JFP 1/26: Pakistanis Call for Direct Talks with Mullah Omar
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January 26, 2010
UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders
The top United Nations official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is anyone in Washington listening?
Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
Jubilee USA: Organizations Unite to Tell Treasury Secretary Geithner: Cancel Haiti's Debt Now and No More Debt for Disaster
80 US religious denominations, human rights groups, and development agencies including Jubilee USA Network, the AFL-CIO, and the ONE Campaign sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner, urging him to negotiate immediate debt cancellation for Haiti by the international financial institutions.
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1) A "near-legendary" former Pakistani intelligence officer says the U.S. must negotiate a political settlement to the Afghanistan war directly with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar because any bid to split the insurgency through defections will fail, McClatchy reports. Omar is open to such talks, asserted retired Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a former operative of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Tarar said that Omar would be willing to cut a deal, if it would lead to the departure of foreign troops and included funds to rebuild Afghanistan. "I can help," Tarar said. McClatchy asked National Security Adviser Jones if the Obama administration ruled out having the ISI act as a conduit between Omar and the U.S., as Pakistani officials are advocating. "We are pursuing a general strategy of engagement," replied Jones. "We'll see where this takes us."
2) Afghan President Karzai is backing calls to remove the names of senior Taliban leaders from a UN blacklist as a gesture aimed at encouraging peace negotiations, the Times of London reports. Diplomatic sources told The Times that US and British support for such a move was "lukewarm." The Times notes that former Taliban officials who serve in the Afghan government are still on the UN blacklist.
3) Oxfam and the World Council of Churches called on Western governments to immediately cancel Haiti's $890 million international debt, the Telegraph reports. They also asked for delivery on the IMF's previous pledge to turn a $100 million interest-free loan to into a grant. Meanwhile, UNICEF criticised plans by the US and others to fast-track adoption procedures for taking orphans out of Haiti. "We are very concerned that there are increasing reports that children are being picked up and trafficked out of the country," said UNICEF.
4) Many Haitians don't believe President Preval can pull them out of the chaos they're in, NPR reports. They would like to see ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide return to office.
5) The New York Times has obtained the full text of Ambassador Eikenberry's cables in opposition to sending more US troops to Afghanistan, and reports that the cables represent a "detailed rebuttal" to the counterinsurgency strategy offered by Gen. McChrystal. Eikenberry repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable US reinforcements would result in "astronomical costs." "Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable," Eikenberry wrote.
6) Venezuelan President Chavez announced he would write off what Haiti owes Venezuela for oil as part of the ALBA bloc's plans to help Haiti after the earthquake, EFE reports. Chavez also announced that ALBA has decided on a comprehensive plan that includes an immediate donation of $20 million to Haiti's health sector, and a fund that will be at least $100 million "for starters." Chavez said ALBA assistance would include fuel distribution via "mobile service stations" set to be up and running within a few weeks. The ALBA plan includes immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc's member-states.
7) Administration officials said President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs that would exempt military spending in his State of the Union address, the New York Times reports. Because Obama plans to exempt military spending while leaving many popular domestic programs vulnerable, his move is certain to further anger liberals and senior Democrats in Congress, who are already upset by the possible collapse of health care legislation and the troop buildup in Afghanistan, the Times says.
8) Doctors Without Borders President Christophe Fournier says the U.S. is directing too much of its effort in Haiti at security, Newsweek reports. "It's needless. We've been in Haiti for 19 years. We don't need armed escorts," Fournier said.
9) Haiti's government made an emotional appeal for more aid, asking for food to feed 1.5 million people for 15 days, the Washington Post reports. President Préval said Haiti needed 36 million emergency rations of food just to get through the next few weeks and 200,000 tents immediately. The Haitian government estimated 194,000 Haitians were injured; the U.S. coordinator for relief and reconstruction said the estimated number of homeless had climbed to 800,000.
10) Japan's prime minister pledged to "start from scratch" in re-examining a military deal with the US on relocating US troops after a local election in Okinawa showed that residents oppose any new Marine base in their region, AP reports. With upper house elections this summer, Prime Minister Hatoyama can't run roughshod over voters' voices, AP says. The U.S. reacted cautiously, saying it was "consulting closely" with Tokyo.
