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JFP 6/30: War Supplemental Expected Tomorrow; McGovern-Obey Amendment Would Force Timetable
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 30 June 2010 - 8:48pm
Just Foreign Policy News
June 30, 2010
War Supplemental Expected in the House Thursday
Rep. McGovern said today he expects the vote on the war supplemental tomorrow.
Reps. McGovern and Obey have introduced an amendment that would require the President to establish a timetable for withdrawal (same idea as the Feingold-McGovern bill); the amendment would also try to lock in the summer 2011 "serious drawdown" that the President promised.
Speaker Pelosi, Put Afghanistan Drawdown On Record with McGovern-Obey
Please contact your Representative, and ask him or her to 1) vote NO on the war money 2) vote YES on the McGovern-Obey amendment, requiring the President to establish a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Capitol Switchboard is 202-225-3121. Ask to be connected to your Representative's office. Try to get the Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant on the phone; tell whomever you get to speak with that you urge the Representative to vote NO on war funding and YES the McGovern-Obey amendment; try to get them to say how the Representative will vote; report back to us any result of your query at the following link:
Peter Hart, FAIR: NYT's Larry Rohter Responds on His South of the Border Slam
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1) Public support for the war in Afghanistan is waning, the Christian Science Monitor reports. A recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters finds that just 41 percent believe it is possible for the US to "win"; a plurality of 48 percent now say ending the war in Afghanistan is a more important goal than winning it. 53 percent of those polled by Newsweek disapprove of how Obama is managing the war.
2) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the US will see "a serious drawdown" of forces in Afghanistan by July 2011, the Huffington Post reports. "It just can't be that we have a domestic agenda that is half the size of the defense budget," Pelosi said.
3) Gen. Petraeus told Congress he endorsed July 2011 as the start of troop drawdowns from Afghanistan, but warned it would be "a number of years" before Afghan forces could manage on their own, the Guardian reports.
4) The State Department has denied a visa to a leading Colombia journalist and human rights activist, even though he was granted a fellowship to study at Harvard and had been praised by the State Department for his human rights work, the Progressive reports. A Colombian solidarity activist charged that the State Department was acting in deference to the Colombian government, whose president has denounced Hollman Morris as "an ally of terrorism."
5) A report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said the U.S. military has systematically overstated or failed to adequately measure the capabilities of Afghan security forces, the Washington Post reports. Sen. Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters plans for coalition forces to outnumber their Afghan counterparts in an upcoming offensive in Kandahar were "totally unacceptable."
6) Proposed demolitions of Palestinian homes in Silwan's al-Bustan quarter of East Jerusalem have raised tensions there since the Jerusalem city planning committee approved a development last week, the Washington Post reports. The move drew condemnations from Washington and the UN. U.N. Secretary-General Ban called the proposed demolitions "provocative" and "contrary to international law."
7) Israel's first steps toward easing its blockade of Gaza were welcomed by U.S. envoy Mitchell, the Washington Post reports. An Israeli official said the number of trucks moving goods through the main cargo crossing to Gaza has increased 30 percent. Israel has approved the entry of materials for sewage and construction projects in Gaza, after previously barring shipments of cement. The easing of the blockade has so far not allowed in raw materials for industrial and food production, nor has it permitted exports or free movement of people out of the territory.
8) A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Turkey will not appoint a new ambassador to Israel unless the Israeli government formally apologizes for the killing of nine Turkish citizens, the New York Times reports. The Turkish government is also demanding the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the Israeli military operation against a flotilla that tried to run the Gaza blockade. Israel has agreed only to set up an internal investigative commission with three international observers, which the Turkish official said would not be "impartial."
9) President Obama should lift his suspension on the transfer of 58 Yemenis at Guantanamo whom his administration has cleared for release, argues Letta Tayler of Human Rights Watch in a letter to the Washington Post. The administration suspended those transfers after the attempted Christmas Day bombing by a Nigerian who trained in Yemen. Indefinitely detaining the Yemenis because of an attempted attack in which they played no role is a form of collective punishment that runs contrary to American notions of justice.
10) President Preval rejected U.S. Senate recommendations on holding an election for his successor, AP reports. A report issued this month by Sen. Lugar "strongly encourages" Haiti to let its international partners help restructure the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council, which has been accused of corruption. The report also recommends ensuring the participation of the key opposition party of ousted former President Aristide, which was blocked from participating in 2009 legislative contests.
