JFP 4/21: Honda, Grijalva Back McGovern's Afghan Withdrawal Timetable

Just Foreign Policy News
April 21, 2010

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Urge Congress to End the War in Afghanistan
Urge your representatives to support the Feingold-McGovern-Jones bill for a timetable for military withdrawal.
If we can get 100 co-sponsors in the House in the next few weeks, we may able to get a vote on a withdrawal timetable when the House considers the supplemental.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/feingold-mcgovern

New co-sponsors as of 4/21: Michaud; Filner; Oberstar; Moore, Gwen; Grijalva; Honda.
Previous co-sponsors in the House: Capuano; Conyers; DeFazio; Delahunt; Duncan; Farr; Harman; Hirono; Johnson, Timothy; Jones, Walter; Kucinich; Lee, Barbara; Lujan, Ben Ray; Moran, James; Nadler; Pingree; Schrader; Serrano; Slaughter; Welch; Woolsey.
Current total: 27
Current co-sponsors in the Senate: none. [!]

Highlights of the House Afghanistan Debate
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/video/housedebate

IJDH: Help Haitian Women Fight Against Rape
The Institute for Justice And Democracy in Haiti calls on the UN to step up its efforts to establish security for women in the camps.
http://www.change.org/haitijustice/petitions/view/help_haitian_women_fight_against_rape

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) President Karzai postponed a national peace conference until after his visit next month to the White House in hopes of cementing international backing for his overtures to the Taliban leadership, AP reports. An associate of Karzai said Karzai wants the U.S. to accept that senior Taliban be included in any reconciliation talks that come after the jirga - as long as they have no ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist networks. The Afghan government also was insisting it should decide who to talk with and that the U.S. and NATO must agree to respect whatever agreements are reached during talks with the Taliban, the associate said. Defense Secretary Gates told a congressional committee last month that while negotiations with the Taliban would be necessary at some point, it was too early for the Afghan government to be able to persuade senior Taliban leaders to lay down their arms. The Europeans have been more publicly supportive of talks. Vygaudas Usackas, head of the EU delegation in Afghanistan, expressed the EU's political backing for the peace conference. "For the EU, which is perhaps one of the best examples of 20th century reconciliation, we see a great meaning and importance of this process," Usackas said. "It won't be an event. It will launch a process, which can lead to a peace in the country...We don't speak in terms of red lines on something that is an entirely national effort," he said. "Every nation goes through its own reconciliation processes. It can be imposed. It cannot be instructed. It can only be supported." NATO's top civilian boss, Mark Sedwill, said the alliance was strongly behind Karzai's reconciliation efforts. Asked whether the international community would support talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar or the Haqqani group, a Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban faction with close ties to al-Qaida, Sedwill replied: "That's up to the government."

2) Afghan officials said a NATO military convoy in eastern Afghanistan shot to death four unarmed civilians in a vehicle early Monday evening, including a police officer and a 12-year-old student, the New York Times reports. Without offering proof, NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their "associates." At least 35 civilians have been killed since last summer by NATO and American troops in such incidents - but military officials say that in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops.

3) Sooner or later, Iran will acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons, writes H.D.S. Greenway in the Boston Globe. The challenge for the US and other nations is how to deal with that reality. There are really only two options if sanctions fail: attack Iran or prepare to live with an Iranian bomb. Most experts agree that attacking Iran would, at most, delay an Iranian bomb by only a few years. And if there is one thing that would unite all Iranians, that would be it. The last thing the U.S. can afford, politically or economically, is another war against another Muslim country. In reality the best hope we have is persuading Iranians to accept a "virtual" nuclear power status, meaning that they have the capability but don't actually build a bomb. That could satisfy their national pride - a factor we pay too little attention to - and their desire for a deterrent against further threats against their nation. It might also inoculate the region against a nuclear arms race. Given the threats that we have made against Iran, branding them part of an "axis of evil," Iran is going to settle for nothing less. And it may not even accept that.

4) The Pentagon plans to boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen's special operations forces, Reuters reports. The Pentagon informed Congress that it would provide $34 million in "tactical assistance" to Yemen's special operations forces. Several of Yemen's internal security and intelligence services have been named as human rights abusers by international rights groups and the U.S. State Department. Critics say the growing U.S. military involvement risks fueling anti-American sentiment and boosting al Qaeda's standing.

