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JFP 6/22: Firing McChrystal Not Enough; Gazans Need Cement and Free Passage
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 June 2010 - 6:54pm
Just Foreign Policy News
June 22, 2010
Washinton Post User Poll: 70% say McChrystal Should be Fired
Tom Andrews: Firing McChrystal is Not Enough
It's not enough to fire General McChrystal for his latest public act of insubordination. It's time to fire the entire Afghanistan strategy. How can Congress possibly appropriate an additional $33 billion to a General who does not believe in the mission, the Commander-in-Chief or the administration officials he so obviously holds in contempt? The answer is obvious: it can't.
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1) White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Obama has not ruled out firing Gen. McChrystal following derogatory comments by McChrystal and his aides about senior Administration officials in an article in Rolling Stone, the Washington Post reports. The Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal, titled the "Runaway General," generated doubts about McChrystal's judgment and leadership, the Post says. In the article, an anonymous McChrystal aide is quoted as calling national security adviser James L. Jones a "clown," who remains "stuck in 1985." McChrystal and some of his aides also appear to mock Vice-President Biden, who opposed McChrystal's troop surge recommendation last year and instead urged a more focused emphasis on counterterrorism operations. "Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" McChrystal said. "Biden?" chimes in an aide. "Did you say Bite me?" June is on track to be the deadliest month for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the war began nearly nine years ago. At least 63 NATO troops have been killed so far this month, including 10 who died Monday in a helicopter crash and a series of attacks, the Post notes.
2) House Appropriations Chair David Obey called for General Stanley McChrystal's ouster, the Washington Post reports. "If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn't be in the position he is in," Obey said. Senate Majority Leader Reid and Sen. Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters that Obama was within his rights to force McChrystal out. Sens. Lieberman, Graham and McCain issued a statement denouncing McChrystal's "inappropriate" comments and suggested that it was up to Obama to determine if the general should remain in charge.
3) Britain's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who has criticized elements of the U.S. war strategy, has resigned, the Washington Post reports. Sherard Cowper-Coles had pushed for a political solution in Afghanistan and for higher priority to be given to talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, while expressing skepticism that increased military force could prevail. British officials denied reports that Cowper-Coles had been asked to step down.
4) The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, AP reported. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds. "That's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date," Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy: Gen. Petraeus, Defense Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen. Petraeus said last week he would recommend delaying the pullout if conditions in Afghanistan warranted it. Uniformed and civilian defense leaders accepted the announcement of a date to begin leaving as a condition of Obama's major expansion of the war.
5) The U.S. has created a network of warlords across Afghanistan who are making millions of dollars escorting NATO convoys and operating outside the control of the Afghan government or the US and NATO militaries, according to the results of a Congressional investigation, the New York Times reports. The investigation found that money given to these Afghan warlords often amounts to little more than mafia-style protection payments. The investigation also uncovered evidence suggesting that US money is being used to bribe the Taliban not to attack US convoys.
6) A new study finds that mining is a more important contributor to tuberculosis in Africa than had been realized, the New York Times reports. Researchers compared 44 African countries and found that even some with low rates of H.I.V. infection rates had high TB rates. When a country's mines shut down, tuberculosis often fell.
7) What Palestinians in Gaza want, what they need and what they are not certain that they will get from Israel fall into three general categories, Michael Slackman reports in the New York Times: construction materials to rebuild houses and offices destroyed during the war Israel launched in late 2008; freedom of movement in and out of Gaza; and ample raw materials to allow manufacturing to resume, and with that, job creation. We need cement, gravel, iron, the materials to build," said a man whose house was destroyed in 2006. A woman who has been separated from her family by the blockade for three years said she hoped she would see her father and brother.
8) Mexico's human rights activists are grappling with a growing new class of victims: themselves, Marc Lacey reports in the New York Times. Activists now devote a considerable portion of their time helping other activists, who have been threatened or far worse. "No one is protecting us," said Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Contreras, director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights. "And we don't just want protection. We want the government to investigate the threats." The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights called on Mexico to protect two women who fled Tijuana fearing their lives were in danger for representing police officers who accused Mexican security forces of torturing them into confessions.