11) Congressman Berman, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the passage of H.R.4645, which would lift restrictions on Americans' travel to Cuba, by the House Agriculture Committee. In a statement on the HFAC website, Berman said: "As an original cosponsor of this legislation I have long believed that the nearly fifty year old travel ban to Cuba simply has not worked to help the Cuban people in any way. It has not hurt the Castros as it was intended to do, but it has hurt U.S. citizens. It is, in effect, a statement by the U.S. government to its own citizens that they cannot be trusted to decide where they can travel. Letting U.S. citizens travel to Cuba is not a gift to the Castros - it is in the interest of our own citizens. It's time to trust our own people and restore their right to travel."
1) Quagmire? Nine years on, Americans grow weary of war in Afghanistan
Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, June 26, 2010 http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0626/Quagmire-Nine-years-on-Americans-grow-weary-of-war-in-Afghanistan%20
Americans approve of Gen. David Petraeus as the new US commander in Afghanistan. But after nine years and with mounting US casualties, support for the war itself is waning.
Until recently, the nine-year conflict in Afghanistan had become "the forgotten war" for many Americans - a complaint increasingly heard among US troops there.
But this week's sacking of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as US commander puts Afghanistan - and especially how the fight against the Taliban is going - squarely back into public thought and concern.
Most Americans agree with Obama that McChrystal had to go, polls show. But they're far less supportive of the conflict itself, weary of what's become the longest war in US history.
A recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters finds that just 41 percent "now believe it is possible for the United States to win the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan." More to the point, a plurality of 48 percent now say ending the war in Afghanistan is a more important goal than winning it.
Meanwhile, 53 percent of those polled by Newsweek disapprove of how Obama is managing the war - a sharp reversal since February when 55 percent supported Obama on Afghanistan and just 27 percent did not. (Put another way, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama's Afghan policy has nearly doubled in four months.)
The same Newsweek poll finds that "46 percent of respondents think America is losing the war in Afghanistan (26 percent say the military is winning).
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan predicts that conservatives may "start to peel off" as well. "Not Washington policy intellectuals but people on the ground in America," she wrote this week. "There are many reasons for this. Their sons and nephews have come back from repeat tours full of doubts as to the possibility of victory, 'whatever that is,' as we all now say."
Noonan continued: "The other day Sen. Lindsey Graham, in ostensibly supportive remarks, said that Gen. David Petraeus … 'is our only hope.' If he can't pull it out, 'nobody can.' That's not all that optimistic a statement."
2) Pelosi: There Will Be 'A Serious Drawdown' From Afghanistan In July 2011
Sam Stein, Huffington Post, June 28, 2010
In some of the strongest terms she has used to date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last Friday that the United States will see "a serious drawdown" of forces in Afghanistan by July 2011 and that the House may use the power of the purse to ensure the drawdown takes place.
In an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post, Pelosi made clear that while recent talk has hinted that the administration's stated goal of a June 2011 start date for a troop drawdown may be open to change, her commitment to it remains firm. "I think we'll have a serious drawdown, I don't think it'll be, as [the president] said, turning out the lights," said Pelosi.
Asked point-blank whether she thinks troops will be pulled out of the country in July 2011, Pelosi replied: "I do. And everything I saw there before, for all the bad things there that I saw in terms of [corruption and money wasted] ... I did consistently hear that the timetable was on schedule to have serious drawdown."
Pelosi, likewise, said that the president should be afforded the time and support to see his plan through, though her insistence on seeing some troops withdrawn in July 2011 suggests that she views the drawdown as part of the plan. The issue at hand, she notes, is not simply whether it made smart military policy to keep a troop presence in Afghanistan, but also if it was economically feasible for the United States to do so.
"It just can't be that we have a domestic agenda that is half the size of the defense budget," she said. "If you take away entitlements, the domestic discretionary non-defense budget is about half the defense budget, and maybe that's what we need to protect the American people. But in terms of the war now in Afghanistan, which is a growing part of it, that we have to say how can we carry this and can we carry this on the backs of children's nutrition. I'm not even talking about unemployment, there's so much else that is at stake."