5) The Army is considering whether to rescind an invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to appear at the Pentagon amid complaints about his description of Islam as evil, AP reports. Graham was to appear at the Pentagon on May 6 on what is the National Day of Prayer. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation objected to the appearance, citing Graham's past remarks about Islam. Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon, and would endanger US troops by stirring up Muslim extremists. After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, Graham said Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion."

6) The jobless rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars reached 14.7 percent in March, compared to the national average of 9.7 percent, Bloomberg reports. Tens of thousands of veterans have returned from war with visible wounds, and hundreds of thousands have "invisible wounds," Admiral Mullen said on April 18. [According to official Pentagon statistics - which generally only count people shot or blown up - more than 35,000 U.S. soldiers have been "wounded" in Iraq and Afghanistan - JFP.]

Israel/Palestine
7) A coalition of groups are planning on trying to reach the port of Gaza next month with eight ships containing goods and 600 passengers, including journalists, Ha'aretz reports. The flagship, which is to depart from Ireland, is to be named the Rachel Corrie. Organizers say the ship will be loaded with cement, paper, writing implements and medical equipment, which the IDF has prevented from reaching Gaza. Donated equipment is coming in from Turkey, Norway, Britain and Ireland.

Pakistan
8) The Pakistani military is holding thousands of suspected militants in indefinite detention, the Washington Post reports. The majority of the detainees have been held for nearly a year and have been allowed no contact with family members, lawyers or humanitarian groups. Top U.S. officials have raised concern over the detentions, fearing the issue could undermine congressional support for the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign and jeopardize billions of dollars in U.S. assistance. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said it had documented as many as 300 extrajudicial killings by the military both during and after the Swat operation.

Iraq
9) Amnesty International has urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to probe allegations that his security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad, AFP reports. "Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. "This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses."

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) President Karzai delays Afghan peace conference
Deb Riechmann, Associated Press, Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 3:36 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/21/AR2010042100939.html

Kabul - President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday postponed a national peace conference until after his visit next month to the White House in hopes of cementing international backing for his overtures to the Taliban leadership.

An estimated 1,400 Afghans representing the nation's myriad of ethnic, regional and political factions, are scheduled to gather for a so-called "peace jirga" next month to reach a national consensus for talking with insurgents to end the nearly 9-year-old war.

The U.S. supports Karzai's effort to embrace insurgents who renounce violence, respect the Afghan constitution and cut ties to terrorists, yet doubt this is the right time for talks with top Taliban leaders who think they are winning the war.

"Some circles in the international community had concerns about the outcome of the jirga so the trip that Karzai is making to the United States will remove all the concerns, and all the international community will, with one voice, support Afghanistan," Ghulam Farooq Wardak, the Afghan education minister and meeting organizer, said Wednesday.

Wardak said the meeting also was being delayed because candidates for parliamentary elections in September would not be able to attend because they had to register in their home provinces on May 2-4, the initial dates for the meeting. Waiting until Karzai returns from his May 10-14 trip to Washington also lets him use the jirga as a forum to ally concerns that U.S.-Afghan relations are frayed, Wardak said.

In Washington, Richard Holbrooke, special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Karzai decided to hold the jirga after he got back to Washington for scheduling reasons and because it would follow detailed talks with Obama and other U.S. officials.

Holbrooke said the jirga has been postponed to May 20, drawing the ire of Karzai's advisers who said the Afghan government did not decide until Wednesday to delay the conference and no new date had been set.
[...]
At a conference on Afghanistan earlier this year in London, donor nations welcomed plans for the jirga and a program to use economic incentives to woo low- and midlevel Taliban fighters off the battlefield. They pledged to set up a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance the reconciliation program, and Karzai needs the international community's backing and its financial support.

An associate of Karzai, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to news reporters, said Karzai wants the U.S. to accept that senior Taliban be included in any reconciliation talks that come after the jirga - as long as they have no ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist networks.

The Afghan government also was insisting it should decide who to talk with and that the U.S. and NATO must agree to respect whatever agreements are reached during talks with the Taliban, the associate said.
[...]
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee last month that while negotiations with the Taliban would be necessary at some point, it was too early for the Afghan government to be able to persuade senior Taliban leaders to lay down their arms. He said that for talks to succeed, the Taliban must be convinced that they will lose the war. "I don't think we're there yet," he said.