9) Colombia's president-elect was congratulated by Venezuela while a friendly phone call from Ecuador's President Correa suggested the prospect of re-established ties, AP reports. The Venezuelan government wished Santos success and said it hoped he will demonstrate the "sincerity and respect" needed to ease tensions. Santos told AP before the election he planned to invite President Chavez and President Correa to his inauguration. "I want good relations with all our neighbors," he said.
1) Obama leaving options open on firing McChrystal, Gibbs says
Michael D. Shear, Ernesto Londoño and Debbi Wilgoren, Washington Post,Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 4:47 PM
[The Rolling Stone article is here: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236]
President Obama reacted angrily to derogatory comments Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal made about administration officials involved in Afghan policy and has not ruled out firing him, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
Gibbs described Obama as "angry" after reading about comments the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and his aides made in a Rolling Stone magazine profile.
McChrystal has been summoned to Washington to explain highly critical comments by him and his staff about Vice President Biden, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry and other top Obama administration officials.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that McChrystal "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment."
The profile of McChrystal, titled the "Runaway General," immediately increased tensions between him and the White House. It also generated doubts about the judgment and leadership style of the commander appointed by President Obama last year in an effort to turn around a worsening conflict.
The general's remarks found few supporters in official Washington, and leading one leading congressional Democrat called for his ouster. [Rep. Obey, next item - JFP.]
An administration official said Obama was alerted to the article Monday evening when an upset Biden called him and advised him to read it.
In the article, an anonymous McChrystal aide is quoted as calling national security adviser James L. Jones a "clown," who remains "stuck in 1985."
McChrystal and some of his aides also appear to mock Biden, who opposed McChrystal's troop surge recommendation last year and instead urged a more focused emphasis on counterterrorism operations. Preparing for a speech he was about to give at a French military academy, McChrystal "wonders aloud" whether he will be questioned about the well-publicized differences in opinion between himself and Biden.
"Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who's that?" McChrystal says with a laugh, trying out the line as a hypothetical response to the anticipated query.
"Biden?" chimes in an aide who is seated nearby, and who is not named in the article. "Did you say Bite me?"
It is not the first time that McChrystal has been dressed down by Obama. Shortly after the general's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was made public last year, McChrystal gave a speech in London in which he publicly criticized those who advocated a scaled-back effort in Afghanistan.
Those comments were widely seen as being directed against Biden, who had promoted an approach in the country focused on targeting terrorists more narrowly. After that speech, an angry Obama summoned McChrystal to a face-to-face meeting on Air Force One in Copenhagen, where Obama had arrived to pitch Chicago's Olympic bid.
The article shows open disdain for Eikenberry, a retired three-star general who has sharp policy differences with McChrystal,. Referring to a leaked cable from Eikenberry that expressed concerns about the trustworthiness of Karzai, McChrystal is quoted as having said: "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.' "
Referring to Richard C. Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one McChrystal aide is quoted as saying: "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."
On one occasion, McChrystal appears to react with exasperation when he receives an e-mail from Holbrooke. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," McChrystal says, according to the article. "I don't even want to read it."
The timing of the piece could hardly be worse. Amid a flurry of bad news in Afghanistan and a jump in NATO casualties, U.S. lawmakers and senior officials from NATO allied countries are asking increasingly sharp questions about the U.S.-led war strategy. McChrystal has struggled to turn the tide on a deteriorating conflict since taking over the Afghanistan effort last year.
Dutch and Canadian troops are scheduled to pull out within the next 12 months. And the White House has said it will start drawing down U.S. forces next July.
June is on track to be the deadliest month for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the war began nearly nine years ago. At least 63 NATO troops have been killed so far this month, including 10 who died Monday in a helicopter crash and a series of attacks.
2) Leading Democrat calls for McChrystal's ouster, while others open to his dismissal
Paul Kane and Perry Bacon, Jr., Washington Post, June 22, 2010; 3:25 PM ET
A leading congressional Democrat on Tuesday called for General Stanley McChrystal's ouster as commander of the Afghanistan war, while other top Democrats left the door open for President Obama to remove his top officer in Kabul following his public critique of the White House's national security team.
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.), an anti-war liberal who is overseeing the $33 billion request for funds to implement McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy, said the general has made repeated public comments that have undermined his relationship with Obama, making his oversight of the war effort untenable.
