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JFP 7/20 - Diplomat: Kandahar offensive "particularly foolish" since Taliban will get it anyway
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 July 2010 - 3:53pm
Just Foreign Policy News
July 20, 2010
Groups urge State Dept. to denounce human rights violations in Honduras
In a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, 26 religious and human rights organizations urge the State Department to publicly denounce human rights violations in Honduras. The letter points to systematic violations of human rights directed against human rights defenders, activists and journalists in Honduras that have taken place since the inauguration of Lobo on January 27. The signers ask the Obama Administration to condition U.S. assistance on concrete actions that demonstrate a commitment by the Honduran government to uphold the rule of law and to support the establishment of an office of the UN Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras.
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1) Afghanistan President Karzai said he expects his nation to take full control of its security in 2014, allowing foreign forces to withdraw, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Secretary Clinton reiterated the Obama administration's goal to begin withdrawing combat troops by the end of next summer.
2) On the fringes of the conference the hot topic is a subject barely mentioned in the draft communique and until recently eschewed by the US; making peace with the Taliban, the Guardian reports. That's because the prospect of that government ultimately prevailing over an ever stronger insurgency has never looked more bleak. Francesc Vendrell, a retired senior diplomat who served first the UN in Afghanistan before 2001 and then worked as the top representative of the EU in Kabul recently told the Guardian that the current military effort to push the Taliban out of Kandahar and Helmand was particularly foolish because these are precisely the areas that, in his view, will have to be handed over to Taliban control. Such a handover of the south could be achieved, he argued, through constitutional reform that would decentralise power from Kabul. A security official who has in the past been involved in efforts to reach out to the Taliban bemoaned the fact that so many years had been wasted, pointing out that in Northern Ireland the British government had contacts "from the beginning".
3) Vice President Biden told ABC as few as "a couple of thousand" U.S. troops may leave Afghanistan in the first phase of withdrawing forces from there beginning a year from now, CNN reports. Asked about a book that quotes him as saying the troop withdrawal would start with "a whole lot of people" leaving Afghanistan, Biden confirmed the comment.
4) Dr. King used to say that the bombs dropped over Vietnam exploded in America's cities, notes Jesse Jackson, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times. The drones releasing bombs over Afghanistan are falling on our cities here at home, he writes. More than 20 million workers are unemployed or underemployed. States and localities are facing another round of severe cuts, with some 300,000 teachers and educational workers about to face layoffs. But war drains our Treasury, takes the lives of our citizens and requires the attention of our leaders. The supplemental for Afghanistan passes; the supplemental to keep teachers working is blocked. On Aug. 28, the UAW and Rainbow PUSH Coalition and dozens of other groups will convene demonstrations in Detroit and elsewhere to call for action on jobs. On Oct. 2, the one nation coalition led by the NAACP, La Raza and the AFL-CIO will convene a march on Washington with the focus on jobs and justice. [Thus Jackson hints, but does not say, that ending the war will be on the agenda - JFP.]
5) The State Department is secretly funneling millions of dollars to Latin American journalists, Jeremy Bigwood writes for NACLA. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that between 2007 and 2009, the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor channeled at least $4 million to journalists in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through the Pan American Development Foundation. PADF, collaborating with Venezuelan NGOs associated with the country's political opposition, has been supplied with at least $700,000 to give out journalism grants and sponsor journalism education programs. Although the $700,000 allocated to the PADF may not seem like a lot of money, the funds have been strategically used to buy off the best of Venezuela's news media and recruit young journalists, Bigwood writes. A report released in May by the center-right European think tank FRIDE found that since 2002 the US has spent an estimated $3 million to $6 million every year "on small projects with political parties and NGOs" in Venezuela.
6) AIDS activists from the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Latin America filed a complaint against the US with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Health Gap reports. The complaint argues that the US is using its trade policies to coerce countries to adopt intellectual property policies that increase the costs of medicines and violate the human rights of their citizens. These policies directly contradict promises President Obama made while he was a candidate. The complaint alleges that the U.S. threatens countries with trade sanctions for making use of legal, WTO-compliant measures that bring down the cost of AIDS drugs and other essential medicines. The U.S. government does so by listing these countries on "watch lists" in a process known as "Special 301," which threatens sanctions against foreign countries for their intellectual property laws.
7) Last week, the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city, Haaretz reports. Jewish Voice for Peace activists planned to attend the TIAA-CREF annual meeting to deliver thousands of signatures calling on the company to divest its money from Caterpillar, Elbit, Motorola and other companies, that "profit from the violation of international law through home demolitions, the destruction of life sustaining orchards, the construction of roads and transit that only Israelis can use, the killing of civilians by drones, and many other injustices."
8) A suspected Afghan army trainer opened fire on his fellow instructors Tuesday, killing two American civilian trainers and one other Afghan soldier, the Washington Post reports.
9) Grenades made in the US and sent to Central America during the Cold War have resurfaced in almost weekly attacks by Mexican drug cartels, the Washington Post reports. There have been more than 72 grenade attacks in Mexico in the last year, including spectacular assaults on police convoys and public officials. The majority of grenades have been traced back to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush sent 300,000 hand grenades to regimes in Central America to fight leftist insurgents. Black-market grenades are so easy to obtain in El Salvador that street gangs routinely use them as tools of extortion, to menace business owners and bus drivers.
1) Kabul Conference: Karzai calls for Afghan control by 2014
The Kabul Conference's final communiqué essentially puts an international stamp of approval on the Karzai government's existing plans to have foreign troops out by 2014.
Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, July 20, 2010 10:28 am EDT
Kabul - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said he expects his troubled nation to take full control of its security in 2014. The Kabul Conference where he announced this appeared long on promises of unwavering support for Afghanistan but short on concrete new solutions to the country's war and deepening corruption problems.
Many analysts note that Afghanistan has recently taken steps to reassure the United States and others who are supporting the Karzai government that corruption is being addressed. The government is creating new approaches to channel aid more effectively and to woo members of the Taliban away from the organization.
The Kabul Conference's final communiqué essentially seems to put an international stamp of approval on the Karzai government's existing plans, especially the goal for Afghan forces to take charge of the country in four years, allowing international troops to withdraw.
The US, Afghanistan, and others are hoping that the target date will spur faster development of Afghan forces and reassure the restive voting publics of Western democracies that an end to the fighting is in sight. "I remain determined that our Afghan national security forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014," President Karzai told the conference.
June was the deadliest month for foreign troops of the nearly nine-year war, the longest in US history, and members of the US Congress have grown angry at evidence that billions of dollars in development aid here have been stolen or wasted, and at the fraud-marred election that returned Karzai to power last year.
Secretary Clinton reiterated the Obama administration's goal to begin withdrawing combat troops by the end of next summer, and praised Karzai's plan for eventually taking control of security. She said the target to start withdrawing troops "is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement" and that the US has "no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving a stable, secure, peaceful Afghanistan."
This time, the only fireworks at the conference were perhaps provided by Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who blamed international forces here and "elements" in Afghanistan and Pakistan for training the Sunni militants who carried out an attack last week on a mosque in Zahedan, near the Afghan border, which killed 30 people.
Last week, Clinton condemned the attack as terrorism. Mr. Mottaki's presence at the conference was a reminder of the complex diplomatic dance that will be required to see a negotiated end to the war.
2) Taliban talks: the obstacles to a peace deal in Afghanistan
Jon Boone, Guardian, 19 July 2010 20.02 BST
Organisers have attempted to attach great historic symbolism to the half-day conference. Of the nine international conferences on Afghanistan held in the last nine years, this is the first to actually convene inside Afghanistan. But even diplomats involved in the five-hour event roll their eyes when asked whether it is going to produce any dramatic changes in policy.
The communique - already leaked in draft form to the media - focuses on efforts to build up the Afghan state by making it more effective, better funded and less corrupt. But on the fringes of the conference the hot topic is a subject that is barely mentioned in the draft and until recently eschewed by the US administration; making peace with the Taliban.
That's because despite the fact that the Afghan government is finally strong enough to organise its own conference, the prospect of that government ultimately prevailing over an ever stronger insurgency has never looked more bleak.
At an evening reception a few days before the conference, a senior European diplomat said glumly: "I cannot think of a single reason to die for Afghanistan."
The country, which has suffered almost 30 years of war of one form or the other, is a problem for its neighbours, not for Europe, he said. It was a different a few years ago, when most people still thought victory was possible, he said. But now, pessimism has taken over. "Afghanistan is in a state of freefall and I don't think strategy proposals announced at a one-day conference will solve that," said Candace Rondeaux, a senior analyst from the International Crisis Group. A paper by the Afghanistan NGO Security Office articulated what most people believe: that the counter-insurgency programme cannot win. It sees this summer's surge of US troops in southern Afghanistan as the "grand finale" of a western intervention which is looking to wind itself up.
The biggest problem is that what Nato soldiers are trying to do cannot be achieved on the time frames of the "political clocks" ticking down in Washington and its allied cities. In a recent off-record briefing, one of the most senior US soldiers in Afghanistan pointed out that no counter-insurgency has prevailed against an enemy with sanctuaries of the size the Taliban and other groups enjoy over the border in Pakistan.
No wonder then that most people's thoughts, including Barack Obama's administration, are turning to some sort of negotiated settlement with the insurgents. It is now part of the conventional wisdom in Kabul that the west will have to make compromises with insurgents that once would have been unthinkable, including dropping efforts for women to be given a more equal place in Afghan society. Few people put it quite as bluntly as Francesc Vendrell, a retired senior diplomat who served first the UN in Afghanistan before 2001 and then worked as the top representative of the European Union in Kabul. He recently told the Guardian that the current military effort to push the Taliban out of Kandahar and Helmand was particularly foolish because these are precisely the areas that, in his view, will have to be handed over to Taliban control.
Such a handover of the south could be achieved, he argued, through constitutional reform that would decentralise power from Kabul. In a trice, the south would be ceded to Taliban control, under the pretence of local democracy. Meanwhile, the north would similarly be handed back to the old warlords, the former strongmen who rose to prominence during the 1980s resistance to the Soviet occupation and its violent aftermath.
European diplomats say that whatever the latest thinking in the White House might be, David Petraeus, the new US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan seems interested in making the fight against the Taliban last as long as possible. After years of refusing to contemplate even the most secret of discussions with a movement viewed as partly responsible for the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Americans have precious few ways of reaching out to the other side.
A security official who has in the past been involved in efforts to reach out to the Taliban bemoaned the fact that so many years had been wasted, pointing out that in Northern Ireland the British government had contacts "from the beginning".
Instead of a well-organised effort to talk to the Taliban, there is currently an extraordinary free-for-all, with a whole range of people and countries trying to make contacts with the quetta shura, the Taliban's leadership council. They include Karzai's elder brother Qayoum, and even Burhanuddin Rabbani, a northern power broker and former president. Countries interested in getting in on the act are the UK, Germany, Turkey and Indonesