JFP 1/25: UN's Eide Calls for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban
Just Foreign Policy News
January 25, 2010
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1) The UN's top official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the UN list of terrorists, as a step toward opening direct negotiations with the Taliban, the New York Times reports. "If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."
2) Voters in Nago on Okinawa chose a new mayor Sunday who opposes the relocation of a U.S. military air base to his town, the Washington Post reports. Japan's Prime Minister Hatoyama had said the mayoral election would be a factor in the Japanese government's decision on the fate of the base. Construction of the base would require a massive landfill in waters now used by fishermen and snorkelers. It is opposed by environmentalists who have filed a lawsuit.
3) Gen McChrystal told the Financial Times that senior Taliban leaders could play a role in a future Afghan government, the BBC reports. Turkey has offered to broker talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
4) The head of Italy's civil protection service, who led earthquake response in Italy, said relief efforts in Haiti had been disorganised, and that the large US military mission in Haiti was not entirely helpful, the Guardian reports. "When you are facing a situation in chaos [the US] tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to the armed forces," Guido Bertolaso said. Bertolaso expressed doubt over the efficacy of having so many US military personnel involved. "It's a truly powerful show of force but it's completely out of touch with reality. They don't have close rapport with the territory, they certainly don't have a rapport with the international organisations and aid groups."
5) U.S. officials have failed to win over the military and civilian establishment in Pakistan that remains suspicious of U.S. ties to India and reluctant to plunge into war with Afghan militants who may outlast the U.S. presence, the Washington Post reports. The US sees India's active role in Afghanistan as a force for stability, but Pakistan sees it as a threat and has been reaching out to other regional powers, including Iran, for counterbalancing support.
6) As a result of the US decision to prioritise the accumulation of foreign soldiers over the distribution of emergency supplies, untold numbers of people have died needlessly in Haiti, write Brian Concannon, Noam Chomsky and others in a letter to the Guardian. They demand that control of the relief effort be turned over to Haiti's leaders, and that Jean-Bertrand Aristide be allowed to return from exile.
7) A spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration says Haiti needs tens of thousands of tents to house people made homeless by the earthquake, the New York Times reports. But an Oxfam expert cautioned that temporary camps would work only if they were secure, their residents were working and the government offered a clear exit strategy. "The camps must not become warehouses of people waiting for permanent homes that never materialize," he said.
8) Thousands of post-operation trauma patients in Haiti are ready to leave the hospitals, but lack homes or families to go to, the New York Times reports. Many will require prosthetic limbs, frequent wound cleanings, bandage changes and months of rehabilitation. The NYT estimates that "a few thousand" amputations have been performed since the earthquake. Even in the best of circumstances, it can take four to six months for a person who has had a traumatic amputation to function again, one expert says.
9) The Pakistani Army's announcement that it planned no new offensive against militants for as long as a year "chipped away at one of the cornerstones" of Obama's strategy to reverse the Taliban's gains in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New York Times reports. Obama has said his administration would reassess the plan at the end of 2010, after all the troops deployed as part of the increase were in place. But if the Pakistani position does not change, operations on Pakistan's side of the border will not have begun by the time Obama has made his assessment.
10) Since a suicide bombing that killed 7 Americans in Afghanistan Dec. 30, the CIA has struck back against militants in Pakistan with the most intensive series of missile strikes from drone aircraft since the covert program began, the New York Times reports. A senior US official had said the C.I.A. would "avenge" the attack; today, US officials deny that vengeance is driving the US attacks. Some legal scholars have questioned the legitimacy under international law of killings by a civilian agency in a country where the US is not officially at war. The ACLU has requested under FOIA documents revealing procedures for approving targets and legal justifications for the killings. John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School who frequently advises the military, said, "The more the drone campaign works, the more it fails - as increased attacks only make the Pakistanis angrier at the collateral damage and sustained violation of their sovereignty." If the US expands the drone strikes beyond the lawless tribal areas to neighboring Baluchistan, as is under discussion, the backlash "might even spark a social revolution in Pakistan," Arquilla said.
11) Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said it would delay Afghanistan's parliamentary election from May until September, citing a lack of money, logistical challenges and the continuing violence in the country, the New York Times reports. The postponement was welcomed by international organizations and Western governments, which had been urging Afghanistan to delay the vote until reforms in its election procedures had been carried out.
12) The election in Nago could force Japan to scrap, or at least significantly modify, a 2006 deal with the US to build a replacement facility in the city for the Futenma United States Marine air station, the New York Times reports. Political experts have said losing Nago as a site for the base would complicate Prime Minister Hatoyama's decision, because few other Japanese communities appear willing to host the base. This means Hatoyama could try to merge the Marine base with a nearby US Air Force base, or move it to Guam; both are options that the Obama administration has resisted. Many Japanese say the move to Nago would cause excessive environmental damage and impose an unfair burden on Okinawa, where almost half of the 50,000 US military personnel in Japan are located.
1) U.N. Seeks To Drop Some Taliban From Terror List
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 25, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - The leader of the United Nations mission here called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations' list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group.
In an interview, Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative, also implored the American military to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons here - another principal grievance of Taliban leaders. Until recently, the Americans were holding those prisoners at a makeshift detention center at Bagram Air Base and refusing to release their names.
Together, Mr. Eide said he hoped that the two steps would eventually open the way to face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders, many of whom are hiding in Pakistan. The two sides have been at an impasse for years over almost every fundamental issue, including the issue of talking itself. "If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Mr. Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."
In recent days, Afghan and American officials have signaled their willingness to take some steps that might ultimately lead to direct negotiations, including striking the names of some Taliban leaders from the terrorist list, as Mr. Eide is suggesting. The remarks by Mr. Eide were the latest in a series of Afghan and Western efforts to engage the Taliban movement with diplomatic and political means, even as a new American-led military effort was under way here.
American, Afghan and NATO leaders are also preparing to start an ambitious program to persuade rank-and-file Taliban fighters to give up in exchange for schooling and jobs. That plan, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will be the focus of an international conference this week in London. The plan aims at the bottom of the Taliban hierarchy - the foot soldiers who are widely perceived as mostly poor, illiterate, and susceptible to promises of money and jobs.
Mr. Eide, who will leave his post in March, said that such efforts at reintegration would be useful but not enough. While some rank-and-file Taliban soldiers might be fighting for economic reasons, he said, the motives of most were more complex. The Taliban's leaders exert more control over the foot soldiers than they are given credit for, he said. "I don't believe it's as simple as saying that these are people who are unemployed, and if we find them employment they will go our way," Mr. Eide said. "Reintegration by itself is not enough."
In the past, talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents have foundered on a few core issues. Afghan leaders have demanded that the Taliban forswear violence and their association with Al Qaeda before talks can begin. For their part, the Taliban have demanded that the Americans and other foreign forces leave the country first.
But some Taliban leaders have indicated that they might be willing to engage in some sort of discussions if their names were stricken from the United Nations' so-called "black list." The list contains the names of 144 Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, the movement's leader, as well as 257 from Al Qaeda. Under United Nations Resolution 1267, governments are obliged to freeze the bank accounts of those on the list and to prevent them from traveling.
Some Taliban leaders say the black list prevents them from entering into negotiations - if they show their face, they say, they would be arrested. "This would allow the Taliban to appear in public," said Arsalan Rahmani, a former deputy minister with the Taliban who now lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul. "It would allow the possibility of starting negotiations in a third country."
Mr. Eide said he did not believe that senior Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar should be removed from the list. It was Mullah Omar, after all, who provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which launched the Sept. 11 attacks. But some second-tier Taliban should be taken from the list, he said. Those leaders are not necessarily associated with terrorist acts but might be able to speak for the movement, he said, and might be willing to reciprocate a good-will gesture.
