JFP News 10/9: Obama Could Face Party Revolt On Afghanistan
Just Foreign Policy News
October 9, 2009
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Nobel Committee, Strategic As Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize
Some initial commentary has called the award unprecedented and wondered why the committee would give President Obama the award when he "hasn't done anything yet." But anyone who thinks this award is unprecedented hasn't been paying attention. The Nobel Committee was being strategic, as it has been in the past: praising Obama's moves towards diplomacy as a way of strengthening those moves and beating back his right-wing critics.
Obama Begins Meaningful Engagement With Iran
Many were alarmed by the Obama Administration's apparent "saber-rattling" around the revelation of Iran's nuclear enrichment facility at Qom. But more significant than how vigorously the Administration was pounding the table was the fact that it was pounding the table in pursuit of realistic, achievable goals - like the introduction of inspectors at Qom, which Iran had in fact already agreed to - rather than the pie-in-the-sky goal of ending Iranian enrichment of uranium.
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1) Key Democrats on Capitol Hill warned Thursday that a decision by President Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan could trigger an uprising within the party, possibly including an attempt to cut off funds for the buildup, the Los Angeles Times reports. "I believe we need to more narrowly focus our efforts and have a much more achievable and targeted policy in that region," said chief House Appropriator Obey. Rep. Murtha predicted a fight on the House floor if a request to fund a troop increase came to a vote. "The public is worn out by war," Murtha said. "The troops, no matter what the military says, are exhausted."
2) The request for troops sent to Obama includes three different options, with the largest alternative including a request for more than 60,000 troops, the Wall Street Journal reports. 40,000 remains the primary choice of senior military brass. The third option presented would be only a small increase that would keep U.S. forces largely at their year-end levels of 68,000 troops. A recent study by the Institute for the Study of War - a think tank headed by [neocon and surge supporter] Kimberly Kagan suggested it would be difficult to move enough troops from other posts to deploy anywhere close to 40,000 troops before next summer at the earliest. [See the next article below: this suggests that the 40,000 troops will not in fact be present during the 12 month window which McChrystal says will be critical -JFP.] The military agrees with the institute's overall findings, although has identified different units it could deploy over the course of the next year.
3) The Obama administration has concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a political or military movement, the Washington Post reports. [As early as 2006, then Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist came to this conclusion, following a trip to Afghanistan - JFP.] The goal, senior administration officials said, is to weaken the Taliban to the degree that it cannot challenge the Afghan government or reestablish the haven it provided for al-Qaeda before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Some inside the White House have cited Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese political movement, as an example of what the Taliban could become. Some White House advisers have noted that although Hezbollah is a source of regional instability, it is not a threat to the United States. In his 66-page assessment of the war, McChrystal warns that the next 12 months will probably determine whether U.S. and international forces can regain the initiative from the Taliban. [According to Kagan in the WSJ article above, for 2/3 of those 12 months the 40,000 troops won't be there. -JFP.]
4) A recent poll in Honduras revealed that a large majority of Hondurans oppose the coup and coup leader Micheletti while favoring President Zelaya's restoration, writes Greg Grandin in the Nation. Those who carried out the coup have managed to achieve what they accuse Zelaya of trying to do: they have polarized society, delegitimized political institutions, bankrupted the treasury and empowered social movements. If the coup regime continues to allow Zelaya's return, the popular movement will demand a constitutional convention as the only solution to re-establish legitimacy. Even Costa Rican President Ocar Arias recently called the Honduran constitution the "worst in the entire world," an "invitation to coups." "This is something that will have to be resolved," he said, "and the best way to do this is, if we can't have a constitutional election, is to have certain reforms so this Honduran constitution ceases to be the worst in the entire world."
5) The Taliban have said they pose no threat to the west, in a statement apparently intended to influence the debate over the future of the war in Afghanistan, the Guardian reports. The announcement will be scrutinized by Barack Obama's national security advisers, the Guardian says. In an exchange of emails with the Guardian, a Taliban spokesman said they closely monitored opinion in western Europe and policy arguments in the US.
