JFP News 10/20: Most Americans Say "Afghanistan = Vietnam"
Just Foreign Policy News
October 20, 2009
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your financial contributions to Just Foreign Policy help us create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a just foreign policy.
1) A majority of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan has turned into "another Vietnam," CNN reports. 59 percent oppose sending more U.S. troops. Of those opposed, 28 percent want Washington to withdraw all U.S troops, 21 percent are calling for a partial American pullout, and 8 percent say the number of troops should remain the same.
2) Secretary of Defense Gates said the US cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, Reuters reports. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had said Obama's pending decision on additional U.S. troops depended on whether the Kabul government is effective.
3) Under U.S. pressure, Afghan President Karzai agreed to hold a runoff election with his top challenger on Nov. 7, the New York Times reports. Even though Karzai ended his resistance to a runoff, that will not completely resolve the country's political crisis, officials say. It will be difficult to hold the new election as the Afghan winter approaches and under the security challenges posed by the Taliban insurgency. There is still a chance the two candidates could reach a power-sharing agreement, which would cancel the need for a second round. Administration officials had tried to use Obama's strategy review on Afghanistan as leverage on Karzai, telling Afghan counterparts Obama would not make a decision to add to the 68,000 US troops in the country until Karzai agreed to accept the election outcome.
4) Iraqi MPs are talking about delaying the January 16 election, which could delay planned US troop withdrawals, the Times of London reports. General Odierno said he had hoped to send as many as 70,000 soldiers home between March and August, but would keep troop strengths at current levels until 30 to 60 days after elections to ensure a safe transfer of power. "Our plan here will influence how they decide to implement what decision they make on Afghanistan," he said of a possible second surge being debated by the White House. If troop levels in Iraq remain higher than planned, freshly trained US brigades will be needed to replace those finishing their tours of duty, and would not be available for Afghanistan.
5) Iran opened \nuclear talks with the US, Russia and France with threats it could back away from an agreement to ship more than three-quarters of its stockpile of nuclear fuel out of the country, the New York Times reports. But one participant in the talks said this was just "opening-day posturing." One US official noted that the deal "legitimizes to some extent the fuel they made when the Security Council ordered them to stop." The article notes - unlike some commentary - that the proposal that they are negotiating on is a US proposal, not an Iranian proposal.
6) A gathering of financial backers of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy was told by a former head of strategic planning for the US Air Force that a US bombing campaign could set back Iran's nuclear work for many years, CBS News reports. Gen. Charles Wald suggested if that Israel started such an attack, the US would be pressured to join in.
7) Most people in Honduras think de facto president Micheletti should resign, Angus Reid Global Monitor reports, citing a Honduran poll. COIMER&OP found 60.1 per cent of respondents said Micheletti should step down, while 22.2 per cent disagree. 17.7% were not sure.
8) Aid workers said they had registered about 160,000 refugees from the Pakistani military offensive in South Waziristan, the Guardian reports. [The US has encouraged the offensive - JFP.] Aid workers expect the figure to increase by at least 100,000 in the coming weeks. Many gave accounts of indiscriminate shelling and warplane attacks that contrast with the military's insistence that its forces are taking care to avoid civilian casualties. The truth is hard to pin down, the Guardian says; since the ground operation began last Saturday, the area has been cut off. Phone lines are cut and it is impossible for journalists to enter the battlezone.
9) The Obama White House has all but dismantled the Iran Democracy Fund, BBC News reports. The move has been welcomed by Iranian human rights and pro-democracy activists. Iranian dissidents said the program made them targets for government repression. Human rights defenders in Iran point to the Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center's activities as an example of why the fund should be cut. They say the Human Rights Documentation Center put them in danger by deceptively luring them to a "human rights seminar" that was really about trying to overthrow the Iranian government. [There's been much hand-wringing over the US de-funding of the IHRDC - JFP.]
10) Iran stepped up accusations against the US, Britain, and Pakistan, saying all three countries have links to Jundullah, a Baluchi group which took responsibility for Sunday's terrorist attack that killed more than 40 Iranians, the Christian Science Monitor reports. [US officials have denied any role in the attack, but they haven't said anything about what the current US relationship is to Jundullah, which was supported by the Bush Administration and has yet to appear on the State Department's list of terrorist groups - JFP.]