The request to strike any Taliban names from the United Nations list would have to made by the Afghan government. In the past, Afghan officials have indicated that they might be willing to take some names off - even that of Mullah Omar. But they have kept details and their ultimate intentions under wraps.
Last week, the American envoy to the region signaled some willingness to allow the names of some Taliban to be taken off the list as long as they are not senior commanders responsible for atrocities or associated with Al Qaeda.
2) Mayor's election in Okinawa is setback for U.S. air base move
Blaine Harden, Washington Post, Monday, January 25, 2010; A12
Tokyo - In a small-town election that may have a big impact on U.S. ties with Japan, voters in Nago on Okinawa chose a new mayor Sunday who opposes the relocation of a noisy U.S. military air base to his town.
Susumu Inamine, who said during his campaign that he did not want the air station constructed in Nago, defeated the incumbent, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who has long supported hosting the base as a way of increasing jobs and investment. "I was campaigning in the election with a pledge not to have a new base built," Inamine told supporters Sunday night.
The United States and Japan agreed four years ago to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now located in a dense urban area in the center of Okinawa, to Nago, a town of 60,000 in the thinly populated northern part of the tropical island. It was to have been built on landfill along a pristine coast on the edge of the town.
But to the exasperation of the Obama administration, that deal was put on hold last fall after the election of a new government led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who says Japan has been too passive in its dealings with the United States. Hatoyama has suggested that the base be moved off Okinawa or out of Japan altogether - and has also said that the outcome of the mayoral vote in Nago would be a factor in his government's final decision, which he has promised to make by May.
Construction of the air station in Nago would require a massive landfill in a picturesque stretch of waters now used by fishermen and snorkelers. It is opposed by environmentalists who have filed a lawsuit saying it would destroy habitat of the rare dugong, a manatee-like sea mammal. A Japanese government environmental assessment has said that dugongs have not been seen in the proposed construction area for many years. For many Okinawans, the Futenma air station has become a symbol of the noise, pollution and risk of accidents that they associate with the large U.S. military presence on the island.
3) US commander signals peace talks with Taliban
BBC, Monday, 25 January 2010
Nato's top commander in Afghanistan has said increased troop levels could bring a negotiated peace with the Taliban. US Gen Stanley McChrystal told the UK's Financial Times newspaper that there had been "enough fighting".
He said a political solution in all conflicts was "inevitable". His remarks came as the top UN envoy in Kabul said it was time to talk to the militants.
Afghan and Pakistani leaders are in Turkey to discuss tackling the Taliban-led insurgency in their countries. This is the fourth such meeting initiated by Turkey, which has offered to broker talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
On the issue of reconciliation, Gen McChrystal said: "I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome. And it's the right outcome." Asked if he thought senior Taliban could have a role in a future Afghan government, he said: "I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past.
In an interview with the New York Times, United Nations special representative Kai Eide called for some senior Taliban leaders to be removed from a UN list of terrorists, as a prelude to direct talks. "If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Mr Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."
4) Italian official condemns Haiti earthquake relief as 'vanity parade'
Guido Bertolaso, who led L'Aquila quake response in Italy, targets lack of leadership and role of US military
Peter Walker, Guardian, Monday 25 January 2010 12.16 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/25/italy-condemns-haiti-earthquake-relief-effort
The Italian government official who led the country's response to the L'Aquila earthquake has condemned relief efforts in Haiti as a disorganised "vanity parade", ahead of an international conference on rebuilding the devastated country.
Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil protection service, said there had been a fundamental lack of leadership thus far in foreign aid missions to Haiti, warning also that the large US military mission in the country was not entirely helpful. "The Americans are extraordinary, but when you are facing a situation in chaos they tend to confuse military intervention with emergency aid, which cannot be entrusted to the armed forces," Reuters reported him as telling Italy's RAI television.
Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, swiftly distanced the government from Bertolaso's comments. He had "attacked American and international organisations head on. The Italian government does not share these statements," Frattini told reporters in Washington.
