JFP News 10/13: McChrystal's 40,000 Troop Hoax
Just Foreign Policy News
October 13, 2009
McChrystal's 40,000 Troop Hoax
Even if Obama were to approve General McChrystal's request, the 40,000 troops wouldn't arrive in time to significantly affect the 12-month window McChrystal says will be decisive. So McChrystal's request isn't about what's happening in Afghanistan right now. It's about how many troops the U.S. will have in Afghanistan a year from now and beyond. There is no emergency requiring a quick decision by President Obama.
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1) Some national security officials, concerned President Obama might be abandoning full-fledged counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, are claiming new intelligence assessments suggesting that al Qaeda would be allowed to return to Afghanistan in the event of a Taliban victory, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. But two former senior intelligence analysts question the alleged new intelligence assessments. They say that the Taliban leadership still blames Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda for their loss of power after 9/11 and that the Taliban-al Qaeda cooperation is much narrower today than it was during the period of Taliban rule.
2) The Treasury Department says Al-Qaeda is in its worst financial state for many years while the Taliban's funding is flourishing, the BBC reports. The influence of the network - damaged by US efforts to choke funding - is waning, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing David Cohen said. [This report would seem to undermine the claim that the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda are close - JFP.]
3) Sending more troops to Afghanistan will not help eliminate al-Qaeda's haven in Pakistan, and could actually hurt efforts to go after al-Qaeda globally, writes Senator Russ Feingold in USA Today. It doesn't make sense to devote billions more dollars and tens of thousands more troops to a strategy that is so heavily concentrated on Afghanistan when the terrorist threat we face is global. We should announce a flexible timetable to draw down our forces from Afghanistan. A timetable would defuse the perception that we are occupying that country, and help ensure that our presence does not fuel militancy and instability in the region.
4) The White House has authorized at least 13,000 support troops to be sent to Afghanistan beyond the 21,000 additional combat troops Obama announced in March, the Washington Post reports. The deployment of the support troops brings the total increase approved by Obama to 34,000. The buildup has raised the number of U.S. troops deployed to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan above the peak during the Iraq "surge" that Bush ordered. The deployment does not change the maximum number of service members expected to soon be in Afghanistan: 68,000, more than double the number there when Bush left office. A significant troop increase in Afghanistan early next year would be difficult to sustain given the current size of the Army and Marine Corps and ongoing troop demands in Iraq, officials said.
5) Iran's newly disclosed site near Qom may be an impossible target for U.S. or Israeli military attack, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Unless you have good human intelligence, you probably don't have a good idea where inside the mountain the key target is," said a former senior U.S. military intelligence official. Partly for that reason, the official said, "it is possible to construct a facility that is simply beyond reach."
6) Russia's foreign minister Lavrov said threatening Iran now with harsh new sanctions would be "counterproductive," the New York Times reports. Lavrov said diplomacy should be given a chance to work, particularly after the Iranian government said it would allow UN inspectors to visit its nuclear enrichment facility near Qum. But a US official said Lavrov told Secretary of State Clinton that Russia was determined to hold Iran to a deal to ship the majority of Iran's enriched uranium to Russia for processing and would consider sanctions if the Iranians reneged on it.
7) Supporters of President Zelaya denounced new restrictions on opposition media announced by the coup regime, AFP reports. Zelaya and the de facto government agreed to create a joint cabinet and ditch an amnesty for coup leaders, one of Zelaya's negotiators announced. Both measures remain dependent on Zelaya's return to the presidency. Union leader Juan Barahona, one of Zelaya's negotiators, said the Zelaya camp opposed amnesty because such a move would mean "amnesia, forgetfulness and forgiveness, and we cannot condone the coup." Zelaya said he had never asked for an amnesty because he did not need it. "A proposal to include it in the deal came from the other side," he told AFP.
8) Palestinian political leaders have expressed acute disappointment in the Obama administration, saying their hopes that it could bring peace to the Middle East have "evaporated" and accusing the White House of giving in to Israeli pressure, the Guardian reports. The comments in leaked Fatah memo reflect a broader frustration among Palestinian politicians that Washington's push for peace has yet to produce even a restarting of peace talks.
