JFP 10/28: Congress Members Demand End of Mixed Messages on Honduras Coup
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October 28, 2009
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Matthew Hoh: Q&A
The Washington Post ran an online Q&A with Matthew Hoh, a former Foreign Service officer who resigned in protest over the Afghan war, to discuss why he thought the war "wasn't worth the fight."
Congress Members Denounce Mixed US Messages on Honduras Coup
Rep. Raul Grijalva and 15 Members of Congress have written to President Obama, urging him to end the de facto policy of mixed messages regarding the coup in Honduras.
Kerry, Berman Protest Law Library Report Justifying Honduras Coup
Senator Kerry and Rep. Berman have written a letter of protest to the Librarian of Congress over a Law Library of Congress report that sought to justify the coup in Honduras.
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1) October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan, even though this time of year typically brings a decline in violence as insurgents regroup with cold weather approaching, the Washington Post reports. This year has already surpassed any other in Afghanistan in U.S. military deaths.
2) President Obama's advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, an approach that would stop "short of an all-out assault on the Taliban," the New York Times reports. Obama has yet to make a decision. Officials said the strategy would include accelerated training of Afghan troops, expanded economic development and reconciliation with less radical members of the Taliban. Officials made the case that many insurgents fighting Americans in distant locations are motivated not by jihadist ideology, but by local grievances, and are not much of a threat to the US. At the heart of this strategy is the conclusion that the US cannot completely eradicate the insurgency - nor does it need to. A strategy of protecting major Afghan population centers would be "McChrystal for the city, Biden for the country," one administration said.
3) Senator Levin said the defense bill Obama will sign Wednesday contains a provision that would pay Taliban fighters who renounce the insurgency, Reuters reports. Under the legislation, Afghan fighters who renounce the insurgency would be paid for "mainly protection of their towns and villages," Levin said. It would be "just like the sons of Iraq," he said. "You got 90,000 Iraqis who switched sides, and are involved in protecting their hometowns against attack and violence."
4) Working within Afghanistan's tribal system would do more for security than sending more U.S. troops, which could fuel the insurgency, argues a former PRT commander in the Wall Street Journal.
5) US officials say Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president, gets regular payments from the CIA, and has for much of the past eight years, the New York Times reports. Some US officials say the CIA relationship is undermining US counter-narcotics policy.
6) The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki want President Obama to visit their cities when he visits Japan next month, AP reports. No sitting American president has visited either city, which were devastated by US atomic bombs. US officials said a visit was unlikely.
7) Colombia's Defense Minister said Colombia will sign a controversial security pact with the US by the end of the week, Reuters reports. Gabriel Silva said the agreement would most likely be signed on Friday on his return to Bogota.
8) UN rights investigator Philip Alston said the US must demonstrate that it is not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border, Reuters reports. Alston said if the US continued to refuse to answer UN questions about the program, then the CIA "is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws."
9) Taliban militants stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in Kabul, killing 11 people including five U.N. workers, AP reports. It was the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine next month's presidential runoff election. U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said the U.N. would have to evaluate "what this means for our work in Afghanistan." The 2003 truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, prompted the U.N. to pull out of Iraq for several years.
10) An Iranian news agency said that Thursday Iran will deliver to the IAEA its response to a nuclear deal aimed at shipping abroad Iran's low-enriched uranium, AFP reports. The report quoted an unnamed informed source as saying Iran has proposed some "modifications" in the draft of the plan, but has accepted, in what will be Iran's "final response", the overall framework of the plan.
11) Iraq is lobbying for international approval to rebuild a nuclear reactor, The Guardian reports. Current UN resolutions prohibit this; Iraq is lobbying for the UN resolutions to be lifted.
1) Month Becomes The Deadliest Of Afghan War
Bombings Kill 8 U.S. Soldiers
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Kabul - October became the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan when two bombs killed eight soldiers and an interpreter in separate attacks Tuesday.
This time of year typically brings a decline in violence as insurgents regroup with cold weather approaching. Instead, the bloodiest days this month have displayed both the range of threats American soldiers face and the persistent danger of the most basic weapons.
Soldiers have died in a lone outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan that was nearly overrun by more than 100 insurgents firing rockets and grenades. They have been killed in gun battles and in crashing helicopters. And they died Tuesday in Kandahar province in a dismayingly familiar way: by homemade bombs buried in the road.
Tuesday's violence again showed an inability to protect against the type of explosives that killed the most Americans in Iraq and are killing the most here, too. This year has already surpassed any other in Afghanistan in U.S. military deaths, and the rising toll poses urgent problems for the Obama administration as it attempts to fashion a new war strategy. Fifty-four U.S. troops died in October, surpassing the previous high of 51 in August, according to iCasualties.org.