6) According to summaries of new US intelligence reports, nearly all of the insurgents battling US troops in Afghanistan are not religiously motivated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors, but a new generation of tribal fighters vying for control of territory, mineral wealth, and smuggling routes, the Boston Globe reports. Some of the major insurgent groups, including one responsible for a spate of recent US casualties, actually opposed the Taliban's government in Afghanistan. "Ninety percent is a tribal, localized insurgency," said one intelligence official. "Ten percent are hardcore ideologues fighting for the Taliban." "The term [Taliban] has come to have a meaning far beyond what the United States should care about" militarily, said [neocon war supporter] Frederick Kagan.
7) some U.S. military and civilian officials in Afghanistan are now trying to negotiate with Afghan Taliban fighters to encourage them to "reintegrate," Foreign Policy reports. A State Department official said military forces will focus on "reintegrating" tactical and operational fighters, but the Afghan government will "[decide] on reconciliation with strategic and political leaders."
8) The Obama administration convened its first meeting with 10 key allies this week to try to build consensus on new economic sanctions aimed at punishing Iran for its nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reports. China and Russia were notably absent. [Also absent were Gulf States besides Saudi Arabia and the UAE - JFP.] Participants said the U.S. is facing some resistance, even among its closest allies, to pushing ahead with some of the more expansive sanctions being considered. Japan and South Korea are major oil purchasers from Iran and worry how the sanctions campaigns could affect their economies. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are fearful of being targeted by Iran if tensions with the U.S. and its allies intensify.
9) The House of Representatives called Thursday on Obama to report by January 31 the progress of his diplomatic outreach with Iran over its nuclear drive, AFP reports. The legislation demanded sanctions be levied against Iran if it fails "to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities" related to its nuclear ambitions.
10) The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Obama should prompt him to start working towards ending injustice in the world, an aide to Iranian President Ahmadinejad told AFP. "We hope that this gives him the incentive to walk in the path of bringing justice to the world order," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad's media aide. "We are not upset and we hope that by receiving this prize he will start taking practical steps to remove injustice in the world."
1) Obama Could Face Party Revolt On Afghanistan
Key Democrats warn that if the president decides to send more troops to Afghanistan, they might oppose it, perhaps even moving to cut off funds for the buildup.
James Oliphant and Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2009
Washington - Key Democrats on Capitol Hill warned Thursday that a decision by President Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan could trigger an uprising within the party, possibly including an attempt to cut off funds for the buildup.
"I believe we need to more narrowly focus our efforts and have a much more achievable and targeted policy in that region," said Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Otherwise, he said, "we run the risk of repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam and the Russians made in Afghanistan."
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), an influential voice on military affairs who is also on the committee, predicted a fight on the House floor if a request to fund a troop increase came to a vote. "The public is worn out by war," Murtha said. "The troops, no matter what the military says, are exhausted."
Obey's and Murtha's comments were the strongest suggestions from congressional Democrats that Obama could face significant opposition if he follows Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's recommendation to send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, in addition to the 68,000 already there, as part of a counterinsurgency strategy to keep the Taliban from regaining power. The lawmakers' statements came on a day when the president's national security advisor, James Jones, briefed House members on the situation.
A schism erupting among Democrats would present Obama with his first serious backlash within his party. That possibility may be a reason he reached out to congressional Republicans at a White House meeting this week.
Obama is in the midst of reviewing his administration's policy in Afghanistan. In addition to McChrystal's call for a troop buildup, options include expanding the Afghan army and narrowing the war effort to focus on Al Qaeda. Already, the administration says it is regarding the Taliban as a local movement, while Al Qaeda is a global threat to the United States.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is traveling to Afghanistan next week to review the situation. If he reaches a different conclusion than Obama, aides say, Kerry will use his committee to push the administration to explain itself.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has also expressed concern about a troop buildup. But this week, Levin said he hoped the president would find a compromise that would satisfy most lawmakers. "I don't think anybody wants to preclude the possibility that there could be strong bipartisan support for that decision before it's made," Levin said.
Aides close to the Democratic leadership say it is unlikely to coalesce around a single position.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), a member of both the Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees, has emerged as a fierce critic of McChrystal's recommendation. Feingold favors a timetable for withdrawal and says if Obama decides to send more troops, Congress should contest it.