9) Reuters publishes a "factbox" summarizing current UN and US sanctions against Iran. Existing UN sanctions are all nominally targeted at Iran's nuclear and military programs.
10) Human Rights First has accused the U.S. government of delays in issuing a visa to Colombian activist Gabriel Gonzalez, winner of that group's rights prize for 2009, EFE reports. HRF said those delays could prevent Gonzalez from being present to receive the award at a ceremony in New York Oct. 22. Ironically, HRF said, the cause of the delay was apparently false charges against Gonzalez lodged by the Colombian government. That's ironic because the US has denounced the false charges as retribution for Gonzalez' human rights activism.
1) Pro-War Officials Play Up Taliban-al Qaeda Ties
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Oct 13
Washington - U.S. national security officials, concerned that President Barack Obama might be abandoning the strategy of full-fledged counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, are claiming new intelligence assessments suggesting that al Qaeda would be allowed to return to Afghanistan in the event of a Taliban victory.
But two former senior intelligence analysts who have long followed the issue of al Qaeda's involvement in Afghanistan question the alleged new intelligence assessments. They say that the Taliban leadership still blames Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda for their loss of power after 9/11 and that the Taliban-al Qaeda cooperation is much narrower today than it was during the period of Taliban rule.
The nature of the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban has been a central issue in the White House discussions on Afghanistan strategy that began last month, according to both White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones.
One of the arguments for an alternative to the present counterinsurgency strategy by officials, including aides to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, is that the Taliban wouldn't allow al Qaeda to reestablish bases inside Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 5. The reasoning behind the argument, according to the report, is that the Taliban realises that its previous alliance with al Qaeda had caused it to lose power after the Sep. 11 attacks.
Officials in national security organs that are committed to the counterinsurgency strategy have now pushed back against the officials who they see as undermining the war policy.
McClatchy newspapers reported Sunday that officials have cited what they call "recent U.S. intelligence assessments" that the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups have "much closer ties to al Qaida now than they did before 9/11" and would allow al Qaeda to re-establish bases in Afghanistan if they were to prevail.
McClatchy reporters said 15 mid-level or senior intelligence, military and diplomatic officials they interviewed had agreed with the alleged intelligence assessments.
But John McCreary, formerly a senior analyst at the Defence Intelligence Agency, wrote last week on NightWatch, an online news analysis service, that the history of Taliban-al Qaeda relations suggests a very different conclusion. After being ousted from power in 2001, he wrote, the Taliban "openly derided the Arabs of al Qaida and blamed them for the Taliban's misfortunes".
The Taliban leaders "vowed never to allow the foreigners - especially the haughty, insensitive Arabs - back into Afghanistan," wrote McCreary. "In December 2001, [Mullah Mohammad] Omar was ridiculed in public by his own commanders for inviting the 'Arabs' and other foreigners, which led to their flight to Pakistan."
McCreary concluded, "The premise that Afghanistan would become an al Qaida safe haven under any future government is alarmist and bespeaks a lack of understanding of the Pashtuns on this issue and a superficial knowledge of recent Afghan history."
The Central Intelligence Agency's former national intelligence officer for the Middle East, Paul Pillar, expressed doubt that the Taliban's relations with al Qaeda are tighter now than before the Taliban regime was ousted. "I don't see how you can say that," Pillar told IPS. "If you look at the pre-9/11 relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda, in many ways it was far more extensive."
In the civil war between the Taliban regime and its Northern Alliance foes from 1996 through 2001, Pillar observed, "bin Laden's Arabs and money" represented a far bigger role in supporting the Taliban than the one al Qaeda is playing now. "You can say that there are more groups which have relationships with al Qaeda now, but I don't see any as close as that which existed before 9/11," said Pillar.
Today, however, al Qaeda is cash-strapped and has very few foreign fighters in Afghanistan, whereas the Taliban appear to be well-financed.
The U.S. Treasury Department's expert on terrorist financing, David Cohen, said al Qaeda is "in its weakest financial position in several years" and "its influence is waning", the BBC reported Tuesday.