3) Petraeus warns it could be years before Afghan troops manage on their own
Obama's July 2011 withdrawal date 'only start of the process'; general tells Senate tough fighting will continue
Ian Black, The Guardian, Wednesday 30 June 2010
Barack Obama's candidate to run the war in Afghanistan yesterday pledged America's "enduring" commitment to the country, described its security as "tenuous" and called the presidential deadline for starting withdrawals next summer only "the beginning of a process".
Petraeus, head of US central command, endorsed July 2011 as the start of troop drawdowns, but insisted it was not the date when America "heads for the exits"; he warned it would be "a number of years" before Afghan forces could manage on their own. The pace of withdrawals would have to be responsible, he told a packed session of the armed services committee, as protesters in the audience held up signs reading: "New General, Old War."
Petraeus confirmed that the military had not recommended setting that date.
June has been the most deadly month of the nine-year conflict, with more than 100 Nato troops killed, adding to an intensifying debate in the US and Britain on the prosecution of the war. Eleven UK personnel have died in the last 10 days alone.
Petraeus's careful language appeared designed to manage strains between the military and the administration, where some key figures are pressing for speedier disengagement from a war which has now been going on for longer than Vietnam in terms of US combat troop deployment.
4) State Department Denies Visa to Leading Colombian Journalist and Nieman Fellow
Matthew Rothschild, Progressive, June 29, 2010
His name is Hollman Morris, a highly acclaimed investigative reporter and TV journalist in Colombia. Among many prestigious awards, Morris received a "Defender of Human Rights" award from Human Rights Watch in 2007.
"A journalist and human rights activist, Morris has dedicated his career to uncovering the truth about atrocities committed on all sides: by right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas, and government authorities," said Human Rights Watch in granting him the award. "Morris has faced serious harassment and death threats for his work. . . . Human Rights Watch honors Morris for his courage and unfaltering dedication to exposing Colombia's most egregious human rights abuses."
On October 30, 2007, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns met with Morris and congratulated him personally for winning this award. Burns expressed "great admiration for his valiant work," the State Department said. That was then.
Now the State Department won't deign to let him into the United States. On June 16, the U.S. embassy in Bogotá denied his visa, Morris reports.
The Nieman Foundation at Harvard had selected Morris as one of its International Nieman Fellows for the next academic year in Cambridge, Mass.
"Congratulations and a warm welcome to you as a new member of the Nieman family," Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation, wrote to Morris on February 10. On May 26, the Foundation issued a press release announcing its fellows. It said that Morris would "study human rights issues, focusing on conflict negotiation strategies, international criminal court procedures and the Rome Statute," which established that court. "We were surprised by the decision and are committed to do everything we can to get Hollman here in the fall," says Giles.
"To decide, as the State Department has, that Morris's message should not be heard by a U.S. audience is outrageous," says Cecilia Zarate-Laun, one of the founders of the Colombia Support Network. "This is an unwarranted violation of the right to free speech. And it's a prime example of ideological exclusion by the U.S. Government premised on the sensitivity of a foreign government to valid critical reporting."
Outgoing Colombian president Álvaro Uribe denounced Morris last year as "an ally of terrorism." And Morris has publicly accused Colombia's security agency of spying on him and his entire family.
5) Report faults U.S. for being too optimistic about Afghan security capabilities
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 29, 2010; A12 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/28/AR2010062805114.html
The U.S. military has systematically overstated or failed to adequately measure the capabilities of Afghan security forces, whose performance is key to the Obama administration's exit strategy for the war, according to a new government audit.
Efforts to prepare and equip Afghan forces are also plagued by a shortage of U.S.-led coalition trainers and mentors and a corrupt and inadequate Afghan logistics system, the report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said.
The coalition did not challenge the findings and acknowledged significant ongoing problems. But it said the report, released Monday, was outdated and failed to take sufficient account of recent improvements in the training program.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Monday that plans for coalition forces to outnumber their Afghan counterparts in an upcoming offensive in Kandahar were "totally unacceptable."
"It runs exactly contrary to what needs to be done in terms of the success of this mission, to put Afghans more in front," Levin said. "What's going on? Why is that true? Why is that still the case?"
According to the Kandahar plan presented to NATO leaders in Brussels this month by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who was ousted as coalition commander by Obama last week, the operation will include 11,850 mostly American foreign troops and 8,500 Afghan military and police personnel.
Obama's strategy called for a surge in U.S. forces to take momentum from the Taliban and a doubling of the size of trained Afghan army and police forces that would eventually take over. The forces, though, remain in poor shape, with high rates of desertion, illiteracy and drug abuse.
