JFP 1/27: US "wrestles" with "olive branch" to Taliban

Just Foreign Policy News
January 27, 2010

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.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

Beverly Bell: "7.0 on the Horror Scale - Notes on the Haitian Earthquake"
Beverly Bell, author of "Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Story of Survival and Resistance," publishes her log of 10 days following the earthquake.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/beverly-bell-70-on-the-ho_b_439164.html

UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders
The top UN official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is Washington listening?
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/27-4

Members of Congress to Obama: Ease Gaza Suffering
54 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama, urging the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people, access to clean water, food, medicine construction materials for repairs and rebuilding, and fuel. (Just Foreign Policy members wrote to Congress in support of this letter)
http://www.fcnl.org/issues/item.php?item_id=3800&issue_id=36

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Administration officials acknowledge privately that they are considering outreach to leaders of the Taliban, the New York Times reports. But they warn that the plan is rife with political risk at home. "Today, people agree that part of the solution for Afghanistan is going to include an accommodation with the Taliban, even above low- and middle-level fighters," said an administration official. Vice President Biden is said to be more open to reaching out, because he believes it will help shorten the military engagement in Afghanistan.

2) An ISAF official said Gen. McChrystal's cautiously-worded support for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban leadership is only the first public signal of a policy decision by the Obama administration to support a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Gareth Porter reports for IPS. The debate among US officials is not whether the Taliban movement will be participating in the Afghan political system, but on whether the administration could accept the participation of Mullah Omar.

3) Haitian President Preval issued an urgent appeal calling for 200,000 tents and urging that the aircraft carrying them be given urgent landing priority at Port-au-Prince airport, AP reports. [That the Haitian President would have to issue an "urgent appeal" concerning landing priority at the airport would seem to undermine the U.S. claim that the Haitian government is in charge - JFP]

4) The U.S. government response to the disaster in Haiti has been no better than the response to Hurricane Katrina, argue three New York doctors who organized a relief team, writing in the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment, they write.

5) A U.N. Security Council committee announced it had lifted sanctions against five former Taliban officials, bolstering efforts to pursue peace talks, the Washington Post reports. Sanctions have been lifted against Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, who was a minister of foreign affairs in the Taliban government, and Abdul Hakim Monib, another former Taliban official who has since served as Karzai's governor in Uruzgan province.

6) The cost to U.S. taxpayers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has topped $1 trillion, Reuters reports. Congress has approved $1.075 trillion dollars for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and "war-related activities" since 2001, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Afghanistan
7) The Afghan government, U.S. officials and NATO are preparing a new effort to bring mid- and low-level Taliban fighters back into society, the Los Angeles Times reports. In doing so, they face the task of convincing militants that the jobs and amnesty they promise this time will materialize; similar promises in the past were not kept.

8) NATO's billion-dollar aid budget is putting lives at risk and undermining the long-term prospects for stability in Afghanistan, according to some of the world's leading NGOs, the Times of London reports. Oxfam, Care and ActionAid say too much money is being channelled through the military, risking the safety of humanitarian staff by blurring the lines between aid workers and the army. Research by Care found that schools built with NATO money were considered far more likely to be attacked by insurgents. Giving army commanders control of the purse strings has also skewed the way aid is delivered, the groups say; some of the poorest parts of Afghanistan have been almost completely neglected, because they aren't considered militarily strategic.

Yemen
9) U.S. military teams are deeply involved in joint operations with Yemeni troops, the Washington Post reports. The far-reaching U.S. role could prove politically challenging for Yemen's president, who faces the possibility of a backlash by tribal, political and religious groups whose members resent what they see as U.S. interference in Yemen.

Iran
10) U.S. business groups warned the White House that congressional plans to expand U.S. sanctions on Iran threaten to significantly undermine U.S. economic and security interests, Reuters reports. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers signed the letter.