11) More than 27,000 people have been reported missing in Colombia in the last three years, according to Colombia Reports, citing government officials. Most of the disappearances occurred between 1988 and 2002. According to Caracol Radio 75 per cent of complaints regarded those forcibly disappeared by paramilitary groups.
1) CNN Poll: Will Afghanistan turn into another Vietnam?
Paul Steinhauser, CNN, October 19th, 2009 12:34 PM ET
Washington - A slight majority of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan is turning into another Vietnam, according to a new national poll which also indicates that nearly six in 10 oppose sending more U.S. troops to the conflict.
Fifty-two percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say the eight year long conflict has turned into a situation like the U.S. faced in the Vietnam War, with 46 percent disagreeing.
According to the poll, 59 percent of people questioned opposed sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan with 39 percent in favor. Of the 59 percent opposed, 28 percent want Washington to withdraw all U.S troops, 21 percent are calling for a partial American pullout, and 8 percent say the number of troops should remain the same.
"Has Afghanistan turned into Barack Obama's Vietnam? Most Americans think so, and that may be one reason why they oppose sending more U.S. troops to that country," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Older Americans are most likely to see parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam - possibly because they remember the Vietnam War, rather than reading about it in textbooks."
2) U.S. Decision Can't Wait For Afghan Legitimacy: Gates
Phil Stewart, Reuters, Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:21 AM
The United States cannot wait for problems surrounding the legitimacy of the Afghan government to be resolved before making a decision on troops, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said.
Gates, speaking to reporters on board a plane traveling to Tokyo, described the situation in Afghanistan as an evolutionary process that would not improve dramatically overnight, regardless of what course is taken following the country's flawed August election. "I see this as a process, not something that's going to happen all of the sudden," Gates said. "I believe that (U.S. President Barack Obama) will have to make his decisions in the context of that evolutionary process."
On Sunday White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had said Obama's Afghanistan strategy and pending decision on additional U.S. troops depend on whether the Kabul government is effective. The overriding question is not, "how many troops you send, but do you have a credible Afghan partner," Emanuel said, adding it was important the election outcome be seen as legitimate and credible.
3) Afghan Leader Said To Accept Runoff After Election Audit
Karzai Agrees to Nov. 7 Runoff in Afghanistan
Sabrina Tavernise and Sharon Otterman, New York Times, October 21, 2009
Kabul - Under heavy international pressure, President Hamid Karzai conceded Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation's disputed presidential election, and agreed to hold a runoff election with his top challenger on Nov. 7.
Flanked at a news conference in Kabul by Senator John Kerry, the head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Kai Eide, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Karzai said he would accept the findings of an international audit that stripped him of nearly one-third of his votes in the first round, leaving him below the 50 percent threshold that would have allowed him to avoid a runoff and declare victory over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.
"I call upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move this country forward and participate in this new round of elections," Karzai said, according to the English translation of his remarks, adding that he was grateful to the international community for its help.
Karzai's capitulation came after an all-out push by Obama administration officials and their European allies. But even though Karzai ended his strong resistance to a runoff, that will not completely resolve the country's political crisis, officials say. It will be difficult to hold the new election as the Afghan winter approaches and under the perilous security challenges posed by the Taliban insurgency.
And there is still a chance that the two candidates could reach a power-sharing agreement, which would cancel the need for a second round. Abdullah has said repeatedly that after the results of the audit were announced, he might be open to other options. But it was not clear on Tuesday that Karzai was willing to offer them, denying at the news conference that there had been talks of a coalition government and saying he was looking forward to competing.
During a hastily arranged two-hour meeting with Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and a top foreign policy ally of Obama, and the United States ambassador, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, at the presidential palace in Kabul on Monday, Karzai, after initially hesitating, agreed to accept the findings, American and European officials said.
Obama administration officials had tried to use Obama's pending strategy review on Afghanistan as leverage on Karzai, telling their Afghan counterparts that Obama would not make a decision to add to the 68,000 American troops in the country until Karzai agreed to accept the election outcome.
4) Violence Threatens Barack Obama's Pledge To Pull Troops Out Of Iraq
Oliver August, Times of London, October 20, 2009
President Obama's pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq and end combat operations there by September 2010 is under threat because of increased levels of violence and bickering within the Iraqi parliament, the top US general in the country has told The Times.
The Iraqi parliament has failed repeatedly to pass a new election law because of arguments over whether ballot papers should give the names of candidates, or of parties only. MPs are now talking about delaying the election, planned for January 16.
The prospect was causing the US serious concern, said General Odierno. "I worry that it calls into question the Iraqi commitment to this form of government. If the parliament doesn't pass the election law and they delay the elections, that violates their own constitution, which says they have to have elections in January."
A postponement would almost certainly affect the US President's pledge to end combat operations in Iraq by August 31 next year and to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.
General Odierno said he had hoped to send as many as 70,000 soldiers home between March and August, but would keep troop strengths at current levels until 30 to 60 days after elections to ensure a safe transfer of power.
"Our plan here will influence how they decide to implement what decision they make on Afghanistan," he said of a possible second surge being debated by the White House. If troop levels in Iraq remain higher than planned, freshly trained US brigades will be needed to replace those finishing their tours of duty, and would not be available for Afghanistan.
5) Iran Threatens To Back Out Of Fuel Deal
David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 20, 2009
Vienna - Iran opened two days of nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France on Monday with veiled public threats that it could back away from an agreement to ship more than three-quarters of its stockpile of nuclear fuel out of the country, unless the West acceded to Iranian demands to provide it with new fuel.
At the end of a nearly four-hour session, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said little about the negotiations other than "We're off to a good start."
Other participants in the talks, which filled an oversize conference room at the agency's headquarters, said that although Iran's representatives did not reject outright the idea of sending the country's fuel to Russia and France for further enrichment, its negotiators stopped well short of reaffirming the statements the country made in talks on Oct. 1.
"This was opening-day posturing," one participant in the talks said, declining to be identified because all sides had agreed not to discuss the specifics of the negotiations. "The Iranians are experienced at this, and you have to expect that their opening position isn't going to be the one you want to hear."
The talks are advertised as a meeting of technical experts, but much more is at stake. If Iran carries out its plan to use its own low-enriched uranium - produced in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions - to fuel a reactor in Tehran used for medical purposes, American officials say that that use would set aside, for about a year, fears that Iran could use the fuel to produce a nuclear weapon. After that, Iran's continuing production of uranium would refill its stockpiles.
"Our object is to get a sizable amount of low-enriched uranium out of the country of Iran, making the world more secure," said Robert Gibbs, President Obama's press secretary, at a White House news briefing.
A senior administration official said, "By the end of these next two days we'll know if the Iranians are serious and whether we have time" to pursue further diplomacy without fear that Iran is racing ahead to produce a weapon from fuel ostensibly intended for other purposes.
Iran's public statements about the agreement this month have not been entirely negative; some have expressed support for the deal. American officials say they still cannot determine Iran's real position, if it has decided on one.
"Publicly it's hard for them to be seen making a concession," one American official said. "But maybe they have decided, for their own reasons, that this sets a precedent that they like, because it legitimizes to some extent the fuel they made when the Security Council ordered them to stop."
The proposal under negotiation originated from Iran's request to refuel the small medical reactor, which has long been subjected to international inspections and is not considered part of a nuclear weapons program. In early summer, Obama's top arms control aide, Gary Samore, came up with a proposal to test Iran's declarations that it had been enriching uranium solely for peaceful uses: offer to help Iran fabricate fuel for the reactor, but only from its own supplies. By most estimates, Iran's total known stockpile of fuel amounts to enough for one to two bombs, if it were further enriched.
If Iran exports 2,645 pounds of that fuel, the amount it says it needs for the medical reactor, for further refinement abroad, experts say that it could not replace that fuel for another year.
6) Game Plan: If Israel Strikes Iran First
Retired General Says Israeli Attack to Take Out Iran's Nuclear Facilities Not Only Possible, the U.S. Should Join In
CBS News, October 18, 2009
Lansdowne, Va. -
Several hundred spent the weekend at a resort hotel 30 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., forced by cold rain to focus on nothing but Iran and the nearly moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. At this annual gathering of financial backers of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, joined by diplomats, journalists and analysts, many had expected a feisty debate between proponents and opponents of a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Instead, the crowd heard experts suggesting the military option is a very realistic one; and a retired U.S. Air Force general said Israel might open fire first - and that the United States would find it wise to join in.