2) Top Troop Request Exceeds 60,000
Commander Prefers 40,000 for Afghanistan, but His Report Gives Obama 3 Options
Peter Spiegel and Yochi Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2009
Washington - The request for troops sent to President Barack Obama by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan includes three different options, with the largest alternative including a request for more than 60,000 troops, according to a U.S. official familiar with the document.
Although the top option is more than the 40,000 soldiers previously understood to be the top troop total sought by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. officer in Kabul, 40,000 remains the primary choice of senior military brass, including Gen. McChrystal, the official said.
The details of the three scenarios were first reported by ABC News and confirmed by the U.S. official. The third option presented to Mr. Obama would be only a small increase that would keep U.S. forces largely at their year-end levels of 68,000 troops.
The troop request is expected to be deliberated today at Mr. Obama's fifth cabinet-level meeting of his war council amid indications of growing official unease about such a significant escalation.
Although most requests for forces include only a single troop figure, Pentagon officials have acknowledged that Gen. McChrystal's request was unusual given the continuing review of Afghan strategy. It is rather common in military planning, however, to discuss three different scenarios in order to illustrate why the middle option is preferable option.
Gen. McChrystal has warned that the U.S. faces possible "mission failure" in Afghanistan unless it quickly sends large numbers of forces there. But the Obama administration faces growing hurdles even if it decides to go with a buildup of tens of thousands of troops.
Senior Army officers acknowledged in interviews, for instance, that the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough helicopters in Afghanistan to meet the current demand for safe movement of troops around the country. And U.S. forces are just beginning to receive new vehicles meant to function better on Afghanistan's poor roads.
Separately, a recent study by the Institute for the Study of War - a Washington, D.C., think tank headed by Kimberly Kagan, a military analyst who worked on Gen. McChrystal's assessment team - suggested it would be difficult to move enough troops from other posts to deploy anywhere close to 40,000 troops before next summer at the earliest.
The military agrees with the institute's overall findings, although has identified different units it could deploy over the course of the next year.
3) Emerging Goal For Afghanistan: Weaken, Not Vanquish, Taliban
Scott Wilson, Washington Post, Friday, October 9, 2009
As it reviews its Afghanistan policy for the second time this year, the Obama administration has concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a political or military movement, regardless of how many combat forces are sent into battle.
The Taliban and the question of how the administration should regard the Islamist movement have assumed a central place in the policy deliberations underway at the White House, according to administration officials participating in the meetings.
Based on a stark assessment by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and six hours of debate among the senior national security staff members so far, the administration has established guidelines on its strategy to confront the group.
The goal, senior administration officials said Thursday, is to weaken the Taliban to the degree that it cannot challenge the Afghan government or reestablish the haven it provided for al-Qaeda before the 2001 U.S. invasion. Those objectives appear largely consistent with McChrystal's strategy, which he says "cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces" but should center on persuading the population to support the government.
"The Taliban is a deeply rooted political movement in Afghanistan, so that requires a different approach than al-Qaeda," said a senior administration official who has participated in the meetings but has not advocated a particular strategy.
Some inside the White House have cited Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese political movement, as an example of what the Taliban could become. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, but the group has political support within Lebanon and participates, sometimes through intimidation, in the political process.
Some White House advisers have noted that although Hezbollah is a source of regional instability, it is not a threat to the United States. The senior administration official said the Hezbollah example has not been cited specifically to President Obama and has been raised only informally outside the Situation Room meetings. "People who study Islamist movements have made the connection," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
In his 66-page assessment of the war, McChrystal warns that the next 12 months will probably determine whether U.S. and international forces can regain the initiative from the Taliban. [According to Kagan in the WSJ article above, for most of those 12 months the 40,000 troops won't be there. -JFP.]
Asked how many troops would be needed to weaken the Taliban to an acceptable degree, the senior administration official said, "That's the question. That's the sweet spot we're looking for." About 68,000 U.S. troops are already scheduled to be on the ground in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
4) Honduran Coup Regime in Crisis
Greg Grandin, The Nation, October 8, 2009
How long can the Honduran crisis drag on, with President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a military coup more than three months ago, trapped in Tegucigalpa's Brazilian Embassy? Well, in early 1949 in Peru, Víctor Haya de la Torre-one of last century's most important Latin American politicians-sought asylum in the Colombian Embassy in Lima, also following a military coup. There he remained for nearly six years, playing chess, baking cakes for the embassy staff's children and writing books. Soldiers surrounded the building for the duration, with Peru's authoritarian regime ignoring calls from the international community to end the siege, which was condemned by the Washington Post as a "canker in hemisphere relations."
So far Roberto Micheletti, installed by the coup as president, is showing the same obstinacy. Shortly after Zelaya's surprise appearance in the Brazilian Embassy on September 21 after having entered the country unnoticed, probably from El Salvador or Nicaragua, the de facto president ordered troops to violently disperse a large crowd that had gathered around the embassy, using tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, killing a number of protesters and wounding many. Amnesty International has documented a "sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators, and intimidation of human rights defenders" since Zelaya's return.
The government has suspended civil liberties and shut down independent sources of news, including the TV station Cholusat Sur and Radio Globo. In response to rolling protests throughout Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, security forces continue to round up demonstrators, holding some of the detained in soccer stadiums-evoking Chile in 1973, after Augusto Pinochet's junta overthrew Salvador Allende, when security forces turned Santiago's National Stadium into a torture chamber. The Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) says Hondurans are indeed being tortured, burned with cigarettes and sodomized by batons, and that some of the torturers are veterans of Battalion 316, an infamous Honduran death squad from the 1980s. Police and soldiers raided the offices of the National Agrarian Institute, capturing dozens of peasant activists who had been occupying the building. Police also fired tear gas into COFADEH's office, which at the time was filled with about a hundred people, many of them women and children, denouncing the repression that had earlier taken place in front of the embassy. "Honduras risks spiraling into a state of lawlessness, where police and military act with no regard for human rights or the rule of law," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International.
Back at the embassy, Honduran troops have tormented Zelaya and his accompaniers, including the Catholic priest Father Andres Tamayo, with tear gas, other chemical weapons and sonic devices that emit high-pitched and extreme-pain-inducing sounds. This high-tech assault has largely been ignored by the international media, though George W. Bush's former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told Fox News that Zelaya's description of this harassment indicated "delusional behavior."
Fourteen people-all opposed to the coup-have been murdered since Zelaya's overthrow, according to a tally released early last week by COFADEH. Then on October 2 two more Zelaya supporters were executed.
Micheletti seems increasingly isolated, facing criticism from his own supporters due to his heavy-handed response. Just a few days ago, a poll revealed that a large majority of Hondurans oppose the coup and Micheletti while favoring Zelaya's restoration. Prominent conservative businessmen, religious and military leaders, and politicians are now offering their services as mediators between Micheletti and Zelaya, an indication that support for the coup may be evaporating, though their proposals so far seem more like stalling tactics than serious attempts to open negotiation. Industrialist Adolfo Facussé, for instance, proposed making Micheletti a senator for life-similar to the honor bestowed on Pinochet when he exited the Chilean presidency-while returning Zelaya to office under conditions greatly more restricted than those laid out by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who had previously been tapped by the US State Department to arbitrate the crisis.
Whatever the outcome of Zelaya's current situation-and let's hope it won't last as long as Haya de la Torre's nearly six-year asylum-those who carried out the coup have managed to achieve what they accuse Zelaya of trying to do: they have polarized society, delegitimized political institutions, bankrupted the treasury and empowered social movements. The coalition of workers, peasants, progressive religious folk, environmentalists, students, feminists and gay and lesbian activists that has emerged to demand the restoration of democracy has so far not been able to return Zelaya to the presidency, yet it has prevented the consolidation of the coup regime.
In retrospect, it is hard to understand what Micheletti and his allies had hoped to achieve with Zelaya's overthrow, which took place just five months before regularly scheduled presidential elections, still set for November 29. Before the coup, it was expected that a candidate from either the Liberal or National Party-both conservative-would win the vote, dousing whatever popular restlessness was unleashed by Zelaya's turn left.