The Europeans have been more publicly supportive of talks. Vygaudas Usackas, head of the European Union delegation in Afghanistan, expressed the EU's political backing for the peace conference.

"For the EU, which is perhaps one of the best examples of 20th century reconciliation, we see a great meaning and importance of this process," Usackas said. "It won't be an event. It will launch a process, which can lead to a peace in the country. Any reconciliation process will take time before the seeds will grow up."

The EU ambassadors sought clarity about the Afghan government's expectations for the meeting, the framework for discussions at the three-day conference and asked questions about whether the jirga attendees would be representative of the complex nation. "We don't speak in terms of red lines on something that is an entirely national effort," he said. "Every nation goes through its own reconciliation processes. It can be imposed. It cannot be instructed. It can only be supported."

Despite the U.S. government's qualms about talking with the Taliban leadership, which harbored al-Qaida fighters responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, NATO's top civilian boss, Mark Sedwill, said Tuesday that the alliance was strongly behind Karzai's reconciliation efforts. Asked whether the international community would support talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar or the Haqqani group, a Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban faction with close ties to al-Qaida, Sedwill replied: "That's up to the government."

The Afghan Taliban's leadership council this week denied that it was open to talks.
[...]
The Taliban has long demanded that there would be no peace talks as long as foreign forces were in the country.

Sedwill brushed off the Taliban's hard stance. "You would expect their spokesmen to say, at this stage, that they won't accept anything," Sedwill said. "They want foreign forces to withdraw first and they want a whole load of other conditions. That's perfectly normal in a situation like this.

"But at some stage, probably privately to start with, they have to understand that they are not going to prevail" - that reconciliation is their only future."

2) Dispute Flares After NATO Convoy Kills 4 In Afghanistan
Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Sharifullah Sahak, New York Times, April 20, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/world/asia/21khost.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - A NATO military convoy in eastern Afghanistan shot to death four unarmed civilians in a vehicle early Monday evening, including a police officer and a 12-year-old student, Afghan officials said Tuesday.

The killings in Khost Province, near the border with Pakistan, led to a dispute almost immediately between local Afghan leaders and NATO officials. Deaths of civilians from shootings by NATO forces near convoys and at checkpoints have emerged as a particular flash point with the Afghan public and government.

"The civilians' vehicle was driving on the road when the coalition forces opened fire on them," said the governor of Gurbuz District, Mohammad Akbar Zadran. "There was a 12-year-old schoolboy among the dead, and a police officer named Maiwand who was also killed."

Without offering proof, NATO described the dead as two insurgents and their "associates." In a statement on Tuesday, NATO said the vehicle ignored warning shots and accelerated toward the military convoy. But the statement did not challenge the Afghan account that no weapons were found in the vehicle.

At least 35 civilians have been killed since last summer by NATO and American troops in such incidents - but military officials say that in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops.

One week ago, American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar, killing 5 civilians and wounding as many as 18, igniting angry anti-American demonstrations.

In Khost, local officials said the four were slain at 6 p.m. Monday as they drove home in a Toyota. One official identified the men as Maiwand, a police officer; Faizullah, a 12-year-old student; and two shopkeepers at the Khost bazaar, Amirullah and Nasratullah.

The governor of Khost, Abdul Jabar Naimi, also described the four as a policeman, a student and two shop owners. "We are still doing our investigation to see if they were involved in any criminal activities against the government," he said.

The American-led NATO military command in Kabul said two of the dead men were identified after the fact as "known insurgents." A NATO spokesman in Kabul said identification was made using "biometric data" but could not say how that specifically tied the men to militancy.
[...]

3) Get Ready To Live With Nuclear Iran
H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe, April 21, 2010
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/04/21/get_ready_to_live_with_nuclear_iran

Sooner or later, Iran will acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons. The challenge for the United States and other nations is how to deal with that unpleasant reality.

Last weekend, The New York Times got wind of a classified memo in which Defense Secretary Robert Gates purportedly said the United States had no effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady march towards acquiring nuclear capability. In public, the administration insists that Iran will not be allowed to succeed. Gates said his memo was simply a set of proposals "to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process." But it's doubtful that the United States has a workable policy.