Gen. Jones told CNN interviewer John King Oct. 4 the presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan today is "minimal", adding the "maximum estimate" is 100 foreign fighters.
2) Al-Qaeda 'faces funding crisis'
BBC, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 02:43 UK
Al-Qaeda is in its worst financial state for many years while the Taliban's funding is flourishing, according to the US Treasury. Senior Treasury official David Cohen said al-Qaeda had made several appeals for funds already this year. The influence of the network - damaged by US efforts to choke funding - is waning, he said.
The Taliban, meanwhile, are in better financial shape, bolstered by Afghanistan's booming trade in drugs.
According to Mr Cohen, the al-Qaeda leadership has already warned that a lack of funds was hurting the group's recruitment and training efforts. "We assess that al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years and that, as a result, its influence is waning," Mr Cohen said from Washington.
But he added that as the organisation had multiple donors who were "ready, willing and able to contribute" the situation could be rapidly reversed.
However, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing said that the Taliban were in a better financial position, despite efforts to control the movement's cash supply. The US administration's Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, has said that the Taliban get most of their funding from private benefactors in the Gulf.
3) Another view: Set flexible timetable
It's time to consider ending our massive military presence.
Senator Russ Feingold, USA Today, October 12, 2009
President Obama recognizes that the failed policies of the previous administration -particularly the war in Iraq - hurt our national security. Though the president has rightly focused on the threat posed by al-Qaeda, sending more troops to Afghanistan is not the solution. We have already doubled our military presence in Afghanistan over the past year. A larger presence there will not help eliminate al-Qaeda's haven in Pakistan, and it could actually hurt our efforts to go after al-Qaeda globally.
The decision to go to war in Afghanistan after 9/11 was the right one. But after eight years of war, it is time to consider bringing our massive, open-ended military presence there to an end. Our focus in the region must be on Pakistan, where al-Qaeda's leadership remains, along with the leadership of the Taliban. Pakistan presents a dangerous mix of militancy, radicalism, poor government and nuclear weapons. Escalating our presence in Afghanistan could push militants across the border, further undermining stability and emboldening our enemies in Pakistan.
We need a global strategy that denies al-Qaeda safe haven everywhere, not just in Afghanistan but also in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. It doesn't make sense to devote billions more dollars and tens of thousands more troops to a strategy that is so heavily concentrated on Afghanistan when the terrorist threat we face is global.
Moreover, sending more troops to Afghanistan won't solve the problems in that country -particularly an ineffective, corrupt government -that have allowed the Taliban to flourish. By the end of this year, we will have spent more than $50 billion in Afghanistan and have lost more brave American servicemembers there than in any previous year. That is too heavy a price, for too uncertain a return. We need to set realistic goals, providing civilian assistance to legitimate actors within the Afghan and Pakistani governments while maintaining a capability to disrupt any al-Qaeda footholds.
Rather than doubling down on a strategy with objectives that could be unachievable, we should announce a flexible timetable to draw down our forces from Afghanistan. A timetable would defuse the perception that we are occupying that country, and help ensure that our presence does not fuel militancy and instability in the region.
4) Support Troops Swelling U.S. Force In Afghanistan
Additional Deployments Not Announced and Rarely Noted
Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 13, 2009
President Obama announced in March that he would be sending 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. But in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized - and the Pentagon is deploying - at least 13,000 troops beyond that number, according to defense officials.
The additional troops are primarily support forces, including engineers, medical personnel, intelligence experts and military police. Their deployment has received little mention by officials at the Pentagon and the White House, who have spoken more publicly about the combat troops who have been sent to Afghanistan.
The deployment of the support troops to Afghanistan brings the total increase approved by Obama to 34,000. The buildup has raised the number of U.S. troops deployed to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan above the peak during the Iraq "surge" that President George W. Bush ordered, officials said.