2) U.S. To Protect Populous Afghan Areas, Officials Say
Thom Shanker, Peter Baker and Helene Cooper, New York Times, October 28, 2009
Washington - President Obama's advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability.
Obama has yet to make a decision and has other options available to him, but as officials described it, the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed. The question of how much of the country should fall under the direct protection of American and NATO forces will be central to deciding how many troops will be sent.
At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual capital, seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.
But military planners are also pressing for enough troops to safeguard major agricultural areas, like the hotly contested Helmand River valley, as well as regional highways essential to the economy - tasks that would require significantly more reinforcements beyond the 21,000 deployed by Obama this year.
Administration and military officials said the strategy would include other elements, like accelerated training of Afghan troops, expanded economic development and reconciliation with less radical members of the Taliban.
But such a strategy would be open to complaints that American and allied forces were in effect giving insurgents free rein across large parts of the nation, allowing the Taliban to establish ministates with training camps that could be used by Al Qaeda.
"We are not talking about surrendering the rest of the country to the Taliban," a senior administration official said. Military officers said that they would maintain pressure on insurgents in remote regions by using surveillance drones and reports from people in the field to find pockets of Taliban fighters and to guide attacks, in particular by Special Operations forces.
But a range of officials made the case that many insurgents fighting Americans in distant locations are motivated not by jihadist ideology, but by local grievances, and are not much of a threat to the United States or to the government in Kabul.
At the heart of this strategy is the conclusion that the United States cannot completely eradicate the insurgency in a nation where the Taliban is an indigenous force - nor does it need to in order to protect American national security. Instead, the focus would be on preventing Al Qaeda from returning in force while containing and weakening the Taliban long enough to build Afghan security forces that would eventually take over the mission.
In effect, the approach blends ideas advanced by General McChrystal and by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., seen as opposite poles in the internal debate.
General McChrystal has sought at least 40,000 more troops for a counterinsurgency strategy to protect Afghan civilians so they will support the central government. Biden has opposed a buildup, contending that a bigger military footprint could be counterproductive and that fighting Al Qaeda in Pakistan should be the top priority.
A strategy of protecting major Afghan population centers would be "McChrystal for the city, Biden for the country," as one administration official put it. Officials said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was playing a crucial role, balancing the case made by commanders with the skepticism of some civilians on Obama's war council as the debate entered its final days.
3) U.S. Defense Bill Would Pay Taliban To Switch Sides
Susan Cornwell, Reuters, Tuesday, October 27, 2009 4:57 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/27/AR2009102702208.html
Washington - The defense bill President Barack Obama will sign into law on Wednesday contains a new provision that would pay Taliban fighters who renounce the insurgency, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said on Tuesday.
The provision establishes a program in Afghanistan similar to one used in Iraq where former fighters were re-integrated into Iraqi society, Levin told Reuters.
Obama plans to sign the bill authorizing Pentagon operations for fiscal 2010 on Wednesday, the White House said.
Reaching out to moderate Taliban members is part of the Obama administration's plan to turn around the eight-year war in Afghanistan. Levin also has advocated trying to convince Taliban fighters to change sides by luring them with jobs and amnesty for past attacks.
Under the legislation, Afghan fighters who renounce the insurgency would be paid for "mainly protection of their towns and villages," Levin said.
It would be "just like the sons of Iraq," he said, referring to the program used in Iraq which military commanders say helped turn around a failing war. "You got 90,000 Iraqis who switched sides, and are involved in protecting their hometowns against attack and violence."
4) Afghanistan Doesn't Need More Troops
In 2007-2008, 250 paratroopers secured a Pashtun province of one million by working closely with the tribes.
David Adams and Ann Marlowe, Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2009
[Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from March 2007 to March 2008. Marlowe did four embeds with American forces in Khost during 2007-2008.]
From the beginning of 2007 to March 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division's strategy in Khost proved that 250 paratroopers could secure a province of a million people in the Pashtun belt. The key to success in Khost-which shares a 184 kilometer-long border with Pakistan's lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas-was working within the Afghan system. By partnering with closely supervised Afghan National Security Forces and a competent governor and subgovernors, U.S. forces were able to win the support of Khost's 13 tribes.
Today, 2,400 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Khost. But the province is more dangerous.
Mohammed Aiaz, a 32-year-old Khosti advising the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, puts it plainly: "The answer is not more troops, which will put Afghans in more danger." If troops don't understand Afghan culture and fail to work within the tribal system, they will only fuel the insurgency. When we get the tribes on our side, that will change. When a tribe says no, it means no. IEDs will be reported and no insurgent fighters will be allowed to operate in or across their area.
