JFP News 9/12: The Real Failure of the Afghan Election

Just Foreign Policy News
September 23, 2009


The Real Failure of the Afghan Election
The post-election claims about the Afghan election have had the unfortunate effect of obscuring a far more fundamental consequence for evaluating the future of US policy. The fundamental failure was not the attempted theft of votes by some Karzai supporters and some Abdullah supporters. The fundamental failure was the failure of the US and allied forces to provide security for the election, as they had promised to do. If the US and its allies could not establish security for this single event, an event on which they were highly focused, an event for which they had explicitly increased their forces in the country, that suggests that current plans to provide security by increasing foreign forces will fail, absent a broad political process to resolve Afghanistan's conflicts - a political process that must include the "Taliban" insurgencies to be successful.
http://www.truthout.org/092209R?n

Withdraw from Afghanistan with a Public, Negotiated Timetable
In this short video from the CATO forum, Just Foreign Policy makes the case for a timetable for withdrawal.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/exit-afghanistan

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Biden to scale back US forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda, the New York Times reports. Aides said Obama might just be testing assumptions - and assuring liberals in his own party that he was not rushing into a further expansion of the war - before ultimately agreeing to the anticipated troop request from General McChrystal.

2) Brazil wants an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the situation at its embassy in Honduras, where President Zelaya has taken refuge, CNN reports. The Brazilian request for a Security Council meeting came after the Honduran government isolated the embassy by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building. Brazil's foreign minister Amorim called the action a "very serious" move that violated international law.

3) Brazilian President Lula, the first world leader to address the U.N. General Assembly, called for President Zelaya to be reinstated, Reuters reports. Lula added that international political will was needed to avoid similar coups in other countries. In reporting Brazil's request for an urgent meeting of the Security Council, Reuters notes that the General Assembly demanded "the immediate and unconditional restoration" of President Zelaya, but that General Assembly resolutions, unlike those of the Security Council, are not binding.

4) The U.S. is looking "positively" at Brazil's request for a Security Council session on Honduras, according to the transcript of the daily State Department press briefing.

5) President Obama faces significant doubts from the US public about the war in Afghanistan and his handling of foreign policy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Even when reminded of the nation's potential vulnerability to losing the war started to rout al Qaeda, a plurality was unmoved; 45% said they were most concerned that the nation would invest lives and resources into the war with little to show for it; 44% said they were more concerned that the nation wouldn't do enough to confront al Qaeda and the Taliban and would be more vulnerable because of it. Only 38% favor an immediate and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, while 55% oppose a pullout. That is reminiscent of the public-opinion stalemate that faced lawmakers on Iraq when that war began going poorly, the Journal says. [It was precisely in that situation - with the public against the war in Iraq but against immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops - that Members of Congress advocated a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces - JFP.]

6) Half of Americans (50%) say military troops should remain in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized, while 43% favor removing U.S. and NATO troops as soon as possible, the Pew Research Center reports. Most Democrats (56%) favor removing troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Just 37% of Democrats say U.S. and NATO troops should remain in the country

7) Representative Farr says legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, Bloomberg reports. "If you are a potato, you can get to Cuba very easily," Farr said. "But if you are a person, you can't, and that is our problem." Ending the travel ban may lead as many as 1 million Americans to visit the island every year the president of the National Tour Association said.

Honduras
8) A 65-year-old supporter of President Zelaya was shot dead in a clash between police and supporters of Zelaya, Reuters reports.

9) Amnesty International reported that police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights groups have risen sharply in Honduras since the coup, including the firing of tear gas at the building of a prominent rights group on Monday with 100 men, women and children inside. Amnesty received information that dozens of protestors were taken to unauthorized detention sites across the capital. Mass arbitrary arrests may make those detained vulnerable to human rights abuses such as ill-treatment, torture or enforced disappearance, Amnesty says. Radio Globo and TV channel 36 yesterday suffered power stoppages or constant interruptions to their transmissions which prevented them from broadcasting.

Israel/Palestine
10) Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad said he has won broad international support for his plan to ready the Palestinians for statehood within two years, AP reports. Fayyad sidestepped the question of whether the Palestinians would unilaterally declare statehood at the end of that period if a peace deal with Israel is not in place.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Obama Is Considering Strategy Shift In Afghan War
Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, September 23, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/asia/23policy.html

Washington - President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.

The options under review are part of what administration officials described as a wholesale reconsideration of a strategy the president announced with fanfare just six months ago. Two new intelligence reports are being conducted to evaluate Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.

The sweeping reassessment has been prompted by deteriorating conditions on the ground, the messy and still unsettled outcome of the Afghan elections and a dire report by Obama's new commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Aides said the president wanted to examine whether the strategy he unveiled in March was still the best approach and whether it could work with the extra combat forces General McChrystal wants.