Haiti
11) Save the Children and World Vision have called for a suspension of new adoptions from Haiti until every child has been given the chance to be reunited with his or her family, VOA reports. But Senator Landrieu rejected appeals to suspend the adoptions.

Israel/Palestine
12) Israeli Defence Minister Barak called the absence of a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians a more serious threat to Israel than any "Iranian bomb," Reuters reports. [Spectacularly, the Reuters article includes the standard media incantation that Israel perceives Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat - even in an article reporting that Israel's *defense minister* says that the lack of a peace deal with the Palestinians is a bigger threat. Perhaps future Reuters articles will inform readers that Israel sees the lack of a peace deal with the Palestinians as an "existential threat" - JFP.]

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) U.S. Wrestling With Olive Branch for Taliban
Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, New York Times, January 27, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/world/asia/27diplo.html

Washington - As the Obama administration pours 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, it has begun grappling with the next great dilemma of this long war: whether to reconcile with the men who sheltered Osama bin Laden and who still have close ties to Al Qaeda.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has said he wants to reach out to the leaders of the Taliban, and administration officials acknowledge privately that they are considering the idea. But they warn that the plan is rife with political risk at home and could jeopardize a widely backed effort to lure lower-ranking, more amenable Taliban fighters back into Afghan society. The debate, still in its early stages, could shape the next phase of America's engagement in Afghanistan, officials said, and is every bit as complicated as the decision on whether to commit more soldiers, not least because it rekindles memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
[...]
The pros and cons of dealing with the Taliban will loom large at the conference in London this week, where Mr. Karzai is scheduled to present his plan for lower-level reintegration.

While Mullah Omar remains off limits for the United States, the administration's openness to reconciling with other Taliban leaders has grown since last year, officials say, because of its recognition that the war is not going to be won purely on the battlefield. "Today, people agree that part of the solution for Afghanistan is going to include an accommodation with the Taliban, even above low- and middle-level fighters," said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations.
[...]
Other senior officials, like Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., are said to be more open to reaching out, because they believe it will help shorten the military engagement in Afghanistan. The special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, is also said by officials to be privately receptive, although he expressed doubts in an interview.
[...]
Reconciliation has a troubled history in Afghanistan. In December 2007, Mr. Karzai expelled two Western officials for unauthorized contacts with the Taliban. The United Nations said the talks were with tribal elders, though one of the officials, Michael Semple, an Irishman who worked for the European Union, has written extensively since then about the value of negotiating with the Taliban.

There are also inklings of a new openness on the part of Mullah Omar. Last September, he stirred some controversy in the extremist world with a public statement suggesting that he put the goal of retaking power in Afghanistan ahead of the global jihad favored by Al Qaeda. Some analysts saw this as a sign of a rift between the two groups and a hint that Mullah Omar might be open to talks. The Taliban, he said, "want to play our role in peace and stability of the region."
[...]

2) Behind Cautious Signal, a Decision for Afghan Peace Talks
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Jan 26
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50111

Kabul - Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's very cautiously-worded support for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban leadership in an interview published Monday is only the first public signal of a policy decision by the Barack Obama administration to support a political settlement between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, an official of McChrystal's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command has revealed in an interview with IPS.

Speaking to the Financial Times, McChrystal couched his position on negotiations in terms of an abstract support for negotiated settlements of wars, saying, "I believe that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome." The ISAF commander avoided a direct answer to the question of whether the Taliban could play a role in a future Afghan government. When pressed by the interviewer on the issue, McChrystal would only say that "any Afghan can play a role if they focus on the future and not the past."

The ISAF official, who spoke with IPS on condition that he would not be named, was much more candid about the centrality of peace negotiations with the Taliban leadership in the Obama administration's strategy in Afghanistan and about the understanding of the ISAF command that the Taliban leadership is independent of al Qaeda and is already positioning itself for a political settlement.

The official said the objective of the troop surge and the ISAF strategy accompanying it is to support a negotiated political settlement. "The story of the next 18 months is the story of establishing the conditions under which reconciliation will take place," said the official.
[...]
The counterinsurgency strategy now being mounted in Afghanistan by ISAF "is aimed at providing time and space" for "reconciliation", according to the official, as well as governance reforms and increasing the capacity of the national army and police force during that 18-month period.

The ISAF official said there has been a debate among U.S. officials about "the terms on which the Taliban will become part of the political fabric". The debate is not on whether the Taliban movement will be participating in the Afghan political system, however, but on whether or not the administration could accept the participation of a specific individual - Mullah Omar, the leader of the organisation and former chief of state of the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001 - in the political future of Afghanistan.

Some U.S. officials have argued that the Taliban leader should be barred from participation, because of his role in protecting Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 terror attacks and refusing to hand over the al Qaeda leader in the weeks that followed the attacks.

The official suggested that the Obama administration and its NATO allies need to reach a consensus about the issue, and that recent events make the present moment "seem like a good time to deal with that."

Despite their interest in that issue, the ISAF official said, the United States won't determine the outcome of the negotiations. "Reconciliation is considered to be in the purview of the Afghan government and international mediators," the official said.

Nevertheless, the official left no doubt that the United States will participate in the negotiations. "I don't think anybody is under the misconception we are not going to negotiate," he said.

U.S. participation appears necessary to get the Taliban to agree to end its resistance and reach a political solution. The Taliban has insisted in published statements that it will not participate in peace talks that would not result in the withdrawal of foreign troops.

That demand raises the question of whether the administration would be willing to discuss the complete withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of a settlement.

The last time a demand for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal was negotiated in an international agreement was the Iraqi security pact of 2008. The George W. Bush administration had insisted that the United States would only agree to a "condition-based" withdrawal plan, but in the end, it accepted a deadline for complete withdrawal.

The ISAF official said the decision on that issue would be made by the Obama administration and its NATO allies, but that the ISAF command would have "no problem" with the negotiation of a timetable in conjunction with a political settlement.

The official suggested that the argument used to justify the troop surge in Afghanistan - that the Taliban would allow al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan if it were allowed to consolidate power in large areas - has now been abandoned. "There are certainly divisions between Taliban and al Qaeda," said the official. He cited statements by Taliban officials that "the state was hijacked by al Qaeda, and we're not going to let that happen again."

The argument that the Taliban leadership would be unwilling to negotiate unless persuaded by increasing U.S. military pressures over the next 18 months that they are "losing" also appears to have been abandoned by the administration and the ISAF command. The official cited a "growing trend" in intelligence analysis concluding that the Taliban "is positioning itself for a settlement."
[...]

3) Haiti's Homeless Are Pleading for Tents
Jonathan M. Katz and Ben Fox, AP, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1956667,00.html

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The dusty soccer field lined with spacious tents is an oasis for earthquake survivors among Haiti's homeless sheltering in acres (hectares) of squalid camps.

Competition for the canvas homes has boiled into arguments and machete fights, a sign of the desperation felt by the hundreds of thousands of people without homes struggling for shelter in this wrecked city. Haiti's president has asked the world for 200,000 tents and says he will sleep in one himself.
[...]
Tents are in desperately short supply following the 7.0-magnitude quake on Jan. 12 that killed at least 150,000 people.

The global agency supplying tents said it already had 10,000 stored in Haiti and at least 30,000 more would be arriving. But that "is unlikely to address the extensive shelter needs," the International Organization for Migration stressed.

The organization had estimated 100,000 family-sized tents were needed. But the U.N. says up to 1 million people require shelter, and President Rene Preval issued an urgent appeal Monday calling for 200,000 tents and urging that the aircraft carrying them be given urgent landing priority at Port-au-Prince airport.
[...]

4) Haiti: Obama's Katrina
Soumitra R. Eachempati, Dean Lorich and David Helfet, Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2010 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703808904575025091656446622.html

[Eachempati is a trauma surgeon and incoming president of the New York State Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. Lorich and Helfet are orthopedic surgeons. All practice at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.]

Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. Criticism of the paltry federal efforts was immediate and fierce. Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, a major earthquake overwhelmed a country one hour south of Miami whose inhabitants include American citizens and their relatives. Thanks to the Internet, pictures of the death and destruction were familiar to the world within hours, and the need for a massive influx of relief and specialized medical care was instantaneously apparent. While particular fatalities such as head injuries or massive blood loss are rarely treatable in mass casualty situations, delayed deaths from infection may be preventable.

On Wednesday, the day after the quake, we organized a relief team in cooperation with the U.S. State Department and Partners in Health (a Boston-based humanitarian organization) to provide emergency orthopedic and surgical care. We wanted to reach the local hospitals in Haiti immediately-but were only allowed by the U.S. military controlling the local airport to land in Port-au-Prince Saturday night. We were among the first groups there.

This delay proved tragic. Upon our arrival at the Haiti Community Hospital we found scores of patients with pus dripping out of open fractures and crush injuries. Some wounds were already infested with maggots. Approximately one-third of the victims were children. Most of the patients already had life-threatening infections, and all were dehydrated. Many had been waiting in the hospital compound for days without water, antibiotics or even pain medicine. The hospital smelled of infected, rotting limbs.
[...]
The U.S. response to the earthquake should be considered an embarrassment. Our operation received virtually no support from any branch of the U.S. government, including the State Department. As we ran out of various supplies we had no means to acquire more. There was no way to transfer patients we were poorly equipped to manage (such as a critically ill newborn with respiratory distress) to a facility where they would get better care. We were heartbroken having to tell patients suffering incredible pain we could not perform their surgery for at least a day.
[...]
All these problems stemmed from ours being an isolated operation, a feature that may work in a humanitarian medical mission but not in a disaster situation. Later, as we were leaving Haiti, we were appalled to see warehouse-size quantities of unused medicines, food and other supplies at the airport, surrounded by hundreds of U.S. and international soldiers standing around aimlessly.
[...]
The death toll from Katrina was under 2,000 people. Deaths in Haiti as of yesterday are at least 150,000. Untold numbers are dying of untreated, preventable infections. For all the outcry about Katrina, our nation has fared no better in this latest disaster.

5) Russia won't block removal of former Taliban members from U.N. terrorism list
Colum Lynch, Washington Post, Wednesday, January 27, 2010; A10
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012602557.html

United Nations - A U.N. Security Council committee announced Tuesday that it has lifted sanctions against five former Taliban officials, bolstering Afghan and U.N. efforts to pursue peace talks with the group, Security Council diplomats said. The decision came after Russia agreed to stop blocking a U.S.-backed proposal to delist the men.

The action marks a dramatic shift by Russia, which for years had opposed requests by the U.S. and European governments to delist former Taliban members who say they back the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. No Taliban member had been delisted since the Security Council first imposed sanctions on the group more than 10 years ago.

Recently, Afghanistan and its U.N. special envoy, Kai Eide, had appealed to the 15-nation council to lift sanctions on a handful of former Taliban officials whom Afghanistan's U.N. ambassador, Zahir Tanin, described as "willing to renounce violence and join the peace process."

The delisting process is part of a broader review of anti-Taliban sanctions by the Security Council, which has been criticized for failing to remove dead combatants and add new terrorism suspects to the U.N. blacklist, according to Richard Barrett, the chairman of a U.N. panel that oversees the implementation of sanctions against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
[...]
The Security Council approved sanctions on the Taliban in October 1999 after the group refused to surrender Osama bin Laden to face trial in New York for masterminding the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. More than 100 Taliban leaders were placed on a sanctions list in January 2001.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States ushered through resolutions that expanded the list to cover people suspected of being al-Qaeda members. The sanctions include a travel ban, an arms embargo, and a prohibition on the direct or indirect provision of funding to nearly 500 terrorism suspects.