"If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn't be in the position he is in. In apologizing this morning, McChrystal said his comments were 'a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.' I couldn't have said it better myself. Anybody, including a U.S. Army General, is entitled to making a damn fool of themselves once. But General McChrystal hasn't appeared to learn from his mistakes," Obey said in a prepared statement.
No other prominent member of Congress has called for McChrystal's firing, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters that Obama was within his rights to force McChrystal out despite his apology after Rolling Stone magazine published its story Tuesday.
A trio of top senators - Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) - issued a statement denouncing McChrystal's "inappropriate" comments and suggested that it was up to Obama to determine if the general should remain in charge.
3) British diplomat quits Afghanistan post
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Britain's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who has criticized elements of the U.S. war strategy, has resigned and the new government of Prime Minister David Cameron is reviewing whether to fill the job, British officials said Monday.
Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British counterpart of Obama administration special representative Richard C. Holbrooke, had held the position since early 2009, after serving nearly two years as ambassador to Afghanistan.
He had pushed for a political solution in Afghanistan and for higher priority to be given to talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, while expressing skepticism that increased military force could prevail.
At an international conference on Afghanistan held in London in January, Britain pressed Karzai to speed up efforts to hold reconciliation talks with the insurgents, a direction the Obama administration has grown more comfortable with even as it has expanded the U.S. military force on the ground.
British officials denied reports that Cowper-Coles had been asked to step down, and one official suggested that he was simply tired of the region after three years and would be given another diplomatic assignment. The position of special representative was said to be under review, with another diplomat appointed to hold it in an acting capacity.
4) Troop pullout in Afghanistan set for next summer
Anne Gearan, AP, Sun Jun 20, 9:27 pm ET
Washington - The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.
President Barack Obama's chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds. "That's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date," Rahm Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy girding the war: Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.
Petraeus, the war's top military boss, said last week that he would recommend delaying the pullout if conditions in Afghanistan warranted it.
Uniformed and civilian defense leaders accepted the announcement of a date to begin leaving as a condition of Obama's major expansion of the war. Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops, the last of whom are arriving now, with a mission to squeeze the Taliban on its home ground, build up Afghan security forces and improve chances that local people would swing behind the U.S.-backed central government.
With little progress apparent in the critical Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan, the split between politics and tactics is again on display. As Gates acknowledged Sunday, it is taking longer than he hoped to gain an enduring edge over the Taliban in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
At least 34 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan this month, making June among the deadliest months of the war. Casualties are expected to rise through the summer and fall as fighting expands in Helmand and Kandahar.
Earlier this month, Gates said the United States and its partners must demonstrate progress this year or risk the collapse of already dwindling public support for the war.
Petraeus told Congress last week that he would recommend postponing the start of the withdrawal if security conditions and the capability of the Afghan government could not support it.
5) U.S. Said to Fund Afghan Warlords to Protect Convoys
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, June 21, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - American taxpayers have inadvertently created a network of warlords across Afghanistan who are making millions of dollars escorting NATO convoys and operating outside the control of either the Afghan government or the American and NATO militaries, according to the results of a Congressional investigation released Monday.
The investigation, begun last year by the House Subcommittee for National Security, found that money given to these Afghan warlords often amounts to little more than mafia-style protection payments, with some NATO convoys that refused to pay the warlords coming under attack.
The subcommittee, led by Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, also uncovered evidence suggesting that American taxpayer money is making its way to the Taliban. Several trucking company supervisors told investigators that they believed the gunmen they hired to escort their convoys bribed the Taliban not to attack.
The warlords who are paid with American money, the investigators said, are undermining the legitimate Afghan government that Americans soldiers and Marines are struggling to build, and will most likely threaten the government long after the Americans and NATO leave.
The source of the taxpayer money is a $2.1 billion contract called Host Nation Trucking, which pays for the movement of food and supplies to some 200 American bases across this arid, mountainous country, which in many places has no paved roads.
The 79-page report, entitled "Warlord Inc.," paints an anarchic picture of contemporary Afghanistan, with the country's major highways being controlled by groups of freelance gunmen who answer to no one - and who are being paid for by the United States.