The overall coalition plan calls for 2,325 trainers, of which only 846 are on the ground, with 660 additional pledged. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has diverted about 800 U.S. troops to temporarily bridge the gap.
The report's principal focus is the rating system used since 2005 to measure the extent to which individual Afghan security units are capable of fighting on their own. According to U.S. figures at the end of March, only 23 percent of the Afghan army and 12 percent of the police drew top ratings.
The system, which counted the quantity of troops and equipment rather than quality of effort, was deeply flawed, the report said, and the number of capable units was probably lower. In one top-rated police district, it noted, 53 officers had been authorized and 23 had been trained, but only six officers were found to be present. Another district had 10 vehicles provided by the U.S. government, but only three drivers.
In a written response to the report, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the training commander, said the findings were "not only inaccurate" because they relied on outdated data but "potentially damaging." The United States has spent $27 billion, more than half of all reconstruction dollars, on training and equipping Afghan forces.
U.S. Army Col. John Ferrari, under Caldwell's command, agreed that the rating system was not "optimal" and said that it had been replaced this spring with a more subjective, qualitative assessment program, along with vastly expanded training and mentoring. The military has not yet provided assessments under the new system.
6) Tensions mount as E. Jerusalem neighborhood awaits bulldozers
Joel Greenberg, Washington Post, Wednesday, June 30, 2010; 4:42 PM
Jerusalem - In a warren of cramped alleys in the crowded Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, a slogan scrawled on a wall warns: "Silwan is in danger." The danger, as residents see it, is a city development plan that calls for the demolition of 22 homes to make room for a park that would flank a promenade of restaurants, art studios and shops.
Mayor Nir Barkat says that the plan - aimed at attracting visitors to the historic valley near Jerusalem's Old City where Silwan is located - will improve services to residents, provide jobs and boost commerce.
Palestinians living there say it is an Israeli ploy to evict them from the area and cement Israeli control of another part of East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The proposed demolitions in Silwan's al-Bustan quarter have raised tensions there since the Jerusalem city planning committee approved the development last week. The move drew condemnations from Washington and the United Nations, and clashes erupted in Silwan this week between local youths and Israeli police.
The project is subject to two more votes in the Jerusalem district planning committee, a process that could take months. But its progress has already threatened to unsettle peace efforts, which are set to resume this week with another round of indirect talks mediated by U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell.
Along with other Israeli building plans in East Jerusalem that have heightened tensions with Washington, the plan for al-Bustan is likely to be raised during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled visit to the White House next week.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week declared the plan "a stumbling block in the path of the political process" and urged the Obama administration to press Israel to stop the project.
A State Department spokesman said the plan was "the kind of action that undermines trust and potentially incites emotions and adds to the risk of violence." And U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the proposed demolitions "provocative" and "contrary to international law."
7) U.S. envoy welcomes Israeli steps to relax Gaza blockade
Joel Greenberg, Washington Post, Wednesday, June 30, 2010; 5:39 PM
Kerem Shalom Crossing, Israel - Israel's first steps toward easing its blockade of the Gaza Strip were welcomed Wednesday by the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East as he visited this crossing where goods are transferred to the Palestinian territory.
Under intense international pressure after a deadly raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza, Israel formally announced June 20 that it would relax the blockade. Israeli officials here were keen to show George J. Mitchell, who is mediating another round of indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, that steps have already been taken to increase the supply of goods to the coastal strip, which is ruled by the militant group Hamas.
Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Israeli Defense Ministry's top official handling ties with the Palestinian territories, told Mitchell that since the decision to ease the embargo, the number of trucks moving goods through Kerem Shalom, the main cargo crossing to Gaza, has increased 30 percent. A total of 128 trucks carrying goods, fuel and cooking gas passed through Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, up from about 90 each day before the blockade was eased, army officials said. Dangot told Mitchell of plans to increase the flow to 250 trucks a day..Before the blockade, about 400 trucks of supplies moved into Gaza daily.
The general said he had been meeting with international aid groups to coordinate the transfer of materials for sewage and construction projects in Gaza. Israel has approved entry of such supplies for projects supervised by international organizations after previously barring shipments of cement, which it said Hamas could use to build bunkers.
Building materials are badly needed in Gaza to repair destruction caused by an Israeli offensive there 18 months ago in response to persistent rocket attacks.
Trucks lined up at Kerem Shalom on Wednesday carried glass kitchenware, baked goods and cables, and drivers said they were now bringing in chocolates, soft drinks, clothing and shoes that had been barred in the past. Military officials said home appliances, such as refrigerators and microwave ovens, were also being allowed in.
"I saw firsthand today that progress is being made," Mitchell said after touring the crossing. "As President Obama said, the situation in Gaza was unsustainable and demanded fundamental change. We welcome these changes. As implementation proceeds, these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza."
The easing of the blockade has so far not allowed in raw materials for industrial and food production, nor has it permitted exports or free movement of people out of the territory. A naval blockade also remains in place, a measure Israel says is necessary to prevent arms smuggling by sea.
8) Turkey: Apology From Israel Is Sought Before Envoy Post Is Filled, Official Says
Sebnem Arsu, New York Times, June 29, 2010
Turkey will not appoint a new ambassador to Israel unless the Israeli government formally apologizes for the killing of nine Turkish citizens, including one who also had American citizenship, who were aboard a boat that tried unsuccessfully in May to breach the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, a Turkish senior Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday. The Turkish government is also demanding compensation for relatives of the dead and the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the Israeli military operation against the flotilla that tried to run the blockade. Israel has agreed only to set up an internal investigative commission with three international observers, which the Turkish official, who would not speak for attribution because of his role in bilateral relations, said would not be "impartial."
9) It's time to release other Yemenis from Guantanamo
Letta Tayler, letter to the Washington Post, Wednesday, June 30, 2010; A16
[Tayler is a terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch.]
The Obama administration took a long-overdue step by agreeing to repatriate a Yemeni held without charge at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 ["U.S. will repatriate detainee to Yemen," news story, June 26]. Now, President Obama should take the further step of lifting his suspension on the transfer of 58 other Yemenis at Guantanamo whom his administration has also cleared for release.
The administration suspended those transfers after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian man who trained in Yemen. Indefinitely detaining the Yemenis because of an attempted attack in which they played no role is a form of collective punishment that runs contrary to American notions of justice.
The solution for Yemeni detainees who are not implicated in crimes is reintegration programs and monitoring upon their release, not throwing away their prison key to avoid political criticism.
10) Preval rejects US advice on presidential election
Jonathan M. Katz, Associated Press, Wednesday, June 30, 2010; 6:04 PM
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Haiti's president on Wednesday rejected U.S. Senate recommendations on holding an election for his successor, brushing off criticism that the current process will leave the shattered country without a credible leader.
A report issued this month by Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "strongly encourages" Haiti to let its international partners help restructure the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council, which has been accused of corruption.
The report also recommends ensuring the participation of the key opposition party of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which was blocked from participating in 2009 legislative contests because of a dispute over rival candidate lists.
On Tuesday, President Rene Preval fulfilled one recommendation of the report by issuing a signed decree setting election day for Nov. 28.
But speaking at a news conference in an open-air gazebo alongside the broken remains of the national palace a day later, Preval told reporters he had no intention of complying with the rest, including changing the election body, known as the CEP. "I'm not doing the CEP with international partners. I'm doing the CEP with national partners," Preval said. "The senator's proposition is inadmissible."
The election will also be a cost burden for this grindingly poor Caribbean nation: $29 million according to electoral officials at the news conference with Preval, $38 million according to the U.S. Senate report.
The Organization of American States and United Nations have pledged support. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Wednesday praising the decree setting the election date and pledged the help of U.N. peacekeepers and advisers in preparing and supporting the ballot. Ban urged member states to quickly provide the money needed to run the vote.
11) Cuba travel ban has not worked to help the Cuban people, Berman says
Congressman Howard L. Berman, Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Washington, DC - Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement praising passage of H.R.4645, Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, in today's House Agriculture Committee markup:
"As an original cosponsor of this legislation I have long believed that the nearly fifty year old travel ban to Cuba simply has not worked to help the Cuban people in any way. It has not hurt the Castros as it was intended to do, but it has hurt U.S. citizens. It is, in effect, a statement by the U.S. government to its own citizens that they cannot be trusted to decide where they can travel. Letting U.S. citizens travel to Cuba is not a gift to the Castros - it is in the interest of our own citizens. It's time to trust our own people and restore their right to travel."
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