JFP 1/28: Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte: Speed Emergency Aid to Haiti
Just Foreign Policy News
January 28, 2010
Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte: Speed Emergency Aid to Haiti
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, and Harry Belafonte, together with Haiti NGOs, peace groups, and Latin America scholars, have written to Congress urging that the delivery of medical aid and other urgently needed aid to Haiti be speeded up and prioritized over the deployment of U.S. troops.
AWOL from the SOTU: Peace, Reconciliation, and Debt
On foreign policy, while the President said some good things, he missed key opportunities to say better things. In particular, he missed opportunities to promote reconciliation as an essential way of ending our wars and promoting peace. In speaking about U.S. domestic politics, the President is eloquent in his efforts to promote reconciliation, but he seems to have lost his voice in applying these ideas to our foreign policy.
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.
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1) Rev. Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte urged Congress Thursday to speed delivery of medical supplies to Haiti, the Miami Herald reports. "Currently, there are major shortages reported of food, tents and water," they wrote. The letter criticized a costly "overemphasis on security, and the deployment of 20,000 troops, to the detriment of delivery of life-saving supplies." The letter said "the top priority must be the delivery and distribution of the basic survival needs of the population."
2) Afghan President Karzai declared Thursday that reaching out to the Taliban's leaders should be a centerpiece of efforts to end the war, the New York Times reports. Karzai appeared to be somewhat ahead of the US and its allies, the Times said. The Obama administration has begun an internal debate over how much to back Karzai's effort to reach out to Taliban leaders. Earlier this week, the UN removed the names of five [former - JFP] Taliban members from its blacklist, a move considered important to the reconciliation process because it would allow these people to travel to take part in negotiations. Karzai applauded the UN action but made it clear he wanted to see more names taken off the list.
3) Pakistan hopes to play a role as a broker in proposed negotiations among Taliban leaders and the Afghan government, with support from the US, the Washington Post reports. Analysts say Pakistan hopes a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul that includes the Taliban would be friendlier to its interests; and it worries that if the Afghan conflict drags on, its domestic extremist problem will spin out of control. U.S. officials are watching the evolution of Pakistani thinking with interest, the Post says.
4) Kai Eide, the outgoing head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, says the West's military strategy is doomed to failure without major change, the Times of London reports. Eide warned that the military focus was at the expense of an "Afghan-led political strategy" and that the strategy had to be demilitarized.
5) The Pentagon is assigning more special forces personnel to Yemen, the Wall Street Journal reports. Officials wouldn't say how many new troops will be arriving in Yemen, but said it would be a significant increase above the roughly 200 special forces personnel who are currently in Yemen at any one time. The Administration plans to increase its counterterrorism support to the Yemini government from $70 million in 2009 to roughly $190 million this year.
6) President Preval said legislative elections in Haiti that were scheduled for Feb. 28 have been indefinitely postponed, Reuters reports. Preval said he would leave office when his term concludes on Feb. 11, 2011.
7) The Haitian government has suspended the large-scale migration of orphans destined for adoptive families in the U.S., the Miami Herald reports. Haiti's prime minister Bellerive said his country would not release children for adoption without his personal approval, and ordered nongovernmental organizations working in Port-au-Prince to stop collecting children found on the street.
8) The IMF executive board approved a $102 million loan to Haiti, DPA reports. The IMF has been under fire for offering Haiti loans instead of grants and refusing to cancel Haiti's debt. [IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn had earlier said that the IMF would work to cancel Haiti's debt, including the new loan; that pledge seems to have vanished - JFP.]
9) Yemen pledged to implement broad political and economic reforms in exchange for long-term development and security assistance from countries concerned it could become a permanent base for terrorist operations, the Washington Post reports. Secretary of State Clinton said Yemen had been "brutally honest about the problems it faces," including widespread illiteracy and unemployment, high population growth and a dwindling water supply. But she and British Foreign Secretary Miliband made clear they expect the Yemeni government to proceed with negotiations with the IMF. [The Post didn't explain how an agreement with the IMF would help Yemen adderss illiteracy and unemployment - JFP.]
10) The leaders of one of the largest Pashtun tribes in a Taliban stronghold said they had agreed to support the government, battle insurgents and burn down the home of any Afghan who harbored Taliban guerrillas, the New York Times reports. In exchange, US commanders agreed to channel $1 million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders and bypass the local Afghan government. The agreement may be hard to replicate, since it arose from a specific local dispute, the Times says.