Senator John McCain was quick to say he didn't need a Gates memo to tell him that we had no coherent Iran policy, but, as he pointed out, neither had the Bush administration. "We have to be willing to pull the trigger on sanctions," said McCain, "and then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective."

Past approaches haven't worked. President Bush tried his we-don't-speak-to-evil hard line, which failed to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear program. President Obama tried his open-hand approach, but Iran refused to engage in negotiations. Given the political turmoil within Iran it is possible that Iranians cannot get their act together to engage with the United States. But the nuclear program has broad support, even among the political opposition.

There are really only two options if sanctions fail: attack Iran or prepare to live with an Iranian bomb.

Most experts agree that attacking Iran would, at most, delay an Iranian bomb by only a few years. And if there is one thing that would unite all Iranians, that would be it. There's a chance now of political change in Iran in the coming years. There would be no such chance if Iran were attacked. An attack would consolidate the regime and provoke an even fiercer determination to build a bomb.

Secondly, the last thing the United States can afford, politically or economically, is another war against another Muslim country, as Gates well knows. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim phenomenon. We don't need to alienate the Shi'ite world as well.

Thirdly, Iran would find a way to retaliate, with incalculable consequences. If we are ever to find our way out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are going to need Iranian help. An Israeli attack, which would be universally seen as being in connivance with the United States, would have all the same consequences.

So the other alternative is learning to live with the Iranian bomb. There are hints that the administration has a contingency plan for this option. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton let slip some time ago that the US might extend a nuclear umbrella over our Middle East Arab allies, as we have done with Japan, to encourage them not to develop their own bombs.

The Iranians are not suicidal. They know that Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons. Iran can be contained, as was the Soviet Union. And Iran gains nothing by letting terrorists have its nuclear secrets. The North Koreans, for money, or some rogue Pakistanis, for ideological reasons, are a much greater danger on that score.

The administration's official position is that the United States will never let Iran "acquire nuclear capability," meaning even the ability to complete a bomb. This is not a coherent strategy. Iranians might be prevented from actually manufacturing a bomb, for a while, but not from developing the capability.

In reality the best hope we have is persuading Iranians to accept a "virtual" nuclear power status, meaning that they have the capability but don't actually build a bomb. That could satisfy their national pride - a factor we pay too little attention to - and their desire for a deterrent against further threats against their nation. It might also inoculate the region against a nuclear arms race.

Given the threats that we have made against Iran, branding them part of an "axis of evil," Iran is going to settle for nothing less. And it may not even accept that.

4) Pentagon To Boost Yemen's Special Operation Forces
Adam Entous, Reuters, Tuesday, April 20, 2010; 9:54 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/20/AR2010042001801.html

Washington - The Pentagon plans to boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen's special operations forces to lead an offensive targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, officials said on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February authorized $150 million in security assistance for Yemen for fiscal 2010, up from $67 million last year, but the Pentagon has offered few details about the highly sensitive program.

Officials briefed on the matter said the Pentagon informed Congress that it would provide $34 million in "tactical assistance" to Yemen's special operations forces. "Special Operations forces are uniquely qualified for counterterrorism missions," a U.S. defense official said of the funding. "The United States wants to work with partners in the region to address their terrorist threats."

In addition, $38 million will provide Yemen with a military transport aircraft, officials said. The Pentagon is drawing up detailed spending plans for the rest of the program, which is expected to focus on boosting Yemen's air transport capabilities.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies have sought to keep their expanding roles in Yemen quiet, in part to avert a public backlash against the government.

Several of Yemen's internal security and intelligence services have been named as human rights abusers by international rights groups and the U.S. State Department.

U.S. military and intelligence assistance in recent months has included satellite and surveillance imagery, as well as intercepted communications, to help Yemeni forces carry out air raids against al Qaeda targets, officials said.

Critics say the growing U.S. military involvement risks fueling anti-American sentiment and boosting al Qaeda's standing.
[...]

5) Army considers rescinding 'Prayer Day' invitation to Franklin Graham
Dan Elliott, Associated Press, April 21, 2010;
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/undergod/2010/04/army_considers_rescinding_prayer_day_invitation_to_franklin_graham.html

The Army is considering whether to rescind an invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to appear at the Pentagon amid complaints about his description of Islam as evil, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, was to appear at the Pentagon on May 6 on what is the National Day of Prayer. He said he will be a guest of the Pentagon and will speak only if he's still invited.