[The report is here: http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/HNT_Report.pdf - JFP]
Afghanistan, the investigation found, plays host to hundreds of unregistered private security companies employing as many as 70,000 largely unsupervised gunmen. "The principal private security subcontractors," the report said, "are warlords, strongmen, commanders and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority.
"The warlords thrive in a vacuum of government authority, and their interests are in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government," the report said.
At the heart of the problem, the investigation found, is that the American military pays trucking companies to move its supplies across Afghanistan - and leaves it up to the trucking companies to protect themselves. The trucking companies in turn pay warlords and commanders to provide security.
These subcontracts, the investigation found, are handed out without any oversight from the Department of Defense, despite clear instructions from Congress that the department provide such oversight. The report states that military officers in Kabul had little idea whom the trucking companies were paying to provide security or how much they spent for it, and had rarely if ever inspected a convoy to find out.
6) Tuberculosis: Mining Plays Bigger Role in TB in Africa Than Had Been Realized, Study Finds
Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, June 21, 2010
Dust-choked mine shafts, crowded working conditions and stifling hostels where up to 16 miners share a room - all conspire to make mining a more important contributor to tuberculosis in Africa than had been realized, a new study finds.
Rates of the illness have doubled in Africa over the past two decades, and have tripled in South Africa, which even in 1996 had the highest TB rates in the world. Until now it has been assumed that the increases were driven by Africa's high rates of infection with the AIDS virus, which weakens the immune system, helping latent TB become active.
But researchers from Brown and Oxford Universities, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco, compared 44 African countries and found that even some with low rates of H.I.V. infection rates had high TB rates. When a country's mines shut down, tuberculosis often fell. The study appeared in The American Journal of Public Health.
7) People in Gaza Await Easing of Israeli Blockade
Michael Slackman, New York Times, June 21, 2010
Gaza - The beach was teeming with children and their parents, and it seemed the whole neighborhood had come out to kick a ball, fly kites or just sit in the sand as the sun set in the Mediterranean Sea. So Muhammad Ali decided it was the perfect time to start a business, to try to sell corn on the beach.
Since the Israeli blockade of Gaza began three years ago, he said, he had been unable to find steady work. So on Monday he piled fresh-picked corn onto the back of a donkey cart, grabbed an old metal pot and with his 8-year-old son, Mahmoud, headed for the beach. "There is no work, no electricity, no cooking gas," he said, as his son gently dropped corn into water boiling above a fire. "I sell corn."
Asked if he was more hopeful after Israel announced on Sunday that it would ease the blockade, Mr. Ali shrugged and smiled. "We are waiting to see if it happens," he said.
That was the response in communities across the southern and central Gaza Strip on Monday, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would significantly expand the flow of goods overland into Gaza, an impoverished coastal Palestinian enclave.
If the blockade were eased, many people said, and if more goods flowed across the border, their lives would feel better, but mostly at the margins. They could buy cans of soda, as well as juices, cheeses and beans, that were not covered in sand; or chips that were not crushed; or appliances not banged up from being dragged through sandy, hot and humid tunnels. Prices would be cheaper, too, and, people said, there would be more variety.
But people are not holding out for cans free of sand. What they want, what they need and what they are not certain that they will get from Israel fall into three general categories: construction materials to rebuild houses and offices destroyed during the war Israel launched in late 2008 in retaliation for Hamas rocket fire; freedom of movement in and out of Gaza; and ample raw materials to allow manufacturing to resume, and with that, job creation.
"We are not in need of food - we need cement, gravel, iron, the materials to build," said Saud al Sultan, who said his house was destroyed in 2006 because it was in the area where Hamas militants planned and staged the strike that captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
The blockade has kept Riham Madi and her family apart for three years. Her father, mother and brother are in Saudi Arabia. She is in Rafah, and she has been unable to get out. Her family has been afraid to come in, because they fear they would be unable to leave. Now she thinks that might change, and she credits the attention drawn by the Israeli attack on a flotilla trying to break the embargo, which killed nine passengers on one of the ships.
"Maybe the flotilla incident had a role to play with this, because it drew the world's attention to what was happening here in Gaza," she said as she walked home in the late afternoon. "I am hoping to see my father and brother," she said. "God willing."