But the coup-along with Zelaya's surprise return-has created a lose-lose situation for Honduran elites. If they yield to international pressure and negotiate Zelaya's symbolic restoration, it would legitimize the November elections but would also embolden the left and discredit the coup plotters-that is, nearly all of Honduras' governing class. If they force Zelaya back into exile, arrest him or keep him holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, then the popular movement that has gained momentum over the past three months will demand a constitutional convention as the only solution to re-establish legitimacy. In other words, the very issue that served as the spark of the crisis-Zelaya's attempt to build support for a constituent assembly to reform Honduras' notoriously undemocratic charter-may be the only way to settle it.
Even Costa Rican President Ocar Arias has suggested as much. He recently called the Honduran constitution the "worst in the entire world," an "invitation to coups." "This is something that will have to be resolved," he said, "and the best way to do this is, if we can't have a constitutional election, is to have certain reforms so this Honduran constitution ceases to be the worst in the entire world."
5) Taliban announces that it poses no international threat
Statement appears aimed at influencing debate in US over war in Afghanistan
Jason Burke and Chris McGreal, Guardian, Thursday 8 October 2009 17.58 BST
Washington - The Taliban have said they pose no threat to the west, in a statement apparently intended to influence the debate over the future of the war in Afghanistan.
The announcement appeared on several websites used by the Taliban. It will be scrutinised by Barack Obama's national security advisers, who are reported to be pressing him to shift the focus of the war from the Taliban in Afghanistan to al-Qaida in Pakistan.
Some of the advisers, along with Joe Biden, the vice president, argue that the Taliban are not a direct threat to the US but al-Qaida's deepening intrusion into Pakistan threatens to turn it into a destabilising base for terrorist attacks.
The Taliban statement said they are fighting to expel foreign invaders from Afghanistan and establish an Islamic state. "We did not have any agenda to harm other countries, including Europe, nor do we have such agenda today," said the statement on a known Taliban website.
"Still, if you want to turn the country of the proud and pious Afghans into a colony, then know that we have an unwavering determination and have braced for a prolonged war." The statement also said that those dying or displaced in Afghanistan "were not involved in the (9/11) events of New York".
The statement may be a sign that senior Taliban figures are reassessing the movement's longstanding, though often tense, alliance with al-Qaida. In a recent exchange of emails with the Guardian, a Taliban spokesman avoided questions on the relationship between the Afghan insurgents and Osama bin Laden. He said they closely monitored opinion in western Europe and policy arguments in the US.
McChrystal argues that, without a swift and significant increase in US troops, the war against the Taliban may never be won. But most of Obama's national security advisers favour shifting the focus to hunting down al-Qaida in Pakistan, because it poses a greater threat to the US. They argue that the Taliban and Bin Laden's followers are not inextricably linked, a view which would be appear to be reinforced by the Taliban statement. If that position were accepted, it might even open the way to dealings with the Taliban which would be unthinkable with al-Qaida.
6) Taliban not main Afghan enemy
Few militants driven by religion, reports say
Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, October 9, 2009
Washington - Nearly all of the insurgents battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan are not religiously motivated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors, but a new generation of tribal fighters vying for control of territory, mineral wealth, and smuggling routes, according to summaries of new US intelligence reports.
Some of the major insurgent groups, including one responsible for a spate of recent American casualties, actually opposed the Taliban's harsh Islamic government in Afghanistan during the 1990s, according to the reports, described by US officials under the condition they not be identified. "Ninety percent is a tribal, localized insurgency," said one US intelligence official in Washington who helped draft the assessments. "Ten percent are hardcore ideologues fighting for the Taliban."
US commanders and politicians often loosely refer to the enemy as the Taliban or Al Qaeda, giving rise to the image of holy warriors seeking to spread a fundamentalist form of Islam. But the mostly ethnic Pashtun fighters are often deeply connected by family and social ties to the valleys and mountains where they are fighting, and they see themselves as opposing the United States be cause it is an occupying power, the officials and analysts said.
The nonreligious motivations give American war planners some hope that they can reduce the power of these militias, and perhaps even co-opt their support with a new set of strategies and incentives.
The Afghan fighters use the threat of force to further their own economic interests - extorting payments from people shipping goods through the mountains including, in some cases, even US military supplies coming into Afghanistan from Pakistan, the officials said.