In looking at other options, aides said, Obama might just be testing assumptions - and assuring liberals in his own party that he was not rushing into a further expansion of the war - before ultimately agreeing to the anticipated troop request from General McChrystal. But the review suggests the president is having second thoughts about how deeply to engage in an intractable eight-year conflict that is not going well.

Although Obama has said that a stable Afghanistan is central to the security of the United States, some advisers said he was also wary of becoming trapped in an overseas quagmire.
[...]
Among the alternatives being presented to Obama is Biden's suggestion to revamp the strategy altogether. Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Biden proposed scaling back the overall American military presence. Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics.

The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan. Biden has often said that the United States spends something like $30 in Afghanistan for every $1 in Pakistan, even though in his view the main threat to American national security interests is in Pakistan.

Obama rejected Biden's approach in March, and it is not clear that it has more traction this time. But the fact that it is on the table again speaks to the breadth of the administration's review and the evolving views inside the White House of what has worked in the region and what has not. In recent days, officials have expressed satisfaction with the results of their cooperation with Pakistan in hunting down Qaeda figures in the unforgiving border lands.
[...]

2) Brazil asks for emergency U.N. meeting on Honduras, report says
CNN, September 23, 2009
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/23/honduras.brazil.un/index.html

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Brazil wants an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the situation at its embassy in Honduras, where the ousted Honduran president has been holed up since returning to his country, the official Brazilian news agency reported.
[...]
The United States and Brazil have said they support dialogue between the two sides, centered on the San Jose Accord, an agreement negotiated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. That accord calls for Zelaya to be restored to power.

The Brazilian request for a Security Council meeting came after the Honduran government isolated the embassy by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed to reporters Tuesday.

Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, called the action a "very serious" move that violated international law.
[...]
Maria Luiza Viotti, Brazil's chief representative to the United Nations, asked for the Security Council meeting Tuesday, the Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

About 100 people remained inside the embassy Tuesday night, many of them supporters and friends of Zelaya, Nunes Amorim said.
[...]
Amnesty International on Wednesday denounced what it called "a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders in Honduras since the June coup d'état and warned that fundamental rights and the rule of law in the Central American nation are in grave jeopardy."

Amnesty International said police fired tear gas Tuesday at a building housing a prominent human rights organization. Around 100 people, including women and children, were inside, Amnesty said. Many were there to denounce what they called police abuse, the rights group said.

"The situation in Honduras can only be described as alarming," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International. "The attacks against human rights defenders, suspension of news outlets, beating of demonstrators by the police and ever increasing reports of mass arrests indicate that human rights and the rule of law in Honduras are at grave risk."
[...]

3) At U.N., Brazil's Lula demands Zelaya reinstatement
Claudia Parsons and Terry Wade, Reuters, Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:56am EDT
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE58M2YW20090923

United Nations - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the first world leader to address the U.N. General Assembly, called on Wednesday for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to be reinstated.

"The international community demands that Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras," Lula said, drawing applause from the hall.

Zelaya remained holed up in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital. He had been due to address the General Assembly on Wednesday as part of the general debate attended by heads of state and government from around the world.
[...]
Lula added that international political will was needed to avoid similar coups in other countries. Brazil is seeking an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the crisis in Honduras.
[...]
Just days after Zelaya was ousted in June, the General Assembly passed a resolution condemning what it called a coup d'etat and demanded "the immediate and unconditional restoration of the legitimate and constitutional government" of Zelaya.

General Assembly resolutions, unlike those of the Security Council, are not binding.
[...]

4) State Department Daily Press Briefing
Ian Kelly, State Department, September 23, 2009
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/sept/129525.htm
[...]
HONDURAS
[...]
KELLY: [...] President Zelaya is still in the Embassy, in the Brazilian Embassy. It looks like things have calmed down there. Water and power have been restored. Food and water are being delivered to the Embassy. And also, the staff has been allowed to depart under police - with police coordination. And we're happy that we were able to play a helpful, facilitative role in helping restore these services and lower the tension around the compound.

QUESTION: What exactly was the U.S. role?
KELLY: Well, I think that we helped as to reinforce the message that the - not Geneva - Vienna Convention had to be respected, the inviolability of the Brazilian Embassy had to be respected. We helped get some of the personnel out. We provided some vehicles. But mostly, it was a liaison role to help restore the power and water, and also get personnel out and back to their homes.
[...]
KELLY: [...]In addition, the Brazilian Government has formally requested that the UN Security Council convene to discuss the safety and security of President Zelaya and Brazilian facilities and personnel in Honduras. And as we are the - we have the presidency of the Security Council this month, and in our capacity as the president of the Security Council, we're working on this request.