1) Haitian government defends actions in response to earthquake
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, January 28, 2010
Haiti's prime minister defended his government's performance, Bill Clinton stumped for aid in Switzerland and the Rev. Jesse Jackson turned to the U.S. Congress Thursday to speed delivery of medical supplies to the earthquake-shattered nation. "Currently, there are major shortages reported of food, tents and water," Jackson wrote in an open letter to Congress, which was also signed by actor Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte.
The activists blamed a costly "overemphasis on security, and the deployment of 20,000 troops, to the detriment of delivery of life-saving supplies" to the neediest and sickest among Haiti's one million or more homeless and wounded earthquake survivors.
The U.S. military has had a key role in the huge sea and airlift to Haiti. The U.S. Southern Command reported this week that it had about 4,700 troops on the ground assisting U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police distribute humanitarian relief.
"While security can help to ensure a better distribution of aid, the actual distribution of aid is most important," the men wrote. "From now on, the top priority must be the delivery and distribution of the basic survival needs of the population."
2) Karzai Sees Taliban Pact as Central to Ending War
Mark Landler and John F. Burns, New York Times, January 29, 2010
London - Afghanistan's president declared Thursday that reaching out to the Taliban's leaders should be a centerpiece of efforts to end the eight-year-old war there, setting in motion a delicate diplomatic process that will carry great risks for both Afghanistan and the United States.
Speaking to an international conference here on Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said "reconciliation" was one of his top priorities. "We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers," he said.
Mr. Karzai asked for help from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whose country has longstanding ties to elements of the Taliban, in brokering negotiations. And he appealed for support from Pakistan, where Taliban leaders shelter in the rugged frontier region bordering Afghanistan.
The one-day gathering of almost 70 nations, including the United States, was called by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reinvigorate the 44-nation military alliance fighting the war, which had its worst year in 2009 against a widening Taliban insurgency.
Yet much of the talk at the conference has been about bringing those insurgents back into the fold. Mr. Karzai appeared to be somewhat ahead of the United States and its allies, who did not refer explicitly to reconciliation in a communiqué they issued at the end of the conference.
The Obama administration has begun an internal debate over how much to back Mr. Karzai's effort to reach out to Taliban leaders, some of whom still have ties to Al Qaeda. The issue is rife with political risks at home because it evokes memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Japan announced it would contribute $50 million to a trust fund to support reintegration. The United States and Britain will also supporting the effort, though the Obama administration must obtain a license from the Treasury Department, since it would involve channeling money to members of the Taliban, a group blacklisted by the United States.
Earlier this week, the United Nations removed the names of five Taliban members [actually, according to other press reports they were former Taliban members - JFP] from its blacklist, a move considered important to the reconciliation process because it would allow these people to travel to take part in negotiations. Mr. Karzai applauded the United Nations' action but made it clear he wanted to see more names taken off the list.
3) Pakistan Seeks Role As Mediator In Possible Taliban-Afghanistan Peace Talks
Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Thursday, January 28, 2010; A15
Lahore, Pakistan - Pakistan, which once sponsored Taliban forces but turned against them under American pressure in 2001, now hopes to play a role as a broker in proposed negotiations among Taliban leaders and the Afghan government, with support from the United States.
As leaders of 60 countries meet in London on Thursday to discuss how to help Afghanistan stop its downward spiral into instability, the possibilities for reconciliation and talks with both Taliban leaders and foot soldiers will top the agenda.
Until recently, Pakistan had been on hostile terms with the neighboring government in Kabul and had sought to distance itself from the problems of insurgency across the border, while struggling to curb a homegrown Taliban movement that has carried out dozens of bombings and suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past several years.
Now, however, Pakistani officials have taken a sudden interest in promoting peace in Afghanistan, a change analysts attribute to a combination of self-interest and fear. Pakistan, they say, hopes a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul that includes the Taliban would be friendlier to its interests; and it worries that if the Afghan conflict drags on, its domestic extremist problem will spin out of control.
U.S. officials are watching the evolution of Pakistani thinking with interest. "What this is really about is whether the Pakistanis want to be part of the problem or part of the solution," said one American diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Turkey this week, said there is an urgent need for peace talks. Echoing Karzai's comments about the Taliban being "sons of the soil," Zardari said that if insurgents are "reconcilable and want to give up their way of life, a democracy always welcomes them back."
The key Pakistani players in this drama are not civilian leaders but the army and especially the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which once sponsored the Taliban, worked closely with the group when it ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s and reportedly has continued to assist Taliban leaders in exile after the regime was overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
Rashid said the Afghan militants have been chafing under the Pakistani agency's efforts to control them. Other analysts said Pakistan's influence on the Taliban waned years ago, when the militia's leaders ignored Islamabad's pleas to spare the historic Bamiyan Buddha statues and to turn over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the Americans.