Army Col. Tom Collins said withdrawing the invitation "is on the table," but no decision has been made. He said Army brass will have the ultimate decision on whether to pull the invite.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation raised the objection to the appearance, citing Graham's past remarks about Islam. Mikey Weinstein, president of the foundation, said the invitation offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon. He said it would endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Graham said Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion." In a later op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Graham wrote that he did not believe Muslims were evil because of their faith, but "as a minister .... I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."

6) Mullen Sees 'Huge' Needs As Numbers Of U.S. War Veterans Climb
Viola Gienger, Bloomberg, April 21
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aI9N7NSGBT40

President Barack Obama's top military adviser said U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are missing out on cutting-edge treatment, education and family services, even as 50,000 more head home this year.
[...]
A challenge will arise as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Mullen said. "We are holding in an explosion of problems that we can't even know what they are, because families are just sucking it up," Mullen said April 19 at the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.

The regional program has seen demand go "off the scale" for help with housing, jobs, education and health services, Executive Director Albert Mercer told Mullen in a garage-turned- meeting-room at the back of the non-profit organization.

The group's 22 employees saw 5,000 veterans or family members last year, a 16 percent increase over 2008. Mercer expects a 20 percent climb this year. Subsidized housing for homeless veterans increased 31 percent last year.

The jobless rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars reached 14.7 percent in March, compared to the national average of 9.7 percent.
[...]
In Morgantown, a state lawmaker told Mullen yesterday the legislature couldn't get data from the VA or the Pentagon for a four-year study it is conducting to locate veterans and figure out what services they need.

Tens of thousands of veterans have returned from war with visible wounds, and hundreds of thousands have "invisible wounds," Mullen told community leaders and students, many of them veterans, at Columbia University in New York on April 18.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
7) The 'Rachel Corrie' Ship to Try to Breach Gaza Blockade Next Month
Yossi Melman, Ha'aretz, 21/04/2010
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1164310.html

A coalition of left-wing groups are planning on trying to reach the port of Gaza next month with eight ships containing goods and 600 passengers, including journalists, an umbrella association of the groups said.

The flagship, which is to depart from the port of Dundalk, Ireland, is an old Lithuanian ship that has recently been refitted by volunteers from Dundalk and is to be named the Rachel Corrie.

Corrie, a 23-year-old human rights activist, was killed in 2003 by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer while attempting to block the demolition of a house in Rafah.

The ship was purchased at auction for 70,000 euros by an organization called the Free Gaza Movement.

The organizers say the ship will be loaded with cement, paper, writing implements and medical equipment, which the IDF has prevented from reaching the Strip since the siege was imposed after the Hamas takeover in 2007. Donated equipment is now coming in from Turkey, Norway, Britain and Ireland.

A coalition spokesman said that while Israel would probably try to stop the ship, out of eight ships that have tried to enter the Gaza port, five have been allowed in, which he said was encouraging.

Pakistan
8) Pakistan Holding Thousands in Indefinite Detention, Officials say
Griff Witte and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 2:48 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/21/AR2010042102658_pf.html

Islamabad, Pakistan - The Pakistani military is holding thousands of suspected militants in indefinite detention, arguing that the nation's dysfunctional civilian justice system cannot be trusted to prevent them from walking free, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

The majority of the detainees have been held for nearly a year and have been allowed no contact with family members, lawyers or humanitarian groups, the Pakistani officials and human rights advocates said.

Top U.S. officials have raised concern over the detentions with the Pakistani leadership, fearing the issue could undermine American domestic and congressional support for the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign here and jeopardize billions of dollars in U.S. assistance.

Pakistani officials say they are aware of the problem, but that there is no clear solution: The nation lacks a military justice system, and even civilian officials concede their courts are not up to the task of handling such a large volume of complex terrorism cases. For most of the detainees, there is little forensic evidence, and witnesses are likely to be too scared to testify.

The dilemma plays directly into the Taliban's strategy. The group has gained a following in Pakistan by capitalizing on the weakness of the civilian government, promising the sort of swift justice that is often absent from the slow-moving and overburdened courts.

Pakistan's struggle over how to handle the detainees echoes a debate playing out in the United States over the remaining prisoners being held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It also reflects the tensions between security and civil liberties that confront U.S. allies as they fight their own battles against Islamic extremists.

"We don't have a system like Egypt, where you send a man to court and three days later he's executed," said Malik Naveed Khan, the top police official in northwestern Pakistan. "The judges decide the punishment, and they have to look at the evidence."

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the military is "extremely concerned" the detainees will be allowed to go free if they are turned over to the civilian government. More than 300 suspected militants who had been detained in the military's 2007 operation in the Swat Valley were later released under the terms of a peace deal. Many subsequently returned to the Taliban, Abbas said, making the army's task harder when it again rolled into Swat last spring.

Most of the current detainees were picked up during that operation, which succeeded in eliminating a key Taliban sanctuary, though many fighters simply fled. Pakistan also detained suspected militants during its offensive in South Waziristan last fall, and in other operations in adjacent tribal areas.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said it had documented as many as 300 extrajudicial killings by the military both during and after the Swat operation. The military has denied that charge. Ali Dayan Hasan, the New York-based organization's senior South Asia analyst, said that without proper documentation of the detainees, more could be tortured and killed. "What this is an argument for is the law of the jungle," Hasan said. "This is a gross abuse of human rights, and very bad counter-terror strategy."

There has been no public accounting of who has been detained, so the exact number of prisoners is not known. U.S. officials estimate the total at 2,500, a figure that roughly corresponds to Pakistani estimates, though some outside analysts here say the actual number is higher. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been given access to any detainees in northwest Pakistan since last year. They are being held in special military detention centers across the region, though the exact locations have not been made public.

Pakistan officially describes its military operations in the northwest as a law enforcement action, rather than armed conflict, which permits it to avoid following international protocol for the treatment of prisoners of war.

U.S. officials say they worry the detentions will further inflame the Pakistani public at a time when the government here needs popular support for its offensives. "They're treating the local population with a heavy hand, and they're alienating them," said an Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "As a result, it's sort of a classic case going back to Vietnam; it [risks] actually creating more sympathy for the extremists."

After years of international criticism over secret U.S. prison sites, the official said that U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made improving the detention system one of the central features of his new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. [That may be so, but a recent BBC report claimed that Afghan prisoners are still being abused in US detention in Afghanistan - JFP.] But Pakistan, where the military has long called the shots while the civilian government languished, has not yet recognized the issue's importance, the official said.

U.S. officials worry, too, that by holding thousands of people without trial, Pakistan risks running afoul of the Leahy Amendment, which requires recipients of U.S. military assistance to abide by international human rights laws and standards.

The United States has provided Pakistan with nearly $18 billion in military and development aid since 2002, with the administration requesting an additional $3 billion for 2011. "Obviously, you don't want the Pakistanis to do anything to complicate a relationship that requires support from Congress," the U.S. official said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the issue of detentions with Pakistani officials during her visit here last October, but little has changed since then.

The United States has not pushed for a specific solution but has instead encouraged Pakistan to begin a process for handling the detainees within the law, U.S. officials said. Although Pakistan has in the past handed high-level detainees over to the United States for interrogation at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities, Pakistani officials say the current crop of detainees are all suspected of crimes against the Pakistani state and will be dealt with domestically.
[...]
Aftab Khan Sherpao, a former Pakistani interior minister, said the lack of a plan for handling the detainees reflects Pakistan's broader deficiencies when it comes to fighting extremist groups. There is no coordination between military and civilian agencies, he said, and no system for collecting and sharing evidence. "Without evidence, what are they going to do?" he said.

In many cases, the answer is for the police to torture detainees into confessing, said Rafaqat Bashir Awan, a defense lawyer at the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.
[...]

Iraq
9) Amnesty urges Iraq to probe 'secret prison' allegations
AFP, Tue Apr 20, 9:28 am ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100420/wl_mideast_afp/iraqjusticerights_20100420132846

Baghdad - Amnesty International has urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to probe allegations that his Shiite-dominant security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad. Referring to a report in the Los Angeles Times, quoting Iraqi officials who said more than 100 prisoners were tortured by electric shocks, suffocated with plastic bags or beaten, the London-based rights group called for an inquiry.

"The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked," Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement received late on Monday. "Prime Minister Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses cannot exonerate the authorities from their responsibilities and their duty to ensure the safety of detainees," she added.
[...]
"Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public," said Sahraoui. "This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses," she added.

-
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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