"That doesn't sound like someone who wants to create a global caliphate," said Arturo Munoz, who retired earlier this year after a 30-year career as a CIA analyst and case officer and is now a senior political scientist at the government-funded Rand Corporation. "There is a completely homegrown Pashtun tradition of Jihad, which is different from radical [followers of the Taliban] and goes back centuries. We are just the latest foreign invader."
The new intelligence analyses were requested by military commanders earlier this year with the hopes of identifying who might be open to accommodation. The data are informing the heated debate within the Obama administration on whether to send tens of thousands of additional troops to wage a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, indicated yesterday that the makeup of the insurgency is playing a prominent role in the discussions. "Some in the Taliban have similar agendas that have helped Al Qaeda with safe havens," he told reporters at the daily press briefing. "There's also a significant number of Taliban that are local warlords that have far different agendas."
Indeed, the intelligence reports say the Taliban movement that harbored the Al Qaeda terrorist network before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is responsible for only a small share of the rising attacks - mostly in southern Afghanistan, according to the officials. "The term [Taliban] has come to have a meaning far beyond what the United States should care about" militarily, said Frederick W. Kagan, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who is advising US military commanders.
7) Talking to the Taliban
As the United States fights a brutal counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, some commanders are trying a new tactic: negotiating with the Taliban.
Aram Roston, Foreign Policy, October 8, 2009
In a dramatic shift, some U.S. military and civilian officials in Afghanistan are now trying to negotiate with Afghan Taliban fighters to encourage them to "reintegrate." Although no program yet exists, the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul recently created a "cell" to address these efforts and formalize this outreach - a technique some commanders report they are already using.
Here in Logar province, commanders say they have contacted and negotiated with enemy fighters, even with no military guidelines in place. "I think it's very important" said Col. David Haight, who commands Task Force Spartan, a brigade that covers troubled Wardak and Logar provinces. "We have talked to people who have American blood on their hands," he added, citing Gen. David Petraeus' doctrine: "You can't kill or capture your way out of an insurgency."
Haight, an experienced and energetic infantry officer, is in charge of the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade. His area of operations consists of two hotly contested provinces near Kabul, where he has pursued an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign. He and his troops attempt to clear out rebels and build up the local economy while working with Afghan security forces. But, he notes, without more troops he can't keep some districts out of the hands of the Taliban - and is willing to try less conventional measures.
Matthew Sherman, a U.S. State Department official who advises Haight's brigade, said: "There are many ways to get people off the battlefield. You can kill them, you can capture them, and you can talk to them, and we're exploring all those options" in an effort that is "literally new."
The 3rd Brigade has received informal guidance on how to deal with enemy leaders in the form of "the three Ds": define, dialogue, and desist. Soldiers define a Taliban member's "significance" in terms of his reach and influence. "You know, who is this guy?" Haight said. Then, dialogue, so "in the future, [you] gain some guy's trust." Finally, desist. "Obviously, try to get him to commit to the process with a locally arranged reduction in violence."
Sherman notes that soldiers have attempted this technique with low-level local Taliban. In the future, he thinks, military forces will focus on "reintegrating" tactical and operational fighters. But the Afghan government, he says, will "[decide] on reconciliation with strategic and political leaders."
Haight says that though the insurgency's strategic leaders may reside in Pakistan, the actual fighters his soldiers deal with are locals. He cites Baraki Barak, a mountainous region of Logar province, as a telling example. "The people that we're fighting here on a daily basis in Baraki Barak are not from Pakistan," he said. "You know where they are from? They are from Baraki Barak!" And talking with them to help ameliorate fighting in their area might help.
Such a program has a well-known precedent in Iraq. There, U.S. forces talked to and even sometimes bribed Sunni tribesmen for their cooperation and for reduced violence. Sherman points out that there was initially U.S. resistance to the ultimately successful program.
He also says it refined the way the coalition forces understood the various opposition movements and groups in Iraq. "We made a fundamental shift in how we looked at [Shiite militant leader Moqtada al-] Sadr. There was [Sadr's Mahdi Army]. There were the 'special groups' [of militia members]. There were political actors, and there were just criminals. But by looking at them in a new way we could focus on fighting the groups that were a real threat."