Gen. Charles Wald, former head of strategic planning and policy for the Air Force who also had been deputy commander at U.S. European Command, said a bombing campaign - while "unpalatable" - could set back Iran's nuclear work for many years. "I don't think Israel can do it alone," Wald added. "They have a fantastic military, but not big enough for weeks or months of attacks - hundreds of sorties per day."
Wald said the U.S. would not exactly be dragged into air strikes on Iran, but if "our great ally Israel" decided that it "can't take it anymore" - the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb - then "pressure will mount for us to stand by Israel."
7) Hondurans Want Micheletti to Step Down
Angus Reid Global Monitor, October 19, 2009
Most people in Honduras think interim president Roberto Micheletti should resign, according to a poll by COIMER&OP. 60.1 per cent of respondents say the de-facto head of state should step down, while 22.2 per cent disagree.
Should de-facto president Roberto Micheletti step down?
Source: Consultores en Investigación de Mercados y Opinión Pública (COIMER&OP)
Methodology: Interviews with 1,470 Honduran adults, conducted from Aug. 23 to Aug. 29, 2009. Margin of error is 4 per cent.
8) Refugee flood reveals human cost of South Waziristan's invisible war
- Pakistani forces accused of hitting civilians
- Up to 260,000 people may flee battle against Taliban
Declan Walsh, Guardian, Monday 19 October 2009 20.40 BST
The war in South Waziristan started early for Ghufran. As Pakistani warplanes pounded the Taliban stronghold of Ladha last week, in preparation for the ground offensive now under way, the 11-year-old boy and his family scrambled to safety across a range of jagged mountains.
They left behind a broken home, destroyed by the air force, but also something much more precious. Ghufran said his father stayed on to guard the family's worldly wealth: four goats, three sheep and a donkey. "I miss him already. I wish he came with us," the schoolboy said, a shadow falling across his face.
As fighting raged for a third day in South Waziristan today, refugees flooded into Dera Ismail Khan, a dusty, danger-laced town on the southern edge of the tribal area. Aid workers there said they had registered about 160,000 people in six centres; they expect the figure to jump by at least 100,000 in the coming weeks.
People crowded into government registration centres, putting their names down for an aid distribution programme that had yet to begin. Expressing frustration, many said they felt trapped between American drone strikes, ruthless Taliban fighters, and an invading Pakistani force that threatened their property and lives.
Many gave accounts of indiscriminate shelling and warplane attacks that contrast with the military's insistence that its forces are taking care to avoid civilian casualties. Kasheed Khan said he carried his 90-year-old mother during a two-day journey out of Makeen, one of the main Taliban hubs. "They were targeting the civilians. I saw it myself. They were hitting vehicles and houses," he said. "They even demolished the main bus stand in Makeen." Now, he said, he was staying in a relative's house along with 50 other people.
The truth is hard to pin down in South Waziristan, where a bloody war is unfolding behind an invisible veil. Since the ground operation began last Saturday, pitting 30,000 government soldiers against an estimated 10,000 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, the area has been entirely cut off from the outside world. Phone lines are cut and it is impossible for journalists, foreign or local, to enter the battlezone.
In Islamabad General David Petraeus, the US central command chief, met the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, and the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani. Washington is reportedly unhappy with a deal Pakistan's military has struck with other Taliban who are attacking western troops in Afghanistan. "Sometimes you have to talk to the devil," an army spokesman told reporters in explanation.
9) US cuts funding to Iran opposition
Bahman Kalbasi, BBC News, October 20, 2009
In an apparent shift from the Bush administration's efforts to foster regime change in Iran by financing opposition groups, the Obama White House has all but dismantled the Iran Democracy Fund.
While the move has been criticised by neo-conservatives in the US, it has been welcomed by Iranian human rights and pro-democracy activists.
The controversial program was initiated by the Bush administration in an effort to topple the clerical regime in Tehran by financing Iranian NGOs. While heralded by some in Washington, reactions in Iran to the program were overwhelmingly negative.
Critics like Iranian dissident and journalist Akbar Ganji have maintained that the program made virtually all Iranian NGOs targets of the hardline government in Iran: "The US democracy fund was severely counterproductive. None of the human right activists and members of opposition in Iran had any interest in using such funds, but we were all accused by Iran's government of being American spies because a few groups in America used these funds."
