JFP 11/13: Our Corrupt Occupation of Afghanistan
Just Foreign Policy News
November 13, 2009
Our Corrupt Occupation of Afghanistan
There is something very Captain Renault in the complaints of Western leaders about corruption in Afghanistan. We're shocked, shocked that the Afghans have sullied our morally immaculate occupation of their country with their corruption. Perhaps we should consider the possibility that our occupation of the country is not so morally immaculate - indeed, that the most corrupt racket going in Afghanistan today is the American occupation.
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1) Rep. Jan Schakowsky said during a visit to Honduras that "the (Honduran) congress needs to move forward quickly ... to reinstall Zelaya as president, and the democratic order needs to be restored," AP reports.
2) Some of the options President Obama is considering for escalation in Afghanistan depend crucially on cooperation from Pakistan that may not be forthcoming, the Washington Post reports. A new U.S. strategy would require aggressive action from Pakistan against the Afghan insurgent network of Pakistan-based Jalaluddin Haqqani. U.S. intelligence indicates that Haqqani's forces, which battle U.S. troops in northern and eastern Afghanistan, are the most closely tied to al-Qaeda and that they have the closest links to elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence service.
3) American companies are not seeing much lasting benefit from the war in Iraq, the New York Times reports. While Iraq's imports nearly doubled in 2008, imports from American companies stayed flat. " U.S. private investors have become negligible players in Iraq," said one analyst. One European ambassador said his country's trade opportunities greatly increased in Iraq after it withdrew the last of its troops more than a year ago. "Being considered an occupier handicapped us extremely," he said.
4) Gen. McChrystal has proposed a counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan similar to the one employed in Vietnam, writes Gordon Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times. Obama would be well-served to answer several core questions suggested by our history in Vietnam, Goldstein says. Is failure really imminent? In 1961, Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale reported that "Vietnam is in critical condition . . . requiring emergency treatment." Without drastic action, he warned, the government would be overthrown in months. JFK correctly dismissed that assessment. Is the current strategy militarily realistic? In 1965, National Security Adviser Bundy insisted: "There will be time to decide our policy won't work after we have given it a good try." George Ball, undersecretary of State, thought that approach was folly. "We won't get out," he predicted. "We'll double our bet and get lost in the rice paddies." Reviewing Ball's statement three decades later, Bundy conceded that Ball had been right.
5) Gaza-born Berlanty Azzam's expulsion from the West Bank, preventing her from finishing her studies at Bethlehem Univerisity, has drawn inquiries from the U.S. State Department, the Washington Post reports. "Just in terms of humanitarian interest, there have been a lot of inquiries. It is pretty compelling," said an official at the U.S. Consulate. Azzam said worries about a Hamas connection are, at least in her case, far-fetched. "What am I going to do with Hamas? I am a Christian," said Azzam, a Greek Orthodox who said she was aided in leaving Gaza four years ago by papers provided through the church patriarchate.
6) Ecuadorian Defense Minister Ponce requested on a meeting with President Obama on the U.S. military cooperation agreement signed with Colombia, Inside Costa Rica reports. According to Ponce, the agreement says that the military base of Planquero in Colombia "guarantees the operations in all Latin America." During the Summit of the Union of South American Nations in August, Brazil's President Lula proposed the organization should have a meeting with Obama for him to explain the range of the military agreement with Colombia. "The proposal of President Lula is pending and I think we have to insist on that," Ponce said.
7) Senator Baucus said Congress will probably approve a short extension of trade benefits for Ecuador that expire next month despite concerns about actions that country has taken, Reuters reports. Ecuador, Peru and Colombia currently receive duty-free access to the U.S. market under the Andean trade preference program which expires at the end of the year.
1) Ousted Honduran president: US weakened, yielded
Kathia Martinez, Associated Press, Friday, November 13, 2009 12:24 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/12/AR2009111211616.html
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya accused the U.S. government Thursday of weakening and changing course in the conflict over the June 28 coup that saw soldiers hustle him out of the country.
Washington has said it supports Zelaya's reinstatement, but a U.S.-brokered pact signed by Zelaya and the government in place since the coup sets no deadline for his return to office and hopes of reinstating the deposed leader before Nov. 29 presidential elections appeared to be dimming.
U.S. officials "have suddenly declared they are going to wait for the elections because they changed their position midstream," Zelaya told Radio Globo. Zelaya has demanded he be reinstated before the vote.
"The United States weakened in the face of the dictator," Zelaya said, referring to interim President Roberto Micheletti. But Zelaya also said "the nations of the world, including the United States itself, what they really want is reinstatement and they have condemned the coup."
