms of reference for convening an international conference or something similar. He mentioned his previous parameters during the Jerusalem speech, which included borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. Obama would then draw on the credit accrued during this visit to appeal directly to the Israeli public in the face of predictable recalcitrance from Netanyahu. The Israeli center might be impressed and might even generate a little pressure. Like I said, optimistic stuff.

And sadly, even this would be insufficient if several other pieces are not put in place. Key among those is that there will be consequences for Israel if it chooses rejectionism, if not from the United States then from Europe and others; that there is a politically empowered Palestinian side no longer weakened by its current divisions; and that a detailed and nuanced plan exists for engaging with Israel's myriad tribal political leaders, including those who were not in the room on this visit and in whom Obama has yet to take an interest, such as the Haredi and Palestinian-Arab parties. Big ifs indeed.

Still, nice speech, Mr. President.

2) Obama's Nixonian Precedent
Mary L. Dudziak, New York Times, March 21, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/opinion/obamas-nixonian-precedent.html

[Dudziak is a professor of law and director of the Project on War and Security in Law, Culture and Society at Emory University.]

Atlanta - On March 17, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon began a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, sending B-52 bombers over the border from South Vietnam. This episode, largely buried in history, resurfaced recently in an unexpected place: the Obama administration's "white paper" justifying targeted killings of Americans suspected of involvement in terrorism.

President Obama is reportedly considering moving control of the drone program from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Defense Department, as questions about the program's legality continue to be asked. But this shift would do nothing to confer legitimacy to the drone strikes. The legitimacy problem comes from the secrecy itself - not which entity secretly does the killing. Secrecy has been used to hide presidential overreach - as the Cambodia example shows.

On Page 4 of the unclassified 16-page "white paper," Justice Department lawyers tried to refute the argument that international law does not support extending armed conflict outside a battlefield. They cited as historical authority a speech given May 28, 1970, by John R. Stevenson, then the top lawyer for the State Department, following the United States' invasion of Cambodia.

Since 1965, "the territory of Cambodia has been used by North Vietnam as a base of military operations," he told the New York City Bar Association. "It long ago reached a level that would have justified us in taking appropriate measures of self-defense on the territory of Cambodia. However, except for scattered instances of returning fire across the border, we refrained until April from taking such action in Cambodia."

In fact, Nixon had begun his secret bombing of Cambodia more than a year earlier. (It is not clear whether Mr. Stevenson knew this.) So the Obama administration's lawyers have cited a statement that was patently false.
[...]
A more limited, secret bombing campaign in Cambodia had begun in 1965 during Lyndon B. Johnson's administration, but Nixon escalated it to carpet-bombing. The aim was to disrupt Communist bases and supply routes. The New York Times reported on it two months after it began, but the White House denied it, and the trail went cold. When the bombing began, Nixon even kept it a secret from his secretary of state, William P. Rogers. Worried about leaks, Nixon told Henry A. Kissinger, his national security adviser: "State is to be notified only after the point of no return."

The bombing campaign, called Operation Breakfast, was carried out through out-and-out deception. Sixty B-52 bombers were prepared for a bombing run over targets in Vietnam. After the usual pre-mission briefing, pilots and navigators of 48 planes were then pulled aside and informed that they would receive new coordinates from a radar installation in Vietnam. Their planes would be diverted to Cambodia. But the destination was kept secret even from some crew members. The historian Marilyn B. Young found an "elaborate system of double reporting," such that "even the secret records of B-52 bombing targets were falsified so that nowhere was it recorded that the raids had ever taken place."

So the sort of "scattered instances of returning fire across the border" cited by Mr. Stevenson were actually regular bombing runs by B-52's. Over 14 months, nearly 4,000 flights dropped 103,921 tons of explosives, followed by more extensive bombing farther into Cambodia. Mr. Kissinger later claimed that he had been assured that there were no civilians in the area, which was not the case. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese response was to move farther into Cambodia. The bombers followed.

Eventually, select members of Congress were notified, and an effort by Representative John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, to add the bombing to the Watergate articles of impeachment failed. Critics have argued that the ultimate result of Nixon's strategy was to destabilize the government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk and enable the Khmer Rouge's ascent to power in 1975, and the subsequent genocide.