Dozens of nations have sent rescue teams and relief supplies to Haiti. The effort involves government staff, troops and representatives from hundreds of separate charities and NGOs. The process has already been criticised as taking too long to bring desperately needed food, water and shelter.
Having arrived in Haiti on Friday, Bertolaso said he had seen "a terrible situation that could have been managed much better".
He expressed doubt over the efficacy of having so many US military personnel involved. "It's a truly powerful show of force but it's completely out of touch with reality. They don't have close rapport with the territory, they certainly don't have a rapport with the international organisations and aid groups."
5) Pakistan Unconvinced By U.S. Overtures
Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Monday, January 25, 2010; A12
Islamabad, Pakistan - Despite a string of high-profile visits designed to reassure Pakistan of Washington's commitment, U.S. officials have failed to win over a military and civilian establishment here that remains suspicious of U.S. ties to India and reluctant to plunge into war with Afghan militants who may outlast the U.S. presence.
Differences between the two partners could cause problems at the international conference on Afghanistan that opens Thursday in London, which will be attended by 60 countries. President Obama has called Pakistan crucial to the success of the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, the responses he received from the army and the press here were either skeptical or defiant. Washington has been urgently pressing military officials to take on Islamic militants in the tribal area of North Waziristan, but the officials announced during Gates's visit that they could not launch any operation for at least six months.
The Pakistani media focused their coverage on a gaffe by Gates on the sensitive topic of private U.S. security firms working here. Answering a question, he inadvertently implied that the security company formerly known as Blackwater is working for the U.S. government in Pakistan, which U.S. and Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied. The secretary's slip dominated the national airwaves for 48 hours, and fueled already rampant speculation that the firm's employees are serving as spies.
One major obstacle, analysts said, is the close relationship between the United States and India. India-Pakistan relations are mired in mistrust, with India suspecting Pakistan of colluding in a terrorist attack in Mumbai in late 2008, and Pakistan suspecting that India uses Afghanistan to launch anti-Pakistan subversion.
For some Pakistanis, the message of support delivered by Gates and other recent visitors, including special envoy Richard Holbrooke, has been discredited by similar U.S. messages of support for India. Washington sees India's active role in Afghanistan as a force for stability, but Pakistan sees it as a threat and has been reaching out to other regional powers, including Iran, for counterbalancing support.
The other major obstacle, analysts said, is Pakistan's concern that if its armed forces expand operations and go after allies of the Afghan Taliban, this will invite retribution from radical groups that have so far refrained from attacking Pakistan, and that could end up sharing power in Afghanistan after Western forces withdraw.
Analysts pointed out that key militant leaders in North Waziristan, especially Sirajuddin Haqqani and Hafiz Gulbahadur, have honored longtime peace agreements with Pakistan while attacking U.S. troops in Afghanistan. If provoked, these leaders could marshal thousands of fighters against government forces.
"If the army goes into North Waziristan, it will stir up a hornet's nest," said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies. He said that the region is full of young men eager to fight for Islam, and that it would be difficult to isolate militant factions from one other. "There is a fusion of interests that would be a lethal combination for the security establishment," Gul said.
The army's spokesman said that its forces were stretched too thin after months of fighting in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley to open a new front, and that they need more time to consolidate their gains.
6) Haitian empowerment must be the prime goal
Letter, Brian Concannon, Noam Chomsky, et al, Guardian, Friday 22 January 2010
We the undersigned are outraged by the scandalous delays in getting essential aid to victims of the earthquake in Haiti ('Chaotic and confusing' relief effort is costing lives, aid agencies warn, 19 January). As a result of the US decision to prioritise the accumulation of foreign soldiers over the distribution of emergency supplies, untold numbers of people have died needlessly. We demand that US commanders immediately restore executive control of the relief effort to Haiti's leaders, and to help rather than replace the local officials they claim to support.