This week, the United States sent Craig Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, to Honduras to try to move along the U.S.-brokered pact, which calls for a unity government and for Congress to vote on whether to restore Zelaya.
Congressional leaders say they are waiting for an opinion from prosecutors and Honduras' Supreme Court, which ordered Zelaya's arrest for refusing to drop plans for a referendum on constitutional change that the court had ruled illegal. Key lawmakers have indicated there might not be a vote until after the elections.
"There is an accord and we want it to advance because we think it is important for the country and the region. It's urgent and we have to advance," Kelly said Tuesday.
On Thursday, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, said during a visit that "the (Honduran) congress needs to move forward quickly ... to reinstall Zelaya as president, and the democratic order needs to be restored."
2) Weak Allies Limit Obama's Options
War Plans Hindered
Afghanistan, Pakistan may prove unreliable
Karen DeYoung and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Friday, November 13, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/12/AR2009111209563.html
In the final stages of its deliberations over a new war strategy, the administration's attention has shifted to the two governments whose cooperation and competence are considered essential to success - Afghanistan and Pakistan.
National security adviser James L. Jones arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for a personal update on whether Pakistan's government and military are willing and able to play the crucial role envisioned for them in each of the several options President Obama is considering. One scenario in particular, in which increased numbers of U.S. ground troops would battle the Taliban in southern Afghanistan while insurgents in the north and east are attacked from the air, requires an aggressive companion effort by the Pakistani military along the border.
As Obama nears a decision, proponents of differing options have questioned whether either Kabul or Islamabad is up to the task. "Do we have any assurances of what Pakistan will do?" said a senior administration official identified with advisers who are skeptical of a large new deployment. "At least in Iraq, you had some functioning government there at the time of the surge. In Afghanistan, there is no government there."
Meanwhile, Jones's unannounced visit to Islamabad came as the government there faces growing political turmoil, including a pending opposition maneuver in Parliament that could reinstate long-standing corruption charges against about half a dozen members of Zardari's cabinet and force their resignations.
The powerful Pakistani military continues to challenge the government's control over foreign and defense policy. U.S. officials have praised the current offensive against Taliban and al-Qaeda-allied forces in the border region, but a new U.S. strategy would require even more effort from Pakistan, including more aggressive action against the Afghan insurgent network of Pakistan-based Jalaluddin Haqqani.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Haqqani's forces, which battle U.S. troops in northern and eastern Afghanistan, are the most closely tied to al-Qaeda and that they have the closest links to elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence service.
One of the options Obama is weighing would concentrate U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in southern Afghanistan, where low-level Taliban fighters are considered more receptive to reconciliation with the government. At the same time, Haqqani's forces would be attacked from the air and by U.S. Special Forces units conducting operations with Pakistani counterparts across the border. This "hybrid" option calls for about 20,000 new U.S. troops - the middle ground among proposals U.S. military planners have offered Obama.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One that no strategy decision would be announced until Obama returns to the United States next Thursday.
3) Rebuilding Its Economy, Iraq Shuns U.S. Businesses
Rod Nordland, New York Times, November 13, 2009
Baghdad - Iraq's Baghdad Trade Fair ended Tuesday, six years and a trillion dollars after the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, and one country was conspicuously absent.
That would be the country that spent a trillion dollars - on the invasion and occupation, but also on training and equipping Iraqi security forces, and on ambitious reconstruction projects in every province aimed at rebuilding the country and restarting the economy.
Yet when the post-Saddam Iraqi government swept out its old commercial fairgrounds and invited companies from around the world, the United States was not much in evidence among the 32 nations represented. Of the 396 companies that exhibited their wares, "there are two or three American participants, but I can't remember their names," said Hashem Mohammed Haten, director general of Iraq's state fair company. A pair of missiles atop a ceremonial gateway to the fairgrounds recalled an era when Saddam Hussein had pretensions, if not weapons, of mass destruction.
The trade fair is a telling indication of an uncomfortable truth: America's war in Iraq has been good for business in Iraq - but not necessarily for American business.
American companies are not seeing much lasting benefit from their country's investment in Iraq. Some American businesses have calculated that the high security costs and fear of violence make Iraq a business no-go area. Even those who are interested and want to come are hampered by American companies' reputation here for overcharging and shoddy workmanship, an outgrowth of the first years of the occupation, and a lasting and widespread anti-Americanism.