The Cambodia bombing, far from providing a valuable precedent for today's counterterrorism campaign, illustrates the trouble with secrecy: It doesn't work. If Nixon had gone to Congress or announced the plan publicly, the historian Jeffrey P. Kimball has written, "there would have been an uproar." But disclosure was ultimately forced upon him when he decided to send ground troops into Cambodia. A new wave of giant antiwar protests erupted, and Nixon's ability to take further aggressive action became infeasible.

Barack Obama is, of course, no Richard Nixon - we expect better of him. And we deserve the transparency he promised us, not a new version of secret warfare.

3) Exclusive: No More Drones for CIA
Daniel Klaidman, Daily Beast, Mar 19, 2013 11:41 PM EDT
Three senior officials tell Daniel Klaidman that the Obama administration is poised to shift the CIA's drone program to the Pentagon.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/19/exclusive-no-more-drones-for-cia.html

At a time when controversy over the Obama administration's drone program seems to be cresting, the CIA is close to taking a major step toward getting out of the targeted killing business. Three senior U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast that the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA's lethal targeting program to the Defense Department.

The move could potentially toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program's accountability, and increase transparency. Currently, the government maintains parallel drone programs, one housed in the CIA and the other run by the Department of Defense. The proposed plan would unify the command and control structure of targeted killings and create a uniform set of rules and procedures. The CIA would maintain a role, but the military would have operational control over targeting. Lethal missions would take place under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs military operations, rather than Title 50, which sets out the legal authorities for intelligence activities and covert operations. "This is a big deal," says one senior administration official who has been briefed on the plan. "It would be a pretty strong statement."

Officials anticipate a phased-in transition in which the CIA's drone operations would be gradually shifted over to the military, a process that could take as little as a year. Others say it might take longer but would occur during President Obama's second term. "You can't just flip a switch, but it's on a reasonably fast track," says one U.S. official. During that time, CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles.
[...]
How does the CIA's targeted killing program differ from the military's—and what are the implications of shifting one program into the other? Perhaps most important is that the CIA's program is "covert"—which is to say it is not only highly classified, it's deniable under the law. That means the CIA, in theory, can lie about the existence of the program or about particular operations. The military's targeted killing program, however, is "clandestine"—which means it is secret but not deniable.

There are other important differences between how the two programs are run, especially the process by which killing decisions are made. Since the inception of the drone program, targeting decisions have been made inside the CIA with little or no input from other agencies, though the White House sometimes weighs in. In deciding who should be placed on its kill list, the military, on the other hand, subjects itself to robust interagency vetting, where officials and lawyers from across the national security bureaucracy weigh in on individual targeting "nominations." While the CIA's process is said to be extremely rigorous—in some ways even more rigorous than the military's—the opportunity for, say, the State Department legal adviser to be heard on lethal activities adds an extra layer of accountability. With the CIA's program moving to the Pentagon, the DOD's vetting procedures will prevail.

Another difference is the role of Obama himself. Upon taking office, Obama had decreed that he would sign off on individual kill or capture operations conducted by the military away from traditional battlefields; he does not, by contrast, sign off on all CIA strikes.
[...]
There are other ways in which the military's program is more constrained than the CIA's. Typically, though not always, the military's lethal activities occur under a congressional grant of authority in the context of an armed conflict. The CIA can resort to lethal force simply when the president issues a covert finding—one that the American people may never know about. Another key legal difference: the military considers itself bound by international law and specifically the laws of war. The CIA, on the other hand, has signaled that while it follows "all applicable law," international law does not necessarily apply to all of its activities.

To be sure, even with these distinctions, it is not clear that the bureaucratic shift will usher in a new era of openness and accountability. For one thing, targeted killing operations will likely be run by the highly secretive Joint Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for shadow warriors like the Navy SEALs and Delta Force. And while they run clandestine, rather than covert operations, JSOC is not known for its eagerness to advertise its operations with the press or Congress.

In fact, there's at least a chance that the change could mean less congressional oversight rather than more. There's nothing in the law that says the military has to brief congressional committees about its lethal activities. The CIA, on the other hand, is compelled under Title 50 to notify Congress of its intelligence activities. Says Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor and former Justice Department official during the Bush administration: "Moving lethal drone operations exclusively to DOD might bring benefits. But DOD's lethal operations are no less secretive than the CIA's, and congressional oversight of DOD ops is significantly weaker" compared with congressional oversight of the CIA. (Still, as a matter of policy, the Obama administration has taken it upon itself to "back-brief" Congress after any of its targeted killings away from conventional battlefields.)
[...]