Khost once had security forces with tribal links. Between 1988 and 1991, the Soviet client government in Kabul was able to secure much of eastern and southern Afghanistan by paying the tribal militias. Khost was secured by the 25th Division of the Afghan National Army (ANA), which incorporated militias with more than 400 fighters from five of Khost's 13 major tribes. The mujahedeen were not able to take Khost until internal rifts among Pashtuns in then-President Mohammed Najibullah's government resulted in a loss of support for the militias in Khost and, eventually, the defection of the 25th Division in April 1991.
The mistake the Najibullah government made was not integrating advisers to train the tribal militias and transform them into a permanent part of the government security forces. During the Taliban period between 1996-2001 the 25th Division dispersed amongst the tribes. Many fled to Pakistan.
When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the 25th Division, reformed under the command of Gen. Kilbaz Sherzai, immediately secured Khost. But the division was disbanded by the new Afghan government for fear of warlordism.
Today, some elements of the 25th still work for the Americans as contract security forces. However, the ANA now stationed in Khost is mainly composed of northern, non-Pashtun Dari speakers, and it is regarded as a foreign body. Without local influence and tribal support, the ANA tends to stay on its bases.
When we become fixated on clearing insurgents, we lose focus on the tribes, which are critical to our success. The proper recipe is not clear, hold and build. As we learned in Khost, it is befriend, secure, build governance-and then hold. Without a consistent strategy of enlisting tribal cooperation, more troops will simply find more trouble in the Pashtun belt.
5) Brother Of Afghan Leader Is Said To Be On C.I.A. Payroll
Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, New York Times, October 28, 2009
Kabul - Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.
The agency pays Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.'s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Karzai's home.
The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Karzai raise significant questions about America's war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.
The ties to Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America's increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.'s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.
More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large area of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.
"If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves," said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.
The relationship between Karzai and the C.I.A. is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the C.I.A. operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government, the officials said.
Karzai is also paid for allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city - the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's founder. The same compound is also the base of the Kandahar Strike Force. "He's our landlord," a senior American official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Karzai also helps the C.I.A. communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban. Karzai's role as a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban is now regarded as valuable by those who support working with Karzai, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.
Some American officials said that the allegations of Karzai's role in the drug trade were not conclusive. "There's no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai's involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court," said one American official familiar with the intelligence. "And you can't ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts."
At the start of the Afghan war, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, American officials paid warlords with questionable backgrounds to help topple the Taliban and maintain order with relatively few American troops committed to fight in the country. But as the Taliban has become resurgent and the war has intensified, Americans have increasingly viewed a strong and credible central government as crucial to turning back the Taliban's advances.
Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Karzai is setting off anger and frustration among American military officers and other officials in the Obama administration. They say that Karzai's suspected role in the drug trade, as well as what they describe as the mafialike way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force.
These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Karzai has enriched himself by helping the illegal trade in poppy and opium to flourish. The assessment of these military and senior officials in the Obama administration dovetails with that of senior officials in the Bush administration. "Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it," a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the information.
A former C.I.A. officer with experience in Afghanistan said the agency relied heavily on Ahmed Wali Karzai, and often based covert operatives at compounds he owned. Any connections Karzai might have had to the drug trade mattered little to C.I.A. officers focused on counterterrorism missions, the officer said. "Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade," he said. "If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn't live in Afghanistan."
The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama took office in January, intensified in June, when the C.I.A.'s local paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, shot and killed Kandahar's provincial police chief, Matiullah Qati, in a still-unexplained shootout at the office of a local prosecutor.
The circumstances surrounding Qati's death remain shrouded in mystery. It is unclear, for instance, if any agency operatives were present - but officials say the firefight broke out when Qati tried to block the strike force from freeing the brother of a task force member who was being held in custody.
Counternarcotics officials have repeatedly expressed frustration over the unwillingness of senior policy makers in Washington to take action against Karzai - or even begin a serious investigation of the allegations against him. In fact, they say that while other Afghans accused of drug involvement are investigated and singled out for raids or even rendition to the United States, Karzai has seemed immune from similar scrutiny.
Some American counternarcotics officials have said they believe that Karzai has expanded his influence over the drug trade, thanks in part to American efforts to single out other drug lords.
In debriefing notes from Drug Enforcement Administration interviews in 2006 of Afghan informants obtained by The New York Times, one key informant said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had benefited from the American operation that lured Hajji Bashir Noorzai, a major Afghan drug lord during the time that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to New York in 2005. Noorzai was convicted on drug and conspiracy charges in New York in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison this year.
Habibullah Jan, a local military commander and later a member of Parliament from Kandahar, told the D.E.A. in 2006 that Karzai had teamed with Haji Juma Khan to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Noorzai's arrest.