Over the years, several members of the former Taliban government switched sides to join forces with Karzai's government. But Russia repeatedly rebuffed initiatives by the United States and other governments to reward them by easing sanctions.

Now, after Russia's shift, those measures have been lifted against Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, who was a minister of foreign affairs in the Taliban government, and Abdul Hakim Monib, another former Taliban official who has since served as Karzai's governor in Uruzgan province. Sanctions against Fazl Mohammad Faizan, Shams-us-Safa Aminzai and Mohammad Musa Hotak have also been dropped.
[...]

6) Cost Of Iraq, Afghanistan Tops $1 Trillion
Reuters, 26 Jan 2010
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N26115915.htm

Washington - The cost to U.S. taxpayers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has topped $1 trillion, and President Barack Obama is expected to request another $33 billion to fund more U.S. troops this year. About two-thirds of the money has been spent on the conflict in Iraq since 2003. This year is the first in which more funds are being spent in Afghanistan than Iraq, as the pace of U.S. military operations slows in Iraq and quickens in Afghanistan.

Congress has approved $1.075 trillion dollars for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and "war-related activities" since 2001, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It included the costs in its budget outlook Tuesday.
The war expense topped $1 trillion in December 2009, when U.S. lawmakers approved the fiscal 2010 defense spending bill that included about $130 billion to be spent on the two conflicts through Sept. 30, 2010.

The $1.075 trillion tally includes $51 billion for diplomatic activities and aid to Iraq, Afghanistan and various other countries that are assisting the United States in fighting terrorism, CBO said.

The lion's share of the spending - $708 billion - has been allocated to the war in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion there in 2003, according to CBO. Former President George Bush launched the Iraq war in a search for weapons of mass destruction, which never were found. CBO said $345 billion has gone to Afghanistan, where the United States invaded to fight al Qaeda and topple the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. About $22 billion went for war-related activities in other countries, it said.

The current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is the first year that more money has been allocated to Afghanistan ($72.3 billion) than Iraq ($64.5 billion), according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group that has a running tally of the wars' costs on its Website.
[...]
Obama announced in December he was adding 30,000 more U.S. troops to the Afghan war effort to join the 68,000 already fighting a resurgent Taliban. Defense officials say he will shortly ask Congress for $33 billion to pay for the cost of the troop surge in fiscal 2010.

Future expenses are a question mark, partly because troop levels are uncertain. Obama says he wants to start withdrawing forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011, but that will depend, in part, on conditions on the ground. No departure deadline has been set.
Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and veterans' compensation balloon as time goes on.
[...]

Afghanistan
7) Afghanistan, allies to launch new effort to return Taliban to society
A previous program foundered because of inadequate funding, one official says. This time, the emphasis is not merely on amnesty, money and jobs but also on improved coordination among authorities.
Alex Rodriguez and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2010
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-afghan-taliban27-2010jan27,0,4404811.story

Kabul/Washington - Afghan soldiers held the mullah at gunpoint outside his house while they stabbed at the walls and floors with bayonets, searching for hollow spots where he might have hidden explosives or weapons.

The mullah pulled a government document from his pocket stating that he had forsaken the Taliban and had been granted amnesty. He showed it to an Afghan soldier, who shoved it back at him. "He said, 'That letter means nothing to us,' " said the mullah, recalling the encounter last fall at his Kabul home. " 'We have reports about you.' "

The mullah was jailed for three days, then released without explanation. The episode left him regretting that he ever trusted Afghan authorities and so fearful of reprisals that months later he spoke only on condition of anonymity. "That's why I joined this reconciliation process - to get this letter," the mullah said. "I don't even carry it anymore."

The Afghan government, U.S. officials and NATO are preparing a new effort to bring mid- and low-level Taliban fighters back into society. In doing so, they face the task of convincing militants that the jobs and amnesty they promise this time will materialize.
[...]
Thousands of Taliban militants laid down their Kalashnikov assault rifles and signed up for the old program, which lasted 4 1/2 years and cost $3 million. But many fighters didn't get the money and land they were promised and rejoined the insurgency. Others took the cash and returned to the Taliban.