4) As New Drone Policy Is Weighed, Few Practical Effects Are Seen
Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, New York Times, March 21, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/us/influential-ex-aide-to-obama-voices-concern-on-drone-strikes.html

Chicago - Under growing pressure to bring greater transparency and accountability to its use of targeted killing, the Obama administration is struggling to transform a program that was conceived under pressure, has operated in a secretive and often haphazard manner and has left the United States increasingly isolated even from its allies.

For months, President Obama and his aides have promised they will move to break down the wall of secrecy and work with Congress to create a more lasting legal framework for the drone strikes. But the only proposal to surface so far - an administration plan, not yet approved, to gradually move some drone operations that are now run by the C.I.A. to the military - may have little practical effect, at least in the short term.

That only underscores the problem the Obama administration faces in trying to institutionalize a program that national security officials believe will be at the center of American warfare for years to come, while placating a growing chorus of critics challenging the targeted killing program on legal, moral and practical grounds.

In recent months, the criticism from human rights activists, United Nations officials and some friendly foreign governments has been joined by a number of former senior American military and intelligence officials who argue that the costs of the drone program might exceed its benefits. In the latest example, Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favored adviser during Mr. Obama's first term, expressed concern in a speech here on Thursday that America's aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism.

"We're seeing that blowback," General Cartwright, who is retired from the military, said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted."

General Cartwright also expressed skepticism about the draft proposal to transfer some drone operations to the military, saying that he worried about a "blurring of the line" between soldiers and spies if the Pentagon was put in charge of drone operations in sovereign countries "outside a declared area of hostility." He said that if there are problems with the drone program, moving it "from one part of the government to another" would not necessarily solve them.

Currently, the Pentagon has responsibility for drones in Afghanistan, Somalia and in Yemen, where the C.I.A. also runs a separate program. Because the proposal being examined by the National Security Council would most likely leave drone operations in Pakistan under the C.I.A., the practical impact of such a move in the short term would appear to be quite limited. To date, the vast majority of American drone strikes and other kinds of targeted counterterrorism strikes outside conventional wars have been carried out in Pakistan, where the C.I.A. operates on its own - 365 strikes, by the count of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, compared with about 45 in Yemen and a handful in Somalia.

That would mean the greatest impact of a shift of strikes to military control would be in Yemen, where both the C.I.A. and the military's Joint Special Operations Command have carried out strikes. Hence the move may be most important symbolically rather than practically, as a statement of the United States' long-term intentions.

While many experts argue that the military should be better than the C.I.A. at carrying out precise lethal operations, the strikes have not always played out that way. In Yemen, for example, Mr. Obama brought the C.I.A. into the drone campaign in 2011 in part because several of the military's strikes went awry, killing women and children and a popular deputy governor.

Some close observers of the drone program disputed the widely repeated notion that moving it entirely to the Defense Department would necessarily make it more open, particularly if it is to be operated by the Joint Special Operations Command, among the least transparent elements of the military.

"We know JSOC is far more secretive than the C.I.A., and that Congressional oversight is weaker," said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School. She said that while units under the Joint Special Operations Command were accused of serious abuse of prisoners in Iraq, "it never had to face public scrutiny about it in the way the C.I.A. did."

Ms. Shah said she was "concerned that this 'C.I.A. out of drones' story is a shortcut by the administration, an effort to deflect criticism of the drone program without directly answering that criticism."

But Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who studies counterterrorism strikes, said that in the long run, a move away from the covert side of the C.I.A. might make sense, allowing Congress to discuss the strikes and their consequences far more fully in public.

"If it's a priority of the president and the secretary of defense, the military can be far more open than the C.I.A.," Mr. Zenko said.
[...]

5) Rand Paul, Jeff Merkley And Sherrod Brown Urge Obama To End Afghanistan War
Luke Johnson, Huffington Post, 3/21/2013
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/rand-paul-afghanistan_n_2923900.html

Washington -- Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged President Barack Obama in a letter Wednesday to end the war in Afghanistan and provide a minimal number of U.S. troops beyond 2014.