In general, we continue to work with our partners in the UN and the OAS to come up with means to promote a dialogue and defuse the tensions, of course with the ultimate goal of resolving the crisis. And we're continuing our consultations with our partners in the region, and enlisting wherever we can their assistance in this process. I want to say that President Arias has done an outstanding job as a mediator, and we hope that his services can continue to facilitate the crisis.

And finally, on the 22nd, the OAS met yesterday. The OAS Permanent Council met and issued a statement calling for the immediate signing of the San Jose Accord and the restoration of President Zelaya to office.
[...]
KELLY: [...] And we have consistently taken a multilateral approach. Our efforts are focused mostly in the OAS, and they will continue to stay in the OAS. But we, as the president of the UN Security Council, we of course are going to consider this request and move it forward. We don't have any details on when exactly the meeting will take place, but we're looking at it positively.

5) Poll Reflects Afghan War Doubts
Obama Slips on Foreign Policy, but Gains on Health-Care and Economic Fronts
Jonathan Weisman, Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2009
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125365402637131937.html

President Barack Obama faces significant doubts from the American public about the war in Afghanistan and his handling of foreign policy, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
[...]
As Obama ramps up his focus on diplomacy this week - at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and then hosting a summit of world leaders in Pittsburgh - approval of the job he is doing on foreign policy has dropped to 50% from 57% in July.


Americans are pessimistic about the prospects of victory in Afghanistan; 59% say they are feeling less confident that the war will come to a successful conclusion. And 51% say they would oppose sending more troops to the conflict.
[...]
Meanwhile, the intensifying debate in Washington over how to handle Afghanistan mirrors divisions in the country at large. Almost half the country, 49%, sees the war in Afghanistan as somewhat or very unsuccessful; 46% see success, but only 8% see it as very successful.

Even when reminded of the nation's potential vulnerability to losing the war started to rout al Qaeda, a plurality was unmoved; 45% said they were most concerned that the nation would invest lives and resources into the war with little to show for it; 44% said they were more concerned that the nation wouldn't do enough to confront al Qaeda and the Taliban and would be more vulnerable because of it.
[...]
At the same time, only 38% favor an immediate and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, while 55% oppose a pullout. That is reminiscent of the public-opinion stalemate that faced lawmakers on Iraq when that war began going poorly.
[...]

6) Public Support for Afghanistan War Wanes
Majority of Democrats Favor Removing Troops
Pew Research Center For The People & The Press, September 22, 2009
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1349/support-falls-afghanistan-war-troop-removal

Public support for keeping U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has declined since June, and Americans express decidedly mixed views about whether the United States is making progress in reducing civilian casualties, defeating the Taliban militarily and establishing democracy in Afghanistan.
[...]
Currently, half of Americans (50%) say military troops should remain in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized, while 43% favor removing U.S. and NATO troops as soon as possible. In June, 57% favored keeping U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, while 38% favored their removal as soon as possible.
[...]
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 10-15 among 1,006 adults finds that most Democrats (56%) favor removing troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Just 37% of Democrats say U.S. and NATO troops should remain in the country, down somewhat from the 45% who said this in June. By contrast, Republicans by a wide margin (71% to 25%) continue to favor maintaining U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Opinion among independents mirrors that of the population as a whole; currently, 51% favor keeping U.S. and NATO troops in the country while 43% are opposed.
[...]

7) Overturning Cuba Travel Ban May Pass House This Year, Farr Says
Fabiola Moura, Bloomberg, Sept. 21 http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=a5R62TiRNi00

Legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, said Representative Sam Farr, a California Democrat.

The bill to let U.S. citizens resume travel to the Caribbean island except in times of war or cases in which they face imminent danger has 181 votes in the House and needs 218 to pass, said Farr, a co-sponsor of the legislation. The plan is backed by travel groups such as the United States Tour Operators Association and the National Tour Association and human rights groups such as the Washington Office on Latin America and has been helped by President Barack Obama's election, he said.

"It is believed we can get to this before the end of the year," Farr, 68, said in an interview in New York. "We haven't had a policy about Cuba. We've had policies about getting votes in Florida and Obama changed that by getting those votes."

The U.S. ended restrictions on Sept. 3 on Cuban-Americans travel and money transfers to relatives in Cuba. The new rules also allow U.S. telecommunications companies to provide service in Cuba for mobile telephone, satellite radio and television. Exceptions to the 1962 trade embargo on communist Cuba include $500 million per year in agricultural exports, Farr said.