But the analysts also said that with so many Taliban leaders and their families based in Pakistan, their relations with that nation are still close - perhaps too close for officials in Kabul, who have seen their fledgling postwar democracy torn apart by renewed conflict and hundreds of terrorist attacks in the past several years.
4) Afghan Military Strategy Doomed Without Big Changes, UN Chief Warns
Tom Coghlan, Times of London, January 28, 2010
The military strategy in Afghanistan is seriously flawed and is doomed to failure without major adjustments, the outgoing head of the UN there has warned.
Kai Eide, who will stand down as UN Special Representative in March, was withering in his assessment of the Afghan surge recently set in motion by President Obama. He warned that the military focus was at the expense of a "meaningful, Afghan-led political strategy" and that Western troops and governments had left Afghans feeling that they faced "cultural invasion".
Speaking to The Times before today's conference on Afghanistan, he said that the international community must stop operating according to "strategies and decisions that are taken far away from Afghanistan". "Very unfortunately, the political strategy has become an appendix to the military strategy. The strategy has to be demilitarised - a political strategy with a military component."
Mr Eide added that he supported the arrival of more US and Nato troops but that they had to be used to train Afghan forces. He said that the latter were better than any international forces because Westerners still struggled to understand the sensitivities of the country.
He expressed deep concern at the tactical approach of British and other Western troops, which aimed to remove the Taleban from an area, hold it and then develop local infrastructure and security forces. "The so-called clear, hold, build military strategy has serious flaws," he said.
"First of all, we are not able to 'clear' when our opponents are insurgents one day and a normal inhabitant of a village the next day. We are not able to 'hold' because it takes time to train and put in place police and sub-national governance.
"And we are not able to 'build' because we cannot expect civilian development agencies to come into what they feel is a military campaign."
5) Pentagon To Send More Special Forces Troops To Yemen
Yochi J. Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2010
Washington - The Pentagon is assigning more special forces personnel to Yemen as part of a broad push to speed the training of the country's counterterror forces in the wake of the failed Christmas Day attack on a crowded U.S. airliner.
Military officials familiar with the matter said the U.S. will begin rotating the same groups of special forces personnel through Yemen and keeping some of the elite troops there for longer tours, changes designed to help the American trainers develop closer relationships with their Yemeni counterparts.
The officials declined to specify how many new troops will be arriving in Yemen, but said it would be a significant increase above the roughly 200 special forces personnel who are currently in Yemen at any one time. "The numbers are definitely going to grow," said one military official familiar with the emerging plan, which is expected to be formally approved within weeks. "This will be a much more robust effort pretty much across the board."
The Obama administration plans to increase its counterterrorism support to the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from $70 million in 2009 to roughly $190 million this year, and the U.S. and U.K. have agreed to jointly fund a new counterterrorism police force inside Yemen.
6) Haitian president says Feb. 28 elections postponed
- No new date set for parliamentary elections
- Preval says he will leave office on schedule
Patricia Zengerle and Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters, 27 Jan 2010
Port-au-Prince - Legislative elections in Haiti that were scheduled for Feb. 28 have been indefinitely postponed due to the devastating earthquake, President Rene Preval said on Wednesday. "The electoral campaign should have opened tomorrow, and for obvious reasons, that won't be able to happen," Preval told Reuters in an interview at his temporary office.
The offices of the Electoral Council collapsed in the Jan. 12 earthquake, members of the U.N. mission working with the commission were killed and election materials were buried under rubble, he said.
Preval said no new date for the elections had been set. Looking further ahead, Preval said he would not seek to extend his term in office beyond its scheduled conclusion on Feb. 11, 2011. "I will leave office," he said. That means his government will have just over one year to rebuild the country before handing off the massive task to new leadership.
7) Haiti slows orphan airlifts to U.S.
Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, Wed, Jan. 27, 2010
Acting on persistent fears that homeless and orphaned children will be victimized by human traffickers, the Haitian government in Port-au-Prince has put the brakes on the large-scale migration of orphans destined for adoptive families in the U.S.
Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, told The Miami Herald his government had considerable fears that children may be scooped up in the streets of Port-au-Prince by nongovernmental organizations. The government also has concerns that children may be trafficked into prostitution or slavery.
Bellerive said his country would not release children for adoption without his personal approval, and ordered nongovernmental organizations working in Port-au-Prince to stop collecting children found on the street. "I, personally, Jean-Max Bellerive, the prime minister of the Republic of Haiti, signed three specific authorizations of adoption lists that were in the adoption process with people who are known for their services with children who are clearly identified as orphans," Bellerive told The Herald.