"Mr. President, our valiant men and women have fought bravely in Afghanistan for over a decade. But after twelve years of conflict, it is time to bring our troops home," they wrote in the letter, provided Thursday to The Huffington Post. "We urge you to heed the wishes of the majority of Americans by bringing our sons and daughters home safely and swiftly, and, in doing so, ending America's longest war."

The union of the three senators illustrates that calls to end the over-12-year Afghanistan War transcend traditional partisan lines. Their letter also highlights the reality that the end-date of 2014 for the U.S. combat mission does not necessarily the end for U.S. involvement.

"After 2014, we urge you to keep only as many troops necessary to pursue a limited counter-terrorism mission and assist in training the Afghan Nation Security Forces," the senators wrote.

Their call for limiting the number of troops after 2014 challenges some generals, such as James N. Mattis of the Central Command, who have called for 20,000 troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. U.S. and NATO officials are discussing a plan of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with American and allied contributions. The White House has floated a so-called zero option of no troops beyond 2014; however, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration had not asked senior military officials to assess the scenario.

That remaining force, the size of which remains under discussion, is still not very well-known by the public, wrote Anatol Lieven, a fellow at the New America Foundation, in the New York Review of Books. "A very strange idea has spread in the Western media concerning Afghanistan: that the U.S. military is withdrawing from the country next year, and that the present Afghan war has therefore entered into an 'endgame.' The use of these phrases reflects a degree of unconscious wishful thinking that amounts to collective self-delusion."

The U.S. signed a treaty with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in May 2012 that allows for U.S. bases -- though not permanent installments -- beyond 2014. "Afghanistan shall provide U.S. forces continued access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014, and beyond as may be agreed in the Bilateral Security Agreement," reads the agreement, signed by both countries.

The U.S. has about 66,000 troops still in Afghanistan, with 34,000 set to leave by early 2014.

The senators pressed Obama to stay true to the words of his inaugural address. "You stated: 'We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,'" they wrote. "The next few months present a genuine opportunity to fulfill this goal in a manner consistent with core U.S. national security interests."
[...]

6) U.N. hypocrisy in Haiti
Charanya Krishnaswami and Muneer I. Ahmad, Washington Post, March 21, 2013
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/un-hypocrisy-in-haiti/2013/03/21/1b3c9a10-8d87-11e2-9f54-f3fdd70acad2_story.html

[Krishnaswami is a student at Yale Law School and a member of the Transnational Development Clinic. Ahmad is a professor at Yale Law School, where he directs the Transnational Development Clinic.]

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The mandate of the U.N. mission in Haiti includes ensuring "individual accountability for human rights abuses and redress for victims." Yet instead of fulfilling its obligations to the roughly 600,000 Haitians affected by a cholera outbreak it caused, the United Nations is hiding, shamefully, behind a claim of immunity. By refusing to right its own wrong, the international body is violating the principles of international accountability and human rights that it purports to promote.

For all its challenges, Haiti was free of cholera for about a century before a U.N. peacekeeping force arrived from Nepal in October 2010. Although there had been an outbreak of cholera in Nepal shortly before the troops left for Haiti, the U.N. mission failed to appropriately screen the peacekeepers for the disease. This error was compounded by the United Nations' failure to provide the peacekeeping mission adequate sanitation facilities at their base in the town of Mirebalais. As a result, cholera-infected waste leaked into a tributary to Haiti's largest river, the Artibonite.Because many Haitians depend on the river for water, the spread of cholera was as rapid as it was deadly, killing more than 8,000 people, as of last month, and sickening hundreds of thousands of others.

Cholera continues to infect 1,500 people here every week. Community health advocates told us this week that patients lack access to care and simple life-saving supplies, thanks in part to continued U.N. inaction. Victims living steps away from the U.N. base - every one of whom has lost a relative, a friend or a neighbor in the outbreak - expressed their anger at the organization and their hopes to see it brought to justice.