6) Japan: An Invitation For Obama
Associated Press, October 28, 2009
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went to the American Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday to formally invite President Obama to their cities when he visits Japan next month. No sitting American president has visited either city, which were devastated by American atomic bombs in World War II. The White House declined to comment on the invitation, but officials said a visit was unlikely.
7) Colombia, U.S. Sign Defense Pact This Week: Minister
Anthony Boadle, Reuters, Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:36pm EDT
Washington - Colombia will sign a controversial security pact with the United States to enhance its war on "narcoterrorism" by the end of the week, Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said on Tuesday.
The agreement, which gives U.S. troops access to seven bases to enhance Colombia's anti-drug and counter-insurgency operations, has been criticized by neighboring countries for allowing a American military presence in the region.
Silva, who was in Washington for talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said the agreement would most likely be signed on Friday on his return to Bogota.
The U.S. government has already appropriated $46 million to fund the new arrangement. Most will go to refurbish the Palanquero air base near Bogota.
8) U.S. Use Of Drones Queried By U.N.
Reuters, October 28, 2009
United Nations - The United States must demonstrate that it is not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border, a United Nations rights investigator said Tuesday.
The investigator, Philip Alston, also said the American refusal to respond to United Nations concerns that the use of drones might result in illegal executions was an "untenable" position.
Alston, who is appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, said his concern over drones had grown in the past few months as the American military prominently used them in the rugged area along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said the United States may be using the drones legally but needed to answer questions he raised in June. "Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws," he said.
9) U.N. Quarters In Kabul Hit In An Attack Called Political
Gunmen storm UN guest house in Kabul, 11 dead
Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah, Associated Press, Wednesday, October 28, 2009 4:37 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/28/AR2009102800889.html
Kabul - Taliban militants wearing suicide vests and police uniforms stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital Wednesday, killing 11 people including five U.N. workers.
The two-hour attack, which began shortly before 6 a.m., sent people jumping out of windows or hopping from roof to roof to escape a fire that engulfed part of the three-story building. A man from Kansas City, Mo., said he held off gunmen with a Kalashnikov until a group of guests escaped through the laundry room.
It was the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine next month's presidential runoff election. At least 25 U.N. staff were staying at the guest house, most of them advisers for the Nov. 7 balloting.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the assaults, which included rocket attacks at the presidential palace and the city's main luxury hotel. The Taliban has warned Afghans to stay away from the polls or risk attacks.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone call to the AP, saying three militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the guest house assault.
He said three days ago that the Taliban issued a statement threatening anyone working on the Nov. 7 runoff election between Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah. "This is our first attack," he said.
U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards initially said six U.N. staff were killed and nine other U.N. employees were wounded. Later, he revised the figure to five, indicating one body may have been counted twice. Afghan police and U.N. officials said 11 people in all were killed, including the U.N. staff, three attackers, two security guards and an Afghan civilian. It was not clear whether there were any other attackers besides the three killed.
Edwards said the U.N. would have to evaluate "what this means for our work in Afghanistan."
"This has clearly been a very serious incident for us," Edwards said. "We've not had an incident like this in the past."
The Aug. 19, 2003, truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, prompted the U.N. to pull out of Iraq for several years.
10) Iran to deliver response on uranium deal: report
Aresu Eqbali, AFP, October 28, 2009
Tehran - Iran will on Thursday deliver to the UN atomic watchdog its much-awaited response to a Western-backed nuclear deal aimed at shipping abroad Tehran's low-enriched uranium, the Mehr news agency said.
The report quoted an unnamed informed source as saying Iran has proposed some "modifications" in the draft of the UN-brokered plan, but has accepted, in what will be Tehran's "final response", the overall framework of the plan.
11) Iraq Seeks Permission For New Nuclear Programme
Martin Chulov, Guardian, Tuesday 27 October 2009 20.43 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/27/iraq-nuclear-reactor-programme
Iraq has started lobbying for approval to again become a nuclear player, almost 19 years after British and American war planes destroyed Saddam Hussein's last two reactors, the Guardian has learned.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq's re-entry into the nuclear field.
Iraq says it envisages that a reactor would be used initially for research purposes. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the science and technology minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian.
Fahmi insists Iraq has "only peaceful applications" in mind for a nuclear programme, "including the health sector, agriculture … and water treatment".
The Iraqi government cannot meet the needs of residents served by antiquated electricity networks and water distribution that need an overhaul. Most other service sectors, including science and technology, are also unable to satisfy need, making relatively cheap and efficient nuclear energy an attractive alternative.
Fahmi admitted there were "some impediments" to the plan. "At the moment, UN resolutions, including 707, don't allow us to enter this field, so we are lobbying for the resolutions to be lifted," he said.
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