1) Pakistan's Former Spymaster: U.S. Must Talk To Mullah Omar
Saeed Shah and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, Mon, Jan. 25, 2010
Rawalpindi, Pakistan - The U.S. must negotiate a political settlement to the Afghanistan war directly with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar because any bid to split the insurgency through defections will fail, said the Pakistani former intelligence officer who trained the insurgent chief.
Omar is open to such talks, asserted retired Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a former operative of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He is popularly known as Colonel Imam, whose exploits have gained him near-legendary status in central Asia.
"If a sincere message comes from the Americans, these people (the Taliban) are very big-hearted. They will listen. But if you try to divide the Taliban, you'll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive," said Tarar, a tall, imposing man with a long gray beard and white turban, in an interview with McClatchy.
His comments came as the U.S. and its NATO allies appear increasingly anxious to find a path toward a political resolution to the more than eight-year-old war whose escalating human and financial costs are fueling growing popular opposition.
In Washington, U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones was asked by McClatchy if the Obama administration ruled out having the ISI act as a conduit between Omar and the U.S., as Pakistani officials are advocating. "We are pursuing a general strategy of engagement," replied Jones, a former four-star Marine general. "We'll see where this takes us."
Tarar, 65, a key player in Afghanistan from the 1979-89 Soviet occupation until 2001, said he trained Omar after he graduated from an Islamic seminary in 1985 to fight as a guerrilla against the Soviet forces. At the time, the ISI was running secret camps for "mujahedin" fighters along the Afghan border with U.S. funding.
Tarar, who worked closely with the CIA and was schooled in guerrilla warfare at Fort Bragg, N.C., arranged for Omar's medical treatment after he was injured. They met again in 1994 after the Pakistani official was posted in the western Afghan city of Herat and "got closer to each other," Tarar said.
The Pakistani security establishment thinks that Omar's ambitions are limited to Afghanistan, and that the Taliban can now be persuaded to share power with other Afghan factions.
"Mullah Omar is highly respected, very faithful to his country. He's the only answer. He's a very reasonable man," said Tarar, who insisted he was speaking in a personal capacity. "He's a very effective man, no other man is effective. He's for peace, not war. The Americans don't realize this. He wants his country to be peaceful. He doesn't want to destroy his country."
Tarar said that Omar would be willing to cut a deal, if it would lead to the departure of foreign troops and included funds to rebuild Afghanistan. "I can help," he said. "But can I trust the Americans?"
Pakistan admitted last weekend that it is talking to "all levels" of the Taliban. Western diplomats think the ISI must be involved in any negotiations or it would act as a spoiler, continuing to provide aid to the Taliban and allied insurgent groups as part of a goal to install in Kabul a pro-Pakistan regime that would sever close ties with India.
2) Karzai Calls For Taleban Leaders To Be Taken Off UN Blacklist
Tom Coghlan, Times of London, January 26, 2010
The Afghan President and the head of the United Nations in Kabul are both backing calls to remove the names of senior Taleban leaders from a UN blacklist as a gesture aimed at encouraging peace negotiations.
Speaking in Istanbul yesterday President Hamid Karzai told reporters: "I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taleban names from the UN sanctions list." He conceded that the idea had met resistance in the past but claimed: "As we are talking today there is more willingness that this can be reconsidered."
The Afghan ambassador to the UN has already requested some names be removed from the list.
Diplomatic sources in Kabul told The Times that US and British support for such a move was "lukewarm".
UN resolution 1267 which created the list was passed by the UN Security Council in 1999. It named individuals associated with the Taleban and Al-Qaeda, froze their assets and imposed travel bans on them.
Western diplomats say that a number of approaches have been made to the Afghan government and the UN by figures claiming to be intermediaries for insurgent leaders since the Afghan Presidential elections last August. Sources close to those negotiations said that the UN blacklist was cited as a significant problem by insurgent leaders and they indicated removal from that list would be seen as a sign of good faith.