"That program was ridiculous," said Mohammad Arsalan Rahmani, a former Taliban deputy minister and now a senator in Afghanistan's parliament. "Taliban fighters who surrendered have been arrested. They never got the land and money that were promised.

"Everything depends on the U.S. government. If there's no sincerity, it won't work."
[...]
During the White House strategy review last fall, Obama administration officials pushed the military to begin a process to flip rank-and-file insurgents, a tactic used with success in Iraq. The approach would target Taliban fighters who are at large, as well as those who have been captured and imprisoned.

But senior officials said the effort has lagged, most notably because the international military command in Afghanistan has been unprepared to strike deals with fighters.

Under pressure from the White House, officials have begun to rejuvenate the effort. This month, an admiral overseeing detention systems renewed plans to use the U.S. and Afghan prisons to help teach former Taliban fighters basic skills and entice them back into Afghan society.
[...]
Military units have been unprepared to handle fighters who wanted to negotiate, officials said. Last fall, a militant who led a group of about 50 fighters offered to lay down his arms in exchange for the relocation of his family members and those of his lieutenants to the relative safety of Kabul, said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, the NATO-led military force, which received the offer, was unable to accommodate the request and the militant returned to the battlefield.
[...]

8) Nato Aid Effort Puts Lives At Risk In Afghanistan, Say Charities
Jerome Starkey, Times of London, January 27, 2010
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/afghanistan/article7003724.ece

Kabul - Nato's billion-dollar aid budget is putting lives at risk and undermining the long-term prospects for stability in Afghanistan, according to a damning report.

The warning by eight international charities comes on the eve of an international conference in London, where donors are expected to pledge hundreds of millions of dollars for development and reconciliation to complement Nato's counter-insurgency strategy.

Some of the world's leading non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Oxfam, Care and ActionAid, say too much money is being channelled through the military, risking the safety of humanitarian staff by blurring the lines between aid workers and the army.

"Development projects implemented with military money or through military-dominated structures aim to achieve fast results but are often poorly executed, inappropriate and do not have sufficient community involvement to make them sustainable," it said. "There is little evidence this approach is generating stability and, in some cases, military involvement in development activities is, paradoxically, ... putting Afghan lives further at risk as these projects quickly become targeted by anti-government elements."

Separate research by Care also found that schools built with Nato money were considered far more likely to be attacked by insurgents.

A quarterly report by the Afghan NGO Security Organisation warned that aid workers would be especially vulnerable in the coming months "given the US plans to expand the military operations and counter-insurgency focused 'aid' operations".It warned staff to"be wary of attempts by [international military forces] and some donors to lure NGOs into areas recently 'secured'. . . as these are some of the most dangerous areas for NGOs due to risk of being associated with the military effort".
[...]
Giving army commanders control of the purse strings has also skewed the way aid is delivered nationwide, the report claims. Some of the poorest parts of Afghanistan have been almost completely neglected, while far wealthier areas have more or less cashed in on the insurgency.

In Daikundi, one of the poorest but most peaceful provinces, fewer than 1 percent of schools have buildings and there are no paved roads. Yet in Helmand, home to most of the world's opium farms, army commanders are set to spend around $400 million this year, a third of the total CERP funds, or $285 per capita, according to the report.
[...]

Yemen
9) U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes
Dana Priest, Washington Post, Wednesday, January 27, 2010; A01
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/26/AR2010012604239.html

U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials.

The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.

The broad outlines of the U.S. involvement in Yemen have come to light in the past month, but the extent and nature of the operations have not been previously reported. The far-reaching U.S. role could prove politically challenging for Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who must balance his desire for American support against the possibility of a backlash by tribal, political and religious groups whose members resent what they see as U.S. interference in Yemen.
[...]