Obsessive foreign concerns with "security" and "violence" are refuted by actual levels of patience and solidarity on the streets of Port-au-Prince. In keeping with a long-standing pattern, US and UN officials continue to treat the Haitian people and their representatives with wholly misplaced fear and suspicion. We call on the de facto rulers of Haiti to do everything possible to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian people to respond to this crisis. We demand, consequently, that they allow Haiti's most popular and most inspiring political leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide (whose party won 90% of the parliamentary seats in the country's last round of democratic elections), to return immediately from the unconstitutional exile to which he has been confined since the US, Canada and France helped depose him in 2004.
If reconstruction proceeds under the supervision of foreign troops and international development agencies it will not serve the interests of the vast majority of Haitians. We call on the leaders of the international community to respect Haitian sovereignty and to initiate an immediate reorientation of international aid, away from neoliberal adjustment, sweatshop exploitation and non-governmental charity, and towards systematic investment in Haiti's own government and public institutions. We demand that France pays the colossal amount of money it owes Haiti in full and at once.
Above all, we demand that the reconstruction of Haiti be pursued under the guidance of one overarching objective: the political and economic empowerment of the Haitian people.
Roger Annis, Canada Haiti Action Network
Noam Chomsky, MIT
Brian Concannon Jr, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Berthony Dupont Editor, Haiti Liberté
Yves Engler, Haiti Action Montreal
Peter Hallward, Middlesex University
Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee, USA
Kevin Pina, Journalist/film-maker,
Jean Saint Vil, Canada Haiti Action Network
7) As Haiti’s Focus Turns to Shelter, Families Press Search for Missing
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, January 25, 2010
International aid organizations said they had identified three sites to temporarily resettle the homeless. Brazilian teams have begun clearing a field in the Croix des Bouquets neighborhood for a tent city for some 10,000 people, according to Niurka Piñeiro, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, but it estimates the need at 100,000 tents for families of five, to assist 500,000 people.
Another temporary settlement will be established on Rue de Tabarre for the estimated 4,000 people now camped in squalid conditions on the grounds of the prime minister's home. A third settlement will be built in the city of Léogâne. And French authorities have said that they will begin efforts to provide water and sanitation to several thousand people crowded in the Champ de Mars plaza downtown.
"Tents, tents, tents," Ms. Piñeiro said. "That's the word we want to get out. We need tents."
The call for aid organizations to focus on shelter came 12 days after the quake, when an estimated 250,000 people were still living under pieces of scavenged tarpaulins, tin and bedsheets. With so many people lacking access to clean water and sanitation, illnesses are running rampant. "We're getting a lot of kids with diarrhea," said Yveline Auguste, who is working at a Haitian hospital on behalf of Catholic Relief Services. So far the cases are generally mild enough to be treated with medicine at home, she said.
But Rick Bauer, a shelter expert for the international aid agency Oxfam, said that the temporary camps would work only if they were secure, their residents were working and the government offered a clear exit strategy. "The camps must not become warehouses of people waiting for permanent homes that never materialize," he said.
8) In Haiti, Many Amputees Have No Place to Go
Ray Rivera, New York Times, January 25, 2010
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti -
Nearly two weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the immediate health crisis, which involved treating the injuries of people who were crushed by collapsing buildings and amputating damaged limbs, has begun to settle into a new phase.
This one is perhaps even more daunting: caring for thousands of post-operation trauma patients who are ready to leave the hospitals, but lack homes or families to go to. Many will require prosthetic limbs, frequent wound cleanings, bandage changes and months of rehabilitation.
As officials warn of possible outbreaks of infectious diseases from unsanitary conditions in hundreds of makeshift camps of people made homeless by the earthquake, they are also wondering where to send patients who have been treated for their injuries but require follow-up care.
"It's very hard to send people home when they don't have a house," said Dr. Surena Claude, who is coordinating a commission appointed by President René Préval to respond to the health emergency. "This situation is causing so many problems, because the hospitals are full, and if this continues we will have no room."
Early reports that there might be as many as 200,000 people who required amputations appear to have been exaggerated. At the University Hospital, Port-au-Prince's largest hospital, which received the brunt of the casualties after the quake, surgeons have performed about 225 amputations, mostly in the first few days. Doctors Without Borders estimated that its doctors had performed 125 amputations in 12 centers across the country. Hundreds more have been done in other clinics and hospitals elsewhere; the total is more likely to have been a few thousand.
Still, this is a country that, even before the earthquake created so much devastation, could barely cope with the healthy. There will be thousands more who will need rehabilitation for a range of injuries, from broken hips and femurs to neurological disorders from head injuries.
Dr. Mirta Roses, director of the World Health Organization's Pan-American region, said Sunday that all of the country's remaining 48 hospitals were at full capacity, including 11 in Port-au-Prince. That does not include the many clinics that aid groups have created.
Even in the best of circumstances, it can take four to six months for a person who has had a traumatic amputation to function again, Dr. Steven R. Flanagan, medical director of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, said in a telephone interview. The Rusk Institute has a team in Haiti. "What they really need to worry about in Haiti is infectious complication, so if you have an amputation of a leg or arm, that wound is subject to infection," Dr. Flanagan said. "And clearly they don't have all the medicines they need down there."
9) Pakistan's Rebuff Over New Offensives Rankles U.S.
Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times, January 25, 2010
Washington - The Pakistani Army's announcement last week that it planned no new offensive against militants for as long as a year has deeply frustrated senior American military officers, and chipped away at one of the cornerstones of President Obama's strategy to reverse the Taliban's gains in Afghanistan and Pakis tan.
When Mr. Obama announced his decision in December to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he and his aides made clear that the chances of success hinged significantly on Pakistan's willingness to eliminate militants' havens in its territory, including in the tribal region of North Waziristan. United States officials described the American and NATO surge of troops as a hammer, but they said it required a Pakistani anvil on the other side of the border to prevent the Taliban from retreating to the mountains.
Now that strategy appears imperiled by Pakistan's latest statement. On Thursday, soon after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived on a two-day trip to the country, the Pakistani Army's chief spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, rebuffed American pressure to step up attacks in North Waziristan. That area is the main base of operations for the Haqqani network, which stages operations against American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. It is believed to be responsible for many of the attacks on Kabul, including a devastating assault early last week near the presidential palace.
American officials said they had not been surprised by the Pakistani announcement. Since the last two years of the Bush administration, the United States has been arguing for a far more active Pakistani military presence in North Waziristan. But some said they had been surprised that the rebuff was issued while Mr. Gates was in the country, rather than after he left.
General Abbas told reporters it could be 6 to 12 months before the army consolidated its current operations and began any new offensive. Some American officials think it could be longer.
The critical question is how much the Pakistani decision will undercut Mr. Obama's strategy. During a speech at West Point on Dec. 1, he said his administration would reassess the plan at the end of 2010, after all the troops deployed as part of the increase were in place. But if the Pakistani position does not change, the operations on Pakistan's side of the border will not have begun by the time Mr. Obama has made his assessment.
10) C.I.A. Deaths Prompt Surge In U.S. Drone Strikes
Scott Shane and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, January 23, 2010
Washington - Since the suicide bombing that took the lives of seven Americans in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, the Central Intelligence Agency has struck back against militants in Pakistan with the most intensive series of missile strikes from drone aircraft since the covert program began.
Beginning the day after the attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, Afghanistan, the agency has carried out 11 strikes that have killed about 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani news reports, which make almost no mention of civilian casualties. The assault has included strikes on a mud fortress in North Waziristan on Jan. 6 that killed 17 people and a volley of missiles on a compound in South Waziristan last Sunday that killed at least 20.
After the Khost bombing, intelligence officials vowed that they would retaliate. One angry senior American intelligence official said the C.I.A. would "avenge" the Khost attack. "Some very bad people will eventually have a very bad day," the official said at the time, speaking on the condition he not be identified describing a classified program.
Today, officials deny that vengeance is driving the increased attacks, though one called the drone strikes "the purest form of self-defense."
Some legal scholars have questioned the legitimacy under international law of killings by a civilian agency in a country where the United States is not officially at war. This month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for government documents revealing procedures for approving targets and legal justifications for the killings.
Critics have contended that collateral civilian deaths are too high a price to pay. Pakistani officials have periodically denounced the strikes as a violation of their nation's sovereignty, even as they have provided a launching base for the drones.
Despite the consensus in Washington behind the drone program, some experts are dissenters. John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School who frequently advises the military, said, "The more the drone campaign works, the more it fails - as increased attacks only make the Pakistanis angrier at the collateral damage and sustained violation of their sovereignty."
If the United States expands the drone strikes beyond the lawless tribal areas to neighboring Baluchistan, as is under discussion, the backlash "might even spark a social revolution in Pakistan," Mr. Arquilla said.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore, said public opposition had been declining because the campaign was viewed as a success. Yet one Pakistani general, who supports the drone strikes as a tactic for keeping militants off balance, questioned the long-term impact. "Has the situation stabilized in the past two years?" asked the general, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Are the tribal areas more stable?" Yes, he said, Baitullah Mehsud, founder of the Pakistani Taliban, was killed by a missile last August. "But he's been replaced and the number of fighters is increasing," the general said.
11) Afghanistan Postpones Parliamentary Election by 4 Months
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 25, 2010
Kabul - The Independent Election Commission said Sunday that it would delay Afghanistan's parliamentary election by four months, from May until September, citing a lack of money, logistical challenges and the continuing violence in the country.
The postponement was welcomed by international organizations and Western governments, which had been urging Afghanistan to delay the vote until reforms in its election procedures had been approved and carried out.
The election, which had been scheduled for May 22, will now take place Sept. 18, said Fazil Ahmad Manawi, a member of the election commission. Mr. Manawi said that the additional time would permit the commission to enact new rules and safeguards to prevent the kind of large-scale fraud that tainted the presidential election in August.
12) Mayor-Elect in Okinawan City Opposes U.S. Base
Martin Fackler, New York Times, January 25, 2010
Tokyo - A candidate who opposes the relocation of an American air base on Okinawa won a crucial mayoral election on Sunday, raising pressure on Japan's prime minister to move the base off the island, a move opposed by the United States.
The election in the small city of Nago could force Japan to scrap, or at least significantly modify, a 2006 deal with the United States to build a replacement facility in the city for the busy Futenma United States Marine air station. The base is currently in a crowded part of the southern Japanese island.
The fate of that deal has already become the focus of a growing diplomatic rift between the United States and Japan, its closest Asian ally. The Obama administration has been pushing Japan to honor the deal, but the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has said he will take until May to decide whether to support it or name a new site for the base.
Political experts have said losing Nago as a site for the base would complicate Mr. Hatoyama's decision, because few other Japanese communities appear willing to host the base and its noisy helicopters.
This means that Mr. Hatoyama could try to merge the Marine base with a nearby United States Air Force base, or move it to Guam; both are options that the Obama administration has resisted.
Before his Democratic Party's historic victory in national elections last summer, Mr. Hatoyama campaigned on promises to move the base off Okinawa or out of Japan altogether. In doing so, he was tapping deep misgivings in Japan about the 2006 agreement, which was signed by Mr. Hatoyama's predecessors, the Liberal Democrats.
Many Japanese say the move to Nago would cause excessive environmental damage and impose an unfair burden on Okinawa, where almost half of the 50,000 United States military personnel in Japan are located.
In deciding whether to support the 2006 deal, Mr. Hatoyama has said he will heed the voice of Okinawa, which overwhelmingly supported his party in the election, which ended a half century of government by the Liberal Democrats. That made Sunday's vote in Nago, a city of 60,000 in the island's underdeveloped north, widely watched here as an important litmus test of Okinawan public opinion ahead of Mr. Hatoyama's self-imposed deadline.
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