There are 144 Taleban names on the list as well as 256 Al-Qaeda linked individuals; just one name has been removed from the Taleban list since it was created. While some of the named individuals are notorious figures a significant number are reconciled with the government and even hold positions within the Afghan government.
Mullah Wakil Mutawakil, the former Taleban Foreign Minister who is considered one of the movements few proper intellectuals, has been reconciled with the Afghan government and has lived in Kabul since 2006, yet remains on the UN list. Mohammad Musa Hotak, a former deputy planning minister in the Taleban government has been an MP and Deputy Head of the Internal Security Committee of Afghanistan parliament since 2007. Other former Taleban leadership figures on the UN blacklist include Mohammad Daulat, now a member of the Afghan Upper House of Parliament and head of its Religious Committee, and Abdul Hakim Nazar, now the governor of Uruzgan Province.
3) West Urged to Write Off Haiti's $1bn Debt
Western governments have been urged to write off Haiti's international debts of nearly $1 billion (£620 million) after its prime minister said rebuilding the country could take a decade.
Nick Allen, Telegraph, 25 Jan 2010
Port-au-Prince - Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and groups including Oxfam and The World Council of Churches called on ministers to immediately cancel its full $890 million (£550 million) international debt.
They also asked for delivery on the IMF's previous pledge to turn a $100 million (£62 million) interest-free loan to into a grant.
Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs said: "Expecting Haiti to repay billions of dollars as the country struggles to overcome one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory would be both cruel and unnecessary." Britain has already cancelled all debts owed to it by Haiti and called on all remaining creditors to do the same.
With the planting season just two weeks away Oxfam also called for support for Haiti's farmers to prevent a man-made food crisis. There were also calls for cash grants which would be used to pay earthquake survivors to clear up the rubble.
Meanwhile, the UN and children's charities criticised plans by the US, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, to fast-track adoption procedures for taking orphans out of Haiti. "We are very concerned that there are increasing reports that children are being picked up and trafficked out of the country," said UNICEF spokesman Kent Page, although he had no details of specific cases.
4) Haitians Disappointed With Preval, Long For Aristide
Tamara Keith, NPR, January 25, 2010
Nearly two weeks after the deadly earthquake, the Haitian government continues to struggle. Many officials died in the quake and government buildings were destroyed. Some Haitians don't believe President Rene Preval can pull them out of the chaos they're in. They would like to see ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide return to office.
We're going to report this morning on how the government of Haiti is responding to this month's earthquake. In many ways, the government has been invisible. And while that may be understandable amid the destruction, it has left many Haitians with no faith in their leaders.
Inskeep: In fact, some Haitians are suggesting they would like to see a change. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
Tamara Keith: The funeral for the beloved Catholic Archbishop of Port-au-Prin ce attracted hundreds of Haitians, some who dressed up as best they could. The president, Rene Preval, was there. He has made very few public appearances since the quake and did not speak at the funeral. As Preval left, protestors chased after his motorcade.
Keith: Danny Dadol was one of them.
Ms. Danny Dadol: (Through translator) Preval is not doing anything for us. We need help now, and he's not doing anything.
Keith: She would like to see the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, return to guide Haiti out of this crisis. Aristide has been in exile in South Africa since 2004, when opposition groups seized control of the government. Hes offered to come back, and Dadol says thats what the people want.
Ms. Dadol: (Through translator) I'd like for Preval to take care of the country, but the country doesn't want him. They'd rather have Aristide to come and help him out, because Aristide would do a better job.
5) U.S. Envoy's Cables Show Concerns on Afghan Plans
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, January 26, 2010
Washington - The United States ambassador in Kabul warned his superiors here in November that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan "is not an adequate strategic partner" and "continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden," according to a classified cable that offers a much bleaker accounting of the risks of sending additional American troops to Afghanistan than was previously known.
The broad outlines of two cables from the ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, became public within days after he sent them, and they were portrayed as having been the source of significant discussion in the White House, heightening tensions between diplomats and senior military officers, who supported an increase of 30,000 American troops.