In Maydan Shahr, the small dusty capital of troubled Wardak province, opinion on the street favors negotiations. "You can send every American that exists to Afghanistan, but that won't stop the fighting," argued a local pharmacy owner. "The only way to stop the fighting is by talking to the enemy."
8) U.S., Allies Confer On New Iran Sanctions
Washington Faces Resistance to Expansive Measures on the Table; China and Russia Absent From Meeting
Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2009
Washington - The Obama administration quietly convened its first meeting with 10 key allies this week to try to build consensus on new economic sanctions aimed at punishing Iran for its nuclear program.
The grouping - which participants have informally dubbed "the coalition of the like-minded nations" - included representatives of the Group of Seven bloc of industrialized nations, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and South Korea, according to participants in the meeting.
China and Russia, who have both voiced reluctance to pursue new sanctions on Tehran, were notably absent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Moscow next week and Iran is expected to be on her agenda during talks with Russian officials.
U.S. officials view the meeting as the first in a series of strategy sessions among the 11 countries on how to enact new financial penalties on Tehran should it rebuff international efforts to end its nuclear program diplomatically.
Participants in the Wednesday meeting said, however, that the U.S. is facing some resistance, even among its closest allies, to pushing ahead with some of the more expansive sanctions being considered.
President Barack Obama has given Tehran until year-end to respond to his offer of better relations and economic incentives from the West in exchange for Iran ceasing its production of nuclear fuel.
Treasury Department officials specifically outlined at the meeting eight areas where Washington believes Iran is vulnerable, according to participants.
These included efforts to choke off Iran's access to refined petroleum projects; penalties on Iran's insurance and re-insurance companies; initiatives to curb Iran's ability to ship internationally; and renewed campaigns to cripple Iran's banking sector. The U.S. is also exploring new ways, according to participants in the talks, to sanction key Iranian leaders and to inhibit their ability to travel internationally.
U.S. officials have in the past specifically cited a gasoline embargo on Iran as having a potentially significant impact, as Tehran imports roughly 30% of its gasoline needs. But countries like Japan and South Korea are major oil purchasers from Iran and worry how the sanctions campaigns could affect their economies. Close neighbors of Iran, such as Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., meanwhile, are fearful of being targeted by Iran if tensions with the U.S. and its allies intensify in the coming months.
One participant in the talks said that without a consensus on sanctions the grouping of 11 countries might have to fall to the default position of taking the harshest measures they can individually. "That would be unlikely to force Iran to alter course," said the diplomat. "But there are limitations on some countries' ability to act."
9) US lawmakers call for Obama's report on Iran by January 31
AFP, October 8, 2009
Washington - The US House of Representatives called Thursday on President Barack Obama to report by January 31 the progress of his diplomatic outreach with Iran over its controversial nuclear drive. In a provision of the 2010 defense budget bill, lawmakers said they required Obama "no later than January 31, 2010, to deliver a report to Congress on US engagement" with Tehran.
The legislation also demanded that sanctions be levied against Iran if the Islamic republic does not "accept the offer of the United States to engage in diplomatic talks" and also if it fails "to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities" related to its nuclear ambitions.
The bill, which still needs Senate approval, also requires Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "to submit an annual report to Congress on the current and future military strategy of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd said on Tuesday he was strongly in favor of ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran, and revealed he was crafting "comprehensive sanctions legislation" to be unveiled later this month.
The draft Senate bill aims to impose new sanctions on companies exporting refined petroleum products to Tehran, and other measures.
It also would expand existing legislation to cover financial institutions and businesses and
extend sanctions to oil and gas pipelines, boost moves to freeze the assets of Iranians accused of weapons proliferation and tighten export controls to halt the illegal export of sensitive technology.
10) Prize should push Obama to help end injustice: Iran
AFP, Fri Oct 9, 11:30 am ET
Tehran - The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to US President Barack Obama Friday should prompt him to start working towards ending injustice in the world, an aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP.
"We hope that this gives him the incentive to walk in the path of bringing justice to the world order," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad's media aide. "We are not upset and we hope that by receiving this prize he will start taking practical steps to remove injustice in the world."
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