The deployment does not change the maximum number of service members expected to soon be in Afghanistan: 68,000, more than double the number there when Bush left office. Still, it suggests that a significant number of support troops, in addition to combat forces, would be needed to meet commanders' demands. It also underscores the growing strain on U.S. ground troops, raising practical questions about how the Army and Marine Corps would meet a request from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
McChrystal's request, which the administration is considering, would be in addition to the troops Obama has approved. The request reportedly includes different options for adding troops for combat, training and support, with one option totaling about 40,000. The ability of the Army and Marine Corps to meet the request would depend on the type and number of troops McChrystal asked for, and when he wants them. A significant troop increase in Afghanistan early next year - similar to the 2007 increase in Iraq - would be difficult to sustain given the current size of the Army and Marine Corps and ongoing troop demands in Iraq, officials said.
The Army has 17 brigades deployed worldwide, including 11 in Iraq and five in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon data. The Marine Corps has one expeditionary brigade in Afghanistan. As of early this month, 65,000 U.S. troops were in Afghanistan and about 124,000 were in Iraq. At the height of the increase in Iraq, in late 2007 and early 2008, about 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq and 26,000 were in Afghanistan.
5) Diplomacy in the lead on Iran nuclear issue - for now
Tehran's agreement to let nuclear inspectors into the facility revealed by Obama has boosted the diplomatic track. The site's location in a mountain points up the difficulty of the military option.
Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2009
Washington - Agreement to open Iran's hidden nuclear complex to inspection has reduced talk of military action and put diplomacy back on track - at least for a while. But even as the U.S. tries to build international pressure, emerging details suggest it might already be too late for an armed strike.
Everything about Iran's newly disclosed site near the holy city of Qom complicates the task for the two most likely attackers, the U.S. and Israel. Iranian officials say that's precisely why they built the facility on an elite military base, fortified with steel and concrete, and buried under a mountain.
Military planners in the U.S. and Israel developing contingencies for attacking Iran's nuclear sites have long struggled with a lack of good intelligence, the number and location of the dispersed sites and the distance their forces would have to travel to reach them. Details emerging about the Qom site make their task more difficult - if not almost impossible.
Strikes employing such munitions would probably be successive, with the initial launches focused on entrances and outer defenses, followed by missiles meant to drill deeper into the center of the target.
Locating the center would be difficult. Satellite images of the Qom compound show tunnel entrances and vents scattered across a mountaintop, but they reveal little of the layout underneath.
"Unless you have good human intelligence, you probably don't have a good idea where inside the mountain the key target is," said a former senior U.S. military intelligence official. Partly for that reason, the official said, "it is possible to construct a facility that is simply beyond reach."
6) Russia Resists U.S. Position on Sanctions for Iran,
Mark Landler and Clifford J. Levy, New York Times, October 14, 2009
Moscow - Denting President Obama's hopes for a powerful ally in his campaign to press Iran on its nuclear program, Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday that threatening Tehran now with harsh new sanctions would be "counterproductive."
The minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here that diplomacy should be given a chance to work, particularly after a meeting in Geneva earlier this month in which the Iranian government said it would allow United Nations inspectors to visit its clandestine nuclear enrichment facility near the holy city of Qum.
"At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process," he said. "Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive."
Lavrov's resistance was striking, given that just three weeks before, President Dmitri A. Medvedev said that "in some cases, sanctions are inevitable," which was viewed by some American officials as a sign that Russia was finally coming around to the Obama administration's view that Iran is best handled with diplomacy backed by a credible threat of sanctions.
Lavrov said the talks in Geneva between Iran and other countries had raised hopes for a diplomatic solution, and that it made no sense to discuss sanctions as long as those negotiations are under way. "We are maybe not 100 percent, but still have chances to succeed," he said.
His position conflicts with that of the Obama administration, which argues that the threat of sanctions is crucial to the prospect for a diplomatic solution. Unless Russia and China join the United States and Europe in signaling that the sanctions may be necessary if diplomacy fails, American officials have said, Iran has less incentive to make concessions.
Enlisting Russia is critical for any sanctions campaign because of its geopolitical links to Iran. Russia's refusal to act now may influence China, which has invested heavily in Iranian oil and gas reserves and has also been wary of sanctions. That Putin was in Beijing cutting deals while Mrs. Clinton was in Moscow warning about Iran was not lost on analysts here.