Although a 2011 U.N. report conceded that the strains of cholera "isolated in Nepal and Haiti" were "a perfect match," the United Nations denies responsibility for the outbreak. In November 2011, 5,000 victims of the disease, represented by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a Boston-based human rights group, and the Haitian Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, filed claims for compensation under the procedures the United Nations promised to create as part of its agreement for sending peacekeepers to Haiti. After ignoring the claims for more than a year, the United Nations announced in late February that they were "not receivable" because the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities gave it legal immunity.
[...]
The U.N. failure to acknowledge the Haitians' claims is both immoral and illegal. International law requires the organization to provide a way for parties to bring claims against peacekeeping forces. The same convention the United Nations cites as bestowing legal immunity says that the organization must "make provisions for appropriate modes of settlement" for claims that arise from its missions. Simply put, if the United Nations harms innocent bystanders, it must give those people a way to obtain justice and seek compensation for their injuries.

The United Nations appeared to honor this obligation in 2004, when it entered into a status-of-forces agreement with Haiti that, among its provisions, required the U.N. mission to set up a commission to hear claims Haitians might have against U.N. peacekeeping forces. This is the claims process that victims of the epidemic tried to use in 2011. Yet in its statement last month, the United Nations made no mention of its obligation to establish a claims commission.

This is not the first time the United Nations has ignored its duty to establish a claims commission. Although it has signed about 50 similar peacekeeping agreements since 1990, not once has the United Nations set up a commission, a World Justice Project analysis noted last August.
[...]

Afghanistan
7) US and Afghanistan reach deal on pullout of American special forces
Agreement calls for US-led coalition with Afghan forces to leave eastern province after claims of human rights abuses
Associated Press, Wednesday 20 March 2013 14.07 EDT
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/20/us-afghanistan-deal-pullout

The US military and the Afghan government have reached a deal on the pullout of American special operations forces and their Afghan counterparts from a strategic eastern province after complaints that they were involved in human rights abuses.

American military officials have steadfastly denied the Afghan abuse allegations, which led the president, Hamid Karzai, to demand the withdrawal of the US commandos from Wardak province despite fears the decision could leave the area and the neighbouring capital of Kabul more vulnerable to al-Qaida and other insurgents.

The agreement calls for the US-led coalition to withdraw the special operations forces from Wardak's Nirkh district, the area where the abuses allegedly occurred, along with the Afghan forces who work with them, as they are replaced by the Afghan army or national police. The rest of the province would "transition over time," according to a statement.

It was a symbolic victory for Karzai, who has long complained that US special operations forces and their Afghan partners are outside his control. It will also speed the handover of security in the troubled province, faster than US officials and some members of Karzai's government had recommended or planned.

An Afghan defence ministry spokesman, General Zahir Azimi, said Afghan forces were ready to fill the gap.
[...]

Haiti
8) Political party of Haiti ex-President Aristide hopes to run in elections; banned twice before
Trenton Daniel, Associated Press, March 21, 2013
http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Political+party+Haiti+exPresident+Aristide+hopes+elections/8132351/story.html

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Haiti's most prominent political party said Thursday it will try again to run candidates in upcoming legislative elections after being banned in the two most recent votes.

Maryse Narcisse, a spokeswoman for the political party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, said in an interview on the privately run station Radio Kiskeya that the Lavalas Family party plans to run in the still-unscheduled vote.

"We decided to go to the elections with all our strength so that we can give the population the victory that it's been waiting for," Narcisse said, an apparent dig at the administration of President Michel Martelly, who has described his 2011 election as a "victory for the people."

Officials blocked the party from elections in 2009 and 2010, saying its representative, Aristide, was not present to sign paperwork. The ex-leader had been in exile in South Africa since he was toppled in 2004 in a violent rebellion, his second ouster as president.

Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011 despite opposition from the United States and has kept a low profile since, opting to stay in his compound in the capital.

The party is Haiti's most prominent in large part because of its ties to Aristide, a former priest admired by the poor majority but reviled by a small yet powerful elite. It also remains well known because there are few if any established political parties with the same kind of name recognition in this country of 10 million people.

The upcoming vote seeks to fill 10 seats in the 30-member Senate and scores of seats at the local level.

Haiti was supposed to hold elections in 2011. But authorities haven't been able to agree on the composition of an electoral body that will organize the vote, the opposing sides fearful it may be stacked in the favour of others.

In the absence of the elections, the Martelly government has replaced some 130 elected municipal governments with presidential appointees, according to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

The U.N. and other International partners have rebuked Haitian officials for not holding the elections, saying Haiti risks isolation if the vote isn't held before year's end.

--
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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