While Iraq's imports nearly doubled in 2008, to $43.5 billion from $25.67 billion in 2007, imports from American companies stayed flat at $2 billion over that period. Among investors, the United Arab Emirates leads the field, with $31 billion invested in Iraq, most of that in 2008, compared to only about $400 million from American companies when United States government reconstruction spending is excluded, according to Dunia Frontier Consultants, a emerging-market analyst. "Following this initial U.S.-dominated reconstruction phase, U.S. private investors have become negligible players in Iraq," Dunia said in a report.
Now, Iraq is doling out its own oil-financed funds for capital projects, and American companies have so far received surprisingly little of it. Sports City, a billion-dollar complex of stadiums and housing in Basra planned for the Gulf Games in 2013, was awarded to an Iraqi general contractor, Al Jiburi Construction, over 60 other bidders, many of them American.
"We have a couple American companies as our subcontractors," said Adai al-Sultani, an assistant to the firm's owner, with evident pride. When the transportation ministry put up more than $30 billion in railroad expansion contracts recently, they went to Czech, British and Italian companies.
Those nations had been members of the coalition led by the United States, although all pulled outlong before the United States. But one of the biggest beneficiaries of Iraqi contract money is Turkey, which wouldn't allow American warplanes to use its airbases during the invasion of Iraq, followed closely by Iran.
Turkey has gone from almost no legal trade with Iraq before the war to $10 billion in exports last year, five times as much as the United States. Turkey's trade minister, Kursad Tuzmen, predicted that number would triple in the next couple years.
Both Turkey and Iran had huge pavilions at the trade fair, crowded with businessmen discussing deals. So did France and Brazil, also not coalition countries.
Last month, FedEx, which had been flying packages in and out of Iraq since 2004, announced it was suspending its operations. The reason is that Iraqi officials gave RusAir, a Russian airline, exclusive rights to cargo flights.
FedEx was one of the very few American businesses that braved the risks of working not only on American bases but also in the Red Zone, back when it was particularly dangerous to do so. Now that the danger is much less, its business is being thwarted by an upstart Russian come-lately.
It is almost an article of faith among many Iraqis, judging from opinion polls, that the United States invaded Iraq not to topple Saddam Hussein, but to get their country's oil.
If true, then the war failed in even more ways than some critics charge.
It wasn't until last week that the first major oil field exploitation contract was signed with a foreign company - BP, in a joint deal with China's state-run China National Petroleum Corporation.
Exxon Mobil, an American company, has an oil field deal awaiting final approval from Iraq's oil ministry. The Italian oil giant Eni, whose junior partner is the American-owned Occidental Petroleum, is expected to sign a similar deal. These, however, are service contracts, so the foreign oil companies don't actually own rights to any new oil they may find.
"Turkish companies are acceptable to all different Iraqi ethnic groups, because they are not an occupier, and they can implement big reconstruction projects at a lower cost," said an executive of a leading Iraqi construction firm that often works with the Turks. He did not wish to be identified for fear of offending American clients.
Even Iraqi Kurds, many of whom are politically at odds with Turkey, seem to get along with the Turks when it comes to business. "Turkish companies are not afraid to do business in Iraq," said Eren Balamir, who was in charge of Turkey's pavilion at the fair.
The high cost of security - a cost that most regional businesses don't have - has dissuaded many American businesses from coming; some contracts spent as much as 25 percent of their budgets on security.
Security isn't the only impediment. Being seen as the occupier is just not good for business. Although the United States, legally speaking, has not been an occupying power since June 2004, when the Security Council formally ended occupation, many see it that way. Even Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has described Americans as occupiers to curry electoral support.
One European ambassador, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his government's policy, said his own country's trade opportunities greatly increased in Iraq after it withdrew the last of its troops more than a year ago. "Being considered an occupier handicapped us extremely," he said. "The farther we are away from that the more our companies can be accepted on their own merits."
"As a U.S. company, you already have a few strikes against you before you even step foot in Baghdad airport," said Marc Zeepvat of the Trans National Research Corporation in New Jersey, who specializes in studying the Iraqi market for institutional investors. "The U.S. government and U.S. companies have to wake up and realize they're not in a privileged position any more."
4) Vietnam, Afghanistan and learning from history
What can Obama learn from the Vietnam War, and how can he apply it to the war in Afghanistan?
Gordon M. Goldstein, Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2009
[Goldstein is the author of "Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam."]
As President Kennedy pondered the risks of accidental war in the nuclear age - a nightmare he would confront head on in the Cuban missile crisis - he asked his senior advisors to read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August," a narrative tracing the chain of events that led to World War I.