8) Human Rights Defenders Seek Protection in Mexico
Marc Lacey, New York Times, June 19, 2010
Mexico City - With a drug war raging around them and an unreliable judicial system in place, Mexico's human rights activists have their hands full as they grapple with a growing new class of victims: themselves.
"I'm not going to be silenced," insisted Silvia Vázquez Camacho, an activist from Tijuana, who is now in hiding after receiving a series of threats on her life in recent months. Despite her bold declaration, the fear in her voice was palpable, and she acknowledged that she had been forced to take a respite from her activism.
Mexico has a long history of cases in which the authorities, whether they wear badges or business suits, trample on the rights of the powerless. Acknowledging that, the government 20 years ago created a formal commission to officially identify violations and recommend - but not order - remedies. Citizens groups also rose up, however, to level the playing field and represent victims of wrongful arrests, torture, illegal land grabs and numerous other transgressions.
But the system is being severely tested by what human rights activists say is a concerted attack on their rights. The new reality is that activists now devote a considerable portion of their time helping other activists, who have been threatened or far worse.
"No one is protecting us," said Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Contreras, director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights. "Human rights activists should be able to do their jobs. And we don't just want protection. We want the government to investigate the threats."
Amnesty International, in a recent report, outlined 15 cases of threats against Mexican human rights activists in recent years scattered across the country. Although there are no precise tallies, human rights groups say that the number of activists who have been improperly singled out by the police, soldiers and government officials is in the dozens.
In one of numerous new cases on file with Mexican human rights organizations, Ms. Vázquez and another woman, Blanca Mesina Nevarez, recently fled Tijuana because they feared that their lives were in danger as a result of their work. The two activists had been representing 25 police officers who had accused Mexican security forces of torturing them in early 2009 to force them to sign confessions saying that they were taking bribes. The activists suspect that a group of rival Tijuana police officers are the ones threatening them.
The more vocal the activists were in raising the torture allegations, the more intense the response. First there were threatening phone calls. Then police cars began turning up outside their homes and trailing them around the city. After Ms. Mesina testified at a hearing in Washington last fall of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a man in a mask approached her and threatened to kill her.
Alarmed by the intimidation, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights recently took on the case of the Tijuana activists, calling on the Mexican government to beef up its protection measures for the two women, before it is too late.
For some, like Raúl Lucas Lucía, it already is. Mr. Lucas defended the rights of indigenous people in the state of Guerrero until he was abducted by three men who claimed to be police officers in February 2009. "Keep quiet or we'll kill your husband," Mr. Lucas's wife, Guadalupe Castro Morales, was told in a phone call from someone who reached her on her husband's cellphone. "This is happening to you because you're defending Indians."
Mr. Lucas's body and that of a colleague, Manuel Ponce Rosas, were found seven days later. The case remains unsolved.
9) Correa warms to Colombia's president-elect
Luisa Fernanda Cuellar, Associated Press, Monday, June 21, 2010; 10:41 PM
Bogota, Colombia - Colombia's president-elect was congratulated by Venezuela on Monday while a friendly phone call from Ecuador's president suggested the prospect of re-established ties between the neighbors.
Juan Manuel Santos won Sunday's runoff by the largest margin in modern Colombian history: 69 percent against 28 percent for Antanas Mockus, an eccentric outsider running as candidate of the incipient Green Party.
The Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez wished Santos success and said it hoped he will demonstrate the "sincerity and respect" needed to ease tensions. But Chavez, who previously expressed doubts about Santos being Colombia's president, wasn't among the many Latin American presidents who called to congratulate the winner.
Ecuador's Rafael Correa, the president of the other neighbor with which relations have been testy, did call, however. "I spoke with President Correa this morning. He called me. He was very nice," Santos said, adding that the two agreed to seek improved relations.
Ecuador broke diplomatic ties with Colombia after Bogota's military - with Santos as the defense minister - crossed into Ecuador in March 2008 and killed a top Colombian rebel leader and 25 others at a guerrilla base.
Last month, a judge in Ecuador ordered Santos' arrest for authorizing the raid. Santos called the arrest warrant absurd because the Colombian state - not he individually - carried out the raid.
Santos told The Associated Press in a pre-election interview that he planned to invite Chavez and the Venezuelan leader's leftist allies to his inauguration. "I want good relations with all our neighbors," he said.
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