The secretiveness around the program - the recipients of the funds remain classified - has added to the dilemma, Iranian human rights groups maintain. They say it has enabled the Iranian authorities to accuse any Iranian NGO of having received funds from the US government.
Abdolfattah Soltani is a well-known Iranian human rights lawyer, and spokesman for the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which was founded by the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi.
He welcomes the change in policy: "These US funds are going to people who have very little to do with the real struggle for democracy in Iran and our civil society activists never received such funds. The end to this program will have no impact on our activities whatsoever."
The director of one benefactor [beneficiary] of the Iran Democracy Fund, the US-based Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center, told the Boston Globe that they never expected their funding to be cut under these circumstances.
Human rights defenders in Iran, however, point to the Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center's activities as an example of exactly why the fund should be cut.
In 2005, the centre organised a seminar in Dubai. Though it was advertised as a human rights seminar, participants tell the BBC that they soon realised that the aim was to train Iranian human rights defenders on how to overthrow the Iranian regime through non-violent means.
Several of the participants were subsequently arrested and jailed in Iran. Today, they bitterly complain that the Human Rights Documentation Center knowingly put them under immense risk by luring them to Dubai - a hub for Iranian intelligence services - under false pretences.
The episode is believed to have focused the attention of the Iranian regime on NGOs and political activists. The authorities began to regard them a as a potential national security threat, prompting a severe crackdown on Iranian civil society.
10) Iran steps up blame of US, Britain, and Pakistan for bombings
Iran says all three countries have links to a Sunni group blamed for Sunday's suicide blast that killed at least five senior members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Jonathan Adams, Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2009
Iran stepped up accusations on Monday against the US, Britain, and Pakistan, saying all three countries have links to a Sunni group blamed for Sunday's suicide blast that killed more than 40, including at least five senior members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
Tehran said it would demand that Pakistan hand over the attack's suspected mastermind. It said the country's intelligence agency, along with those of the US and Britain had a hand in planning and directing the attack.
The US, Britain, and Pakistan have all denied any involvement in Sunday's attack.
A Sunni rebel group, Jundallah, claimed responsibility for the attack in Pasheen, in southeast Iran near the border with Pakistan. The group has long waged an anti-government insurgency in the Sistan and Baluchistan region, claiming Tehran discriminates against the area's Baloch ethnic minority.
Iran said Monday that Pakistan was harboring the planners of Sunday's attack, and that it would demand that the leader of Jundullah be arrested and sent to Iran. "The head of [Iran's Revolutionary Guards], General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said a delegation would head to Pakistan to deliver 'proof' that Islamabad is supporting Sunni militant leader Abdolmalek Rigi, whose Jundallah [Soldiers of God] group has for years being waging war against the Shiite rule of Iran," reports Agence France-Presse.
The speaker of Iran's parliament also accused the US of being behind the attack, reports CNN. "We consider this recent terrorist act to be the result of the US actions and this is a sign of their enmity," said parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
A US State Department spokesman said the accusation was "completely false." "We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives. Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false," Ian Kelly told CNN.
Britain also denied Iran's allegations. Pakistan's foreign ministry denied Monday that Rigi was even in Pakistan, according to the BBC.
11) Over 27 thousand people currently missing in Colombia
Neda Vanovac, Colombia Reports, Monday, 19 October 2009 09:23
Over the last three years the Prosecutor's Office has received reports of the forced disappearances of 27,384 people, victims of armed rebel groups. The latest report from by the Justice and Peace Office was based on complaints filed by relatives of missing persons during a seminar for the victims developed under the Justice and Peace Act.
Caracol Radio reports that during the 382 days of of inspection conducted since October 2006, prosecutors and investigators have heard and documented reports of disappearances which in most cases occurred between 1988 and 2002.
During the investigation, families of the disappeared argued that they had no news of their loved ones, and were furthermore able to identify the alleged perpetrators of the disappearances.
Investigators found that the majority of those missing were farmers, construction workers and the unemployed.
According to Caracol Radio, twenty thousand people, or 75 per cent of complaints regarded those forcibly disappeared by paramilitary groups.
Just Foreign Policy
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.