Today, President Obama is also reflecting on history's lessons, asking his advisors to study the past as they help him chart America's future course in Afghanistan. Among the "required reading" for the Obama team, it has been reported, is my book, "Lessons in Disaster," which examines how one of the architects of the Vietnam War, McGeorge Bundy, came to renounce America's entanglement in that tragic conflict and struggled to draw insight from it "to help us do better in the world ahead."
As Obama weighs the risks of escalating the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, what can a new commander in chief learn from the disaster of Vietnam?
The president is said to believe the threats posed by the two wars are starkly different. The Vietnamese communists were passionately determined to unify their country; Al Qaeda, in contrast, is dedicated to America's destruction. Our former adversary, North Vietnam, represented little of strategic importance. Our quest in Afghanistan, on the other hand, is entwined with the interests of our ally, Pakistan, a nuclear nation and a crucial security interest of the United States.
The two conflicts nonetheless share some compelling parallels. Vietnam has never been successfully dominated by foreign powers, defeating China, France, Japan and the United States. Afghanistan, similarly, has earned its reputation as the "graveyard of empires" for subverting the imperial ambitions of Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviet Union.
The most pronounced similarity between the two wars is in the realm of military strategy. In Afghanistan, the top commander, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has proposed a counterinsurgency mission similar to the one employed in Vietnam - an approach many believe is certain to fail.
As Obama prepares to make one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, he would be well-served to answer several core questions suggested by our troubled history in Vietnam.
Is failure really imminent?
In 1961, Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale reported that "Vietnam is in critical condition . . . requiring emergency treatment." Without drastic action, he warned, the government would be overthrown in months. JFK correctly dismissed that assessment. McChrystal has predicted that without more troops and resources, the war in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure" within a year. Is his prediction of collapse justified?
Are current troop levels truly inadequate?
In 1961, the military requested that troops be boosted in Vietnam to give the U.S. a 15-1 numerical advantage over the Viet Cong. Kennedy refused, urging instead "the redistribution of available forces" to "make them more effective." There are currently more than 100,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, supplemented by 85,000 Afghan soldiers and 80,000 Afghan police. There are an estimated 25,000 Taliban insurgents. American, allied and Afghan forces thus have a more than 10-1 numerical advantage. Can Obama deploy existing resources more effectively without substantial escalation?
Is the current strategy militarily realistic?
In 1965, Bundy insisted: "There will be time to decide our policy won't work after we have given it a good try." George Ball, undersecretary of State, thought that approach was folly. "We won't get out," he predicted. "We'll double our bet and get lost in the rice paddies." Reviewing Ball's statement three decades later, Bundy conceded that Ball had been right. In Vietnam, the United States never rigorously questioned the viability of its military strategy in advance. Is counterinsurgency a viable mission in Afghanistan? Should the United States pursue a military strategy with a historically low rate of success - one that in Vietnam proved to be open-ended in its duration, indeterminate in its goals, dependent on intangible political factors and effectively countered by the tactics of asymmetric warfare?
5) Israel challenged on Gazan's ejection from West Bank
Israel challenged on Gazan's ejection from West Bank
Student's case comes as Netanyahu talks of easing restrictions
Howard Schneider, Washington Post, Friday, November 13, 2009
Jerusalem - Gaza-born Berlanty Azzam, 21, was two months from receiving her bachelor's degree from Bethlehem University when the past caught up with her.
During a routine stop at a West Bank checkpoint on Oct. 28, an Israeli guard noticed Gaza City as the town of residence on her ID, placed her under arrest for being in the West Bank without permission and, within hours, had her deported back to the Gaza Strip, blindfolded briefly and in handcuffs.
Her case has drawn high-level attention - including inquiries from the U.S. State Department - from those who question whether such a strict enforcement of the rules is reasonable at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says he is trying to ease restrictions on Palestinians and encourage economic development as a way to progress toward peace.
Azzam acknowledges that she did not have the required Israeli permission to study in the West Bank - something that has been increasingly difficult for residents of the Gaza Strip to obtain, particularly since the 2007 takeover of the area by the Islamist Hamas movement. She traveled from Gaza in 2005 on a four-day pass, enrolled in college and never returned.
But she has no security or other charges against her, Israeli authorities acknowledge, and according to university officials and others, she has been assiduous in her studies.
"This is a young woman who is trying to get her bachelor's degree in business from a Vatican-sponsored university. It'd be an economic advantage and serve Israel, too. So what is the deal?" said Brother Jack Carroll, vice president for development at Bethlehem University. "There are no charges against her. They don't have any accusations against her. Her ID said Gaza."