Iran
10) Business urges Obama resist Iran sanctions bill
Reuters, January 26, 2010
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60P6C520100126

Washington - U.S. business groups warned the White House on Tuesday that congressional plans to expand U.S. sanctions on Iran threaten to significantly undermine U.S. economic and security interests. "The proposed sanctions would incite economic, diplomatic, and legal conflicts with U.S. allies and could frustrate joint action against Iran," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups said in a letter to top White House officials.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier on Tuesday that he hoped the Senate would pass legislation within the next few weeks authorizing sanctions on companies that provide gasoline to Iran.
[...]
The business groups told White House national security adviser James Jones and senior economic policy adviser Lawrence Summers they agreed with the goal of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. But they expressed concern about provisions of the House and Senate bills that "could prohibit any U.S. company from transacting routine business with critical partners from around the globe, even if these transactions have no bearing on business with Iran."

"These provisions could encompass a very large portion of the global trade community, with consequences that in our view have not been adequately assessed," the groups said.
They warned the proposals could have a large impact on the U.S. Export-Import Bank by preventing it from working with foreign counterparts to help finance U.S. exports that have no relation to Iran's energy sector. "We urge you to weigh in vigorously with Congress to eliminate these highly problematic proposals," the groups told the top White House officials.

Other groups that signed the letter included the Business Roundtable, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council and the U.S. Council for International Business.

Haiti
11) US Lawmakers Call for Legislation to Promote Adoptions of Haitian Orphans
Some relief organizations oppose adoption, saying some children who appear to be orphaned might simply have been separated from their families
Cindy Saine, VOA, 27 January 2010
http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/americas/US-Lawmakers-Call-for-Legislation-to-Promote-Adoptions-of-Haitian-Orphans-82778522.html

Washington - Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is leading a bipartisan group of about 40 U.S. lawmakers to push for legislation that would streamline procedures for American families eager to adopt Haitian orphans. But some relief organizations have called for an end to adoptions of Haitian children, saying that in the midst of the chaos there, some children who appear to be orphaned might simply have been separated from their families.
[...]
Republican Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri agrees that orphaned children in Haiti cannot afford to wait until government offices there are rebuilt and re-staffed.
[...]
Landrieu, Bond and several other senators are supporting the Families for Orphans Act, and are trying to get it onto the Senate floor quickly. The bill would establish a separate office in the State Department to handle adoption issues, similar to the office that handles human trafficking.

Some Haitian officials and spokesmen for international relief organizations have expressed concern that Haitian children who are orphaned or separated from their families face a growing threat from child traffickers who might smuggle them into the neighboring Dominican Republic. They also fear that some relief agencies might have flown earthquake orphans out of the country before efforts to find their families have been exhausted.

Groups including Save the Children and World Vision have called for a suspension of new adoptions from Haiti until every child has been given the chance to be reunited with his or her family.
[...]
But Landrieu strongly disagrees with appeals to suspend the adoptions. "We need to be accelerating the process of child protection and adoption, even if it is temporary, with extraordinary measures, not stopping it," Landrieu said. "And I am going to challenge those organizations every step of the way. This is the time to step up and say, 'I want to adopt.' This is the time to try to save the lives of children."
[...]

Israel/Palestine
12) Israel's Barak: Lack of peace worse threat than Iran
Reuters, January 26, 2010
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE60P2EN

Jerusalem - Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday called the absence of a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians a more serious threat to the future of the Jewish state than any "Iranian bomb."
[...]
"In the absence of a solution" involving an Israeli and a Palestinian state, "any other situation - and not an Iranian bomb or any other external threat - is the most serious threat to Israel's future," Barak said in his lecture.

Israel, believed to be the region's sole nuclear power, has pushed for stiffer Western sanctions to press Iran to stop its atomic project, which Tehran insists is intended solely to produce electricity, but Israel sees as a threat to its existence.
[...]

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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It is also important to have it asked with those experienced people. Issues like this should be taken seriously.

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