The next milestone in the diplomatic process is Monday , when Iran and officials from France and Russia are to meet in Vienna to discuss the details of a plan to ship a majority of Iran's stockpile of lightly-enriched uranium out of the country to be enriched in Russia to a higher grade. The uranium would then be returned to Iran, where it would fuel a research reactor.
That agreement was the most tangible result of the talks in Geneva between Iran and a group of countries: the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. A senior American official said that in his meeting with Mrs. Clinton, Lavrov had told her that Russia was determined to hold Iran to the deal and would consider sanctions if the Iranians reneged on it.
7) Zelaya supporters blast Honduras media crackdown
AFP, October 12, 2009
Tegucigalpa - Supporters of deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya have warned an interim government crackdown on opposition media could derail talks scheduled to resume on Tuesday and aimed at resolving the months-old political crisis. "It is a really appalling issue, something right out of a dictatorship," said Sunday Rafael Alegria, a leading coordinator of protests against the ouster of Zelaya, the elected president.
A government decree published in the official Gazette Saturday gave authorities the right to "revoke and cancel" licenses of radio and television stations considered to be a threat to "national security" and accused of spreading "hatred."
Last month, the government of Roberto Micheletti, which came to power as the result of a June 28 military coup, already shut down Radio Globo and Channel 36 television seen as close to Zelaya and restricted freedom of assembly and movement.
The new decree gives the coup leaders legal grounds for future similar measures, according to analysts. "The new decree is simply aimed at silencing us once and for all," said Channel 36 director Esdras Lopez. He charged that Micheletti was trying to keep the television channel for his own use.
Saturday Zelaya and the interim government agreed to create a joint cabinet and ditch an amnesty for coup leaders, one of the negotiators announced. But both measures remain dependent on Zelaya's return to the presidency, still far from certain four months into the standoff that emerged from the coup.
Union leader Juan Barahona, one of Zelaya's top three negotiators, told a rally of hundreds of the president's followers Saturday that the joint cabinet, if indeed formed, would be made up of ministers from both governments.
The Zelaya camp, Barahona added, opposed amnesty because such a move would mean "amnesia, forgetfulness and forgiveness, and we cannot condone the coup." Zelaya for his part said Sunday that he had never asked for an amnesty because he did not need it. "A proposal to include it in the deal came from the other side," he told AFP.
8) Palestinian Faith in Obama 'Evaporates'
Leaked memo from President Mahmoud Abbas accuses White House of buckling under pressure from Israel
Rory McCarthy, Guardian, Tuesday 13 October 2009 18.37 BST
Palestinian political leaders have expressed acute disappointment in the Obama administration, saying their hopes that it could bring peace to the Middle East have "evaporated" and accusing the White House of giving in to Israeli pressure.
The unusually frank comments come in an internal memo from the Fatah party, led by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, but reflect a broader frustration among Palestinian politicians that Washington's very public push for peace in the Middle East has yet to produce even a restarting of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. "All hopes placed in the new US administration and President Obama have evaporated," said the document, which was leaked to the Associated Press news agency.
It said Barack Obama "couldn't withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace".
The document, dated Monday, came from an office led by Mohammed Ghneim, a Fatah hardliner and the party's number two, who returned to the West Bank only this year after many years in exile. He was long a critic of the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s, arguing they gave too much to the Israelis. Other Palestinian figures share the frustrations. Mohammad Dahlan was reported as saying this week that he felt "very disappointed and worried by the US administration retreat".
For many months now, the Palestinians have kept to their position that talks cannot restart without an end to construction in Israeli settlements and a guarantee that a full agreement is on the table, based on the borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. "The Israelis need to acknowledge that the 1967 borders are the borders between the two states, and this is the foundation of any negotiations," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Abbas.
10) Factbox: Sanctions against Iran
Reuters, Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:47am EDT
Iran's second-largest bank, Bank Mellat, said on Tuesday its operations would not suffer because of Britain's move to halt dealings with it and another Iranian state company, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. On Monday, Britain ordered financial firms to end business relations with the two Iranian companies. Following are some details of the sanctions already imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations:
Existing U.N. Sanctions:
- The Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran, in December 2006, March 2007 and March 2008.