"If you are a potato, you can get to Cuba very easily," he said. "But if you are a person, you can't, and that is our problem."
[...]
A group of House and Senate lawmakers proposed in March ending restrictions to allow all U.S. citizens and residents to travel to Cuba. Farr said the legislation, known as the "Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act," also has enough votes to clear the Senate, where Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Republican Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming introduced the legislation.
[...]
Ending the travel ban may lead as many as 1 million Americans to visit the island every year, Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, known as NTA, said in an interview.
[...]

Honduras
8) One dead in Honduras clash, world pressure grows
Gustavo Palencia, Reuters, Wednesday, September 23, 2009 3:30 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/23/AR2009092302763.html

Tegucigalpa - A man was shot dead in a clash between police and supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, as international pressure mounted on the de facto government to allow the leftist back in power.

It was the first reported death in political violence since Zelaya, who was forced into exile by a June 28 coup, slipped back into Honduras this week and sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

The man, a Zelaya supporter aged 65, was killed in the poor Flor del Campo district of the capital on Tuesday night, a source at the coroner's office said. Five other pro-Zelaya protesters were shot and wounded in another part of the city, a doctor at the Escuela hospital said.
[...]

9) Two Days After Honduran President Returns to Capital, Amnesty International Reports Rise in Police Beatings, Mass Arbitrary Arrests, Closing of Media Outlets, Harassment of Activists Since Coup
Human Rights Organization Cites "Alarming" Incidents, Including Police Tear Gas Attack Monday on Rights Organization in Capital
Press Release, Amnesty International, September 23, 2009
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/09/23-13

New York - September 23 - Amnesty International reported today that police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights groups have risen sharply in Honduras since the June coup d'etat, including the firing of tear gas at the building of a prominent rights group on Monday with 100 men, women and children inside.

Two days after President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales returned to Honduras following a June coup, Amnesty International warned that fundamental rights and the rule of law in the Central American nation are in grave jeopardy. According to reports received by Amnesty International on Monday morning, about 15 police officers fired tear gas canisters at the building of the prominent human rights organization COFADEH. Around 100 people, including women and children, were inside the office at the time. Many had come to denounce police abuses during the break up of a demonstration earlier outside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge.

"The situation in Honduras can only be described as alarming," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International. "The attacks against human rights defenders, suspension of news outlets, beating of demonstrators by the police and ever increasing reports of mass arrests indicate that human rights and the rule of law in Honduras are at grave risk."

"The only way forward is for the de facto authorities to stop the policy of repression and violence and instead respect the rights of freedom of expression and association," said Lee. "We also urge the international community to urgently seek a solution, before Honduras sinks even deeper into a human rights crisis."

Following the break up by police of a mass demonstration outside the Brazilian Embassy yesterday, numerous demonstrators were reported to have been beaten by police and some several hundred detained across the city. Reports also indicated similar scenes of human rights violations across the country.

Amnesty International received information that dozens of protestors were taken to unauthorized detention sites across the capital last night. Although most of those detained have been released, mass arbitrary arrests may make those detained vulnerable to human rights abuses such as ill-treatment, torture or enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International has documented the limits which have been imposed on freedom of expression since the coup d'état, including the closure of media outlets, the confiscation of equipment and physical abuse of journalists and camerapersons covering events. Radio Globo and TV channel 36 yesterday suffered power stoppages or constant interruptions to their transmissions which prevented them from broadcasting.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
10) Palestinian PM cites support for statehood plan
Karin Laub, Associated Press, Tuesday, September 22, 2009 9:21 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/22/AR2009092204221.html

New York - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview Tuesday that he has won broad international support for his plan to ready the Palestinians for statehood within two years.

However, Fayyad sidestepped the question of whether the Palestinians would unilaterally declare statehood at the end of that period if a peace deal with Israel is not in place. He said that decision would have to made by the Palestine Liberation Organization and others when the time comes.

With peace efforts deadlocked, Fayyad's two-year plan to build up and reform governing institutions may well offer the Palestinians the only practical prescription for moving closer to statehood.

Israel and the Palestinians remain far apart on what it would take to resume peace talks. The gaps were highlighted during Tuesday's first meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hosted in New York by President Barack Obama.

While Netanyahu and Abbas faced off at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, Fayyad lobbied for his plan in a meeting with donor countries on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Donors have funneled billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians over the years, and Tuesday's meeting was meant to assess the aid program and make up pledging shortfalls.

The huge sums have been less effective than donors had hoped, in part because they were spent to soften the economic damage stemming from Israeli restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement, rather than on development projects.

Fayyad's program, unveiled a month ago, proposes beefing up or reforming government ministries and institutions of the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government in the West Bank. The plan also envisions several major projects, such as an international airport.
[...]

Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

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.

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