As Bellerive's order began to take effect, adoption workers, alerted by U.S. Embassy officials, scrambled over the weekend to move as many prospective adoptive children to the U.S. as possible.
A U.S. military cargo plane flew about 50 Haitian orphans to Sanford, near Orlando, at 1:30 a.m. Monday after leaders of the His Home for Children orphanage in Port-au-Prince were told such flights would likely be suspended later that day, said Chris Nungester, the orphanage director.
"We were advised to get the children out of their beds, get them dressed and load them into trucks to get them to the airport, so they could immediately be placed on the next available flight," Nungester said. The U.S. Embassy, she said, had told her such flights were coming "to a screeching halt."
8) IMF approves 102-million-dollar loan to Haiti
Washington - The International Monetary Fund's executive board on Wednesday approved a 102-million-dollar loan to help Haiti rebuild after this month's devastating earthquake. Combined with payouts from an existing loan programme, the IMF said it would transfer a total of 114 million dollars to Haiti's government by the end of this week, marking the largest handover of funds since the magnitude-7 earthquake struck on January 12.
IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the transfer would provide Haiti with "urgently needed cash resources" that would allow it to acquire emergency imports to help those who survived.
The IMF has been under fire along with other creditors for offering Haiti loans instead of grants and refusing to cancel Haiti's debt. The IMF said Haiti would not have to start paying back the loan for five and a half years.
9) Hillary Clinton among those praising Yemen's efforts against al-Qaeda
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Thursday, January 28, 2010; A11 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/27/AR2010012701862.html
London - Yemen pledged Wednesday to implement broad political and economic reforms in exchange for a package of long-term development and security assistance from countries concerned that it could become a permanent base for international terrorist operations.
After a meeting here of more than two dozen governments and international financial institutions that declared themselves "Friends of Yemen," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Yemen's "recent efforts to take action against al-Qaeda," which have had extensive U.S. support.
The meeting, attended by foreign ministers from Yemen's Persian Gulf neighbors as well as Russia, China and leading NATO members, was proposed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown after the Christmas Day bombing attempt against a U.S. airliner sponsored by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The failed attack set off a worldwide reassessment of the threat posed by the Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliate. Yemen has asked the international community to provide up to $4 billion annually.
After the closed-door Yemen meeting, Clinton said that Yemen had been "brutally honest about the problems it faces," including widespread illiteracy and unemployment, high population growth and a dwindling water supply. But she and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made clear that they expect the Yemeni government to proceed with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and to adhere to a 10-point program of reforms introduced by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's government.
10) Afghan Tribe, Vowing to Fight Taliban, to Get U.S. Aid in Return
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 28, 2010
Jalalabad, Afghanistan - The leaders of one of the largest Pashtun tribes in a Taliban stronghold said Wednesday that they had agreed to support the American-backed government, battle insurgents and burn down the home of any Afghan who harbored Taliban guerrillas.
Elders from the Shinwari tribe, which represents about 400,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, also pledged to send at least one military-age male in each family to the Afghan Army or the police in the event of a Taliban attack.
In exchange for their support, American commanders agreed to channel $1 million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders and bypass the local Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt.
The pact appears to be the first in which an entire Pashtun tribe has declared war on Taliban insurgents.
But the agreement, though promising, is fragile at best. Afghan loyalties are historically fluid, and in the past the government has been unable to prevent Taliban retaliation. The agreement may also be hard to replicate, since it arose from a specific local dispute and economic tensions with the Taliban.
For their part, the regular American Army forces in Jalalabad said they were startled by the Shinwaris' decision. At a tribal council meeting - called a shura - held last week, 50 Shinwari elders decided to declare that the entire tribe would oppose the Taliban. "The shura proclaims that the Shinwari tribe stands unified against all insurgent groups, specifically the Taliban," the agreement stated.
Among other things, the tribal elders declared harsh penalties against Taliban sympathizers, including huge fines and expulsion from the area. "The shura authorizes the burning of residences of those found harboring the Taliban," the proclamation said.
But the Shinwari elders did not merely declare their opposition to the Taliban. Although they declared their allegiance to the Afghan government, they directed at it a nearly equal measure of fury, condemning "all the corruption and illegal activities that threaten the Afghan people."
"We are doing this for ourselves, and ourselves only," said Hajji Kafta, one of the elders. "We have absolutely no faith in the Afghan government to do anything for us. We don't trust them at all."
Sensing opportunity - and wanting the agreement to stick - the American officers decided to bypass the government entirely and pledge $1 million in development aid directly to the Shinwari elders. That method of financing - directly to the shuras - mirrors that of the National Solidarity Program, which has gained much admiration here for the efficient way it has dispensed development aid.
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