- The first covered sensitive nuclear materials and froze the assets of Iranian individuals and companies linked with the nuclear program. It gave Iran 60 days to suspend uranium enrichment, a deadline Iran ignored.
- The second included new arms and financial sanctions. It extended an asset freeze to 28 more groups, companies and individuals engaged in or supporting sensitive nuclear work or development of ballistic missiles, including the state-run Bank Sepah and firms controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.
- The resolution invoked Chapter 7, Article 41 of the U.N. Charter, making most of its provisions mandatory but excluding military action. Iran again ignored an order to halt enrichment.
- The third measure increased travel and financial curbs on individuals and companies and made some of them mandatory. It expanded a partial ban on trade in items with both civilian and military uses to cover sales of all such technology to Iran, and added 13 individuals and 12 companies to the list of those suspected of aiding Iran's nuclear and missile programs. In September 2008, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution again ordering Iran to halt enrichment, but imposed no more sanctions, due to opposition from Russia and China.
Existing U.S. Sanctions:
- Sanctions imposed after Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy and took diplomats hostage in 1979 included a ban on most U.S.-Iran trade.
- In 1995, president Bill Clinton issued executive orders preventing U.S. companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and trading with Iran. Tehran has found other willing customers.
- Also in 1995, Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act requiring the U.S. government to impose sanctions on foreign firms investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy sector. It was extended for five years in September 2006. No foreign firms have been penalized. The U.S. terminated the applicability of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act to Libya in 2004.
- In October 2007 Washington imposed sanctions on Bank Melli, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat and branded the Revolutionary Guards a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
- In January 2008 sanctions were imposed on Brigadier-General Ahmed Foruzandeh of the Qods force for fomenting violence in Iraq.
10) NGO Accuses U.S. of Holding Up Visa for Colombian Activist
EFE, October 12, 2009
New York - The non-governmental organization Human Rights First has accused the U.S. government of delays in issuing a visa to Colombian activist Gabriel Gonzalez, winner of that group's rights prize for 2009.
The New York- and Washington-based organization said in a press release Thursday that those delays could prevent the activist from being present to receive the award at a gala ceremony in New York on Oct. 22.
HRF said that because of the delays "Gonzalez may be thousands of miles away" from the ceremony, adding that "his visa is being held up by the U.S. government, apparently because of false charges lodged against him by the Colombian authorities - despite U.S. agreement that those charges amount to nothing."
"Rather than welcoming Gonzalez, the U.S. government is letting him languish in a bureaucratic black hole," said the CEO and executive director of that rights organization, Elisa Massimino, who added that the "the State Department has long supported Gonzalez' work as well as his effort to fight the very trumped-up criminal charges that may now prevent him from entering the United States."
Gonzalez is a student activist and regional coordinator of the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee in Colombia, where he has worked to promote access to justice for prisoners and victims of Colombia's decades-old armed conflict, whose main combatants are leftist rebels, rightist paramilitaries and government forces. "Ironically, Gonzalez's advocacy led to his own arrest," HRF said. "He was detained for more than a year on the false charge of being a guerilla leader."
According to the NGO, the Colombian activist now faces seven more years in prison if his appeal to Colombia's Supreme Court is not successful.
Human Rights First also said the State Department and several U.N. bodies "have expressed concern that his prosecution is baseless and intended to discredit him and undermine his work."
It noted that the State Department in 2007 included Gonzalez in its human rights country report "citing his baseless prosecution as being emblematic of 'the government's attempts to harass human rights defenders.'"
"Gonzalez's case is just one example of a systematic problem in Colombia. Colombian activists from all walks of life are routinely subjected to trumped-up charges intended to stigmatize and silence them," Massimino was quoted as saying.
Gonzalez was chosen by Human Rights First to receive its 2009 Human Rights Award "in recognition of his courageous defense of human rights in Colombia." He is to be honored on Oct. 22 at an event hosted by U.S. newsman Tom Brokaw at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
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