But the full cables, obtained by The New York Times, show for the first time just how strongly the current ambassador felt about the leadership of the Afghan government, the state of its military and the chances that a troop buildup would actually hurt the war effort by making the Karzai government too dependent on the United States.
The cables - one four pages, the other three - also represent a detailed rebuttal to the counterinsurgency strategy offered by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who had argued that a rapid infusion of fresh troops was essential to avoid failure in the country.
They show that Mr. Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general who once was the top American commander in Afghanistan, repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in "astronomical costs" - tens of billions of dollars - and would only deepen the dependence of the Afghan government on the United States.
"Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable," he wrote Nov. 6. "An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short-term."
On Nov. 6, Mr. Eikenberry wrote: "President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner. The proposed counterinsurgency strategy assumes an Afghan political leadership that is both able to take responsibility and to exert sovereignty in the furtherance of our goal - a secure, peaceful, minimally self-sufficient Afghanistan hardened against transnational terrorist groups.
"Yet Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance or development. He and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further," Mr. Eikenberry wrote. "They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending 'war on terror' and for military bases to use against surrounding powers."
In his memos, Mr. Eikenberry raised other concerns. He said he had serious doubts about the ability of the Afghan police and military forces to take over security duties in the country by 2013. "The Army's high attrition and low recruitment rates for Pashtuns in the south are crippling," he wrote. "Simply keeping the force at current levels requires tens of thousands of new recruits every year to replace attrition losses and battlefield casualties."
He also noted worries that the success of Mr. Obama's Afghanistan policy hinged on Pakistani forces' eliminating militants' havens in the mountainous region near the Afghan border.
"Pakistan will remain the single greatest source of Afghan instability so long as the border sanctuaries remain," he wrote. "Until this sanctuary problem is fully addressed, the gains from sending additional forces may be fleeting."
"As we contemplate greatly expanding our presence in Afghanistan, the better answer to our difficulties could well be to further ratchet up our engagement in Pakistan," he wrote without elaboration.
On Nov. 9, he repeatedly warned against rushing into a large deployment of more American forces without further study. He urged that the White House appoint a bipartisan panel of "civilian and military experts to examine the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy" and provide recommendations by the end of 2009. The recommendation, which would have extended a White House-led policy review of many months, was not accepted.
Mr. Eikenberry suggested sending a relatively small force to train Afghan security forces and protect some population centers, and to condition more troops on the Afghans' meeting objectives, like committing to taking full responsibility for national defense by a specific date.
And while General McChrystal warned of failure if additional troops were not deployed, Mr. Eikenberry concluded by cautioning of competing risks "that we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves, short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos."
6) Chavez Writes Off Haiti's Oil Debt to Venezuela
EFE, January 26, 2010
Caracas - President Hugo Chavez announced Monday that he would write off the undisclosed sum Haiti owes Venezuela for oil as part of the ALBA bloc's plans to help the impoverished Caribbean nation after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.
"Haiti has no debt with Venezuela, just the opposite: Venezuela has a historical debt with that nation, with that people for whom we feel not pity but rather admiration, and we share their faith, their hope," Chavez said after the extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA.
He also announced that ALBA has decided on a comprehensive plan that includes an immediate donation of $20 million to Haiti's health sector, and a fund that, Chavez said, will be at least $100 million "for starters."
Oil-rich Venezuela is the economic heart of ALBA, which also includes Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Haiti is among several countries that send observers to ALBA meetings.
Chavez said one part of ALBA assistance to Haiti would consist of fuel distribution via "mobile service stations" set to be up and running within a few weeks.
The ALBA plan of aid for Haiti includes support for such sectors as agriculture, production, food imports and distribution, and immigration amnesty for Haitians living illegally in the bloc's member-states.
7) Obama to Seek Spending Freeze to Trim Deficits
Jackie Calmes, New York Times, January 26, 2010
Washington - President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.
The officials said the proposal would be a major component both of Mr. Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday and of the budget he will send to Congress on Monday for the fiscal year that begins in October.
The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.
But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.
The initiative holds political risks as well as potential benefits. Because Mr. Obama plans to exempt military spending while leaving many popular domestic programs vulnerable, his move is certain to further anger liberals in his party and senior Democrats in Congress, who are already upset by the possible collapse of health care legislation and the troop buildup in Afghanistan, among other things.