Ruling on a petition by a human rights group, Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Defense Ministry to hold an administrative hearing on Azzam's case next week - she was transferred to Gaza without any proceedings - and allow her to be represented by a lawyer.
Israel restricted movement between Gaza and the West Bank after the outbreak of a violent intifada, or uprising, in 2000, and it was all but eliminated after the Hamas takeover.
Daniel Rubinstein, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, has visited Bethlehem University to discuss Azzam's case, and officials with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv have made inquiries with the Israeli government.
"Just in terms of humanitarian interest, there have been a lot of inquiries. It is pretty compelling," said an official at the U.S. Consulate, who was not authorized to speak for the record. The Israelis "have rules and regulations, but they have provisions for exceptions, and to deprive someone of their degree certainly seems like it would be ripe for that."
Azzam said worries about a Hamas connection are, at least in her case, far-fetched. "What am I going to do with Hamas? I am a Christian," said Azzam, a Greek Orthodox who said she was aided in leaving Gaza four years ago by papers provided through the church patriarchate.
Gisha, the organization that is representing Azzam, said it has fielded 15 complaints from West Bank deportees this year.
Reached by phone in Gaza City, Azzam said she is hopeful the university will let her finish her degree, through e-mailed course work or some other means. But her hope is to return to campus. "I was not supposed to be there. It's an Israeli thing," she said. "But I'm a Palestinian woman. Why can't I move inside the Palestinian areas?"
6) Ecuador Requests Meeting With Obama On U.S.-Colombia Military Deal
Inside Costa Rica, Thursday 12 November 2009
Quito - Ecuadorian Defense Minister Javier Ponce requested on Tuesday a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on the U.S. military cooperation agreement signed with Colombia.
Colombia and the United States signed an agreement on Oct. 30 to boost the United States' presence by up to 1,400 people across seven military bases in Colombia to fight against drug trafficking and terrorism, a deal that has prompted objections from Colombia's neighbors.
Neighbors such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have been criticizing the agreement since it was first discussed in July.
According to Ponce, the agreement says that the military base of Planquero in Colombia "guarantees the operations in all Latin America."
"I think there is enough reason to talk with Obama. The problem is that the proposal of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not succeed, possibly it did not find all the necessary support at that moment," Ponce said.
During the Summit of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) held in Quito in August this year, Lula proposed the organization should have a meeting with Obama for him to explain the range of the military agreement with Colombia.
"The proposal of President Lula is pending and I think we have to insist on that," Ponce said.
7) Ecuador trade benefits a "sticky" issue: U.S. senator
Doug Palmer, Reuters, Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:31pm EST
Washington - The U.S. Congress will probably approve a short extension of trade benefits for Ecuador that expire next month despite concerns about actions that country has taken, a senior senator said on Tuesday.
"Ecuador is sticky. It's difficult. It's not easy ... Ecuador is not helping itself. It's a word to the wise. If they want to continue, a lot of that is in their hands too," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said.
The comment came one day after U.S. trade officials expressed hope for continued engagement with Ecuador.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has rattled investors by hiking taxes, defaulting on debt and expelling foreign firms over tax or legal wrangles.
In February, he expelled two U.S. diplomats, saying they meddled with local police affairs. He identified one of them as the local CIA chief.
Ecuador, Peru and Colombia currently receive duty-free access to the U.S. market under the Andean trade preference program which expires at the end of the year.
The program dates back to the early 1990s, but in recent years Congress has only approved short-term extensions as it mulls whether to revamp all U.S. preference programs and to approve a trade deal with Colombia.
Frustration over policies that Ecuador and Bolivia have pursued against foreign investors prompted Congress last year to approve just a six-month renewal of the program for both countries, and to give the White House the option of extending the benefits for an additional six months.
Shortly after that renewal, former President George W. Bush suspended Bolivia from the program because of its failure to cooperate in U.S. drug-fighting efforts.
President Barack Obama upheld the decision on Bolivia in June, while deciding to continue trade benefits for Ecuador through the end of this year.
A bigger U.S. trade preference program, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), also expires on December 31.
It provides duty-free treatment for about 4,800 products from 131 developing countries and territories, including India, Brazil and others that some lawmakers think have grown too big for U.S. trade benefits.
Baucus said he thought both the Andean and the GSP programs would be extended for a short time so Congress could conduct a long-promised review of how they are structured.
The House of Representatives Ways and Means trade subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next week on the future of the GSP and Andean programs.
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