8) On the Ground in Haiti
Stefan Theil, Newsweek, Jan 22, 2010 (magazine issue dated Feb 1)
As other organizations were still trying to get into Haiti last week, Doctors Without Borders was already there, with more than 800 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals on the ground-though getting supplies and more people in proved a critical problem. Just before taking off for the island, the group's president, Christophe Fournier, spoke to Newsweek's Stefan Theil. Excerpts:
N: Why did you have so much trouble getting aid into Haiti?
CF: Our planes were getting rerouted to the Dominican Republic while VIPs were allowed to land. So we were not able to supply emergency equipment in time and lost five of our patients, not to mention the delays in setting up new clinics.
N: Are bottlenecks and mistakes inevitable in a tragedy like this, or is there a fundamental problem with the way the U.S. is handling things?
CF: Barack Obama wrote a very impressive article in your magazine where he said that the U.S. will lead the world in helping Haiti. Without wanting to question America's commitment, the problem is that if you unilaterally take the lead, you also become responsible for coordinating the operation. In one hospital, we had a medical team treating patients that was kicked out by the military.
N: Is the U.S. directing too much of its effort at security?
CF: Yes. It's needless. We've been in Haiti for 19 years. We don't need armed escorts.
N: Haiti isn't the only place where you've complained about the military role in organizing humanitarian relief.
CF: It's much more of a problem in places like Afghanistan, where the military strategy has made the work of aid groups more difficult and dangerous. Again, I don't want to question the commitment of NATO forces. But when humanitarian aid becomes part of the counter-insurgency strategy, two things happen. One, aid goes where it fits strategic objectives, not where it's most needed. Kabul has quadrupled in population since 2001 and medical care is terrible, but it's considered stable and thus not prioritized for aid, which instead targets the insurgency areas. Two, when the West explicitly connects the military effort with aid, then those installations become targets. So we've gone in and set up an unprotected, neutral clinic instead.
9) Haiti seeks food and shelter so displaced residents can survive the coming weeks
Glenn Kessler and William Booth, Washington Post, Tuesday, January 26, 2010; A08
Montreal - Haiti's government made an emotional appeal for more aid Monday, asking for food to feed 1.5 million people for 15 days, as international donors gathered for a conference here to attempt to organize an orderly path to recovery for the quake-devastated nation. "We need your help now," Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told representatives of about 20 nations and multilateral organizations.
Haitian President René Préval issued a communique saying his country needed 36 million emergency rations of food just to get through the next few weeks and 200,000 tents immediately.
In Port-au-Prince, the Haitian government confirmed the death toll at 112,250 and rising, with an additional 194,000 people injured. Lewis Lucke, the U.S. special coordinator for relief and reconstruction in Haiti, said the estimated number of homeless had climbed to 800,000.
10) Japan PM says he'll reassess US Marine base pact
Malcolm Foster, Associated Press, Monday, January 25, 2010; 2:07 PM
Tokyo - Japan's prime minister pledged Monday to "start from scratch" in re-examining a key military deal with Washington on relocating American troops, risking the ire of its key ally after a local election in Okinawa showed that residents oppose any new Marine base in their region.
The U.S. reacted cautiously Monday, issuing a statement that it was "consulting closely" with Tokyo on the issue.
After the small Okinawan city of Nago elected a mayor opposed to moving the facility there, Japan will be hard pressed to honor its 2006 agreement to relocate a U.S. military base on the southern island. Sunday's vote is reverberating to Tokyo and beyond, widening an already growing rift with Washington.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appears to be caught in a no-win situation of either antagonizing local citizens or Japan's main alliance partner. With upper house elections this summer, he can't run roughshod over voters' voices.
"He can't make a decision now that's going to make both the Americans and Okinawans happy," said Jeff Kingston, Temple University Director of Asian Studies in Tokyo.
"It does give Hatoyama a bit of cover: 'Hey, I have to listen to the voice of the people.' But I don't think that's going to cut much weight with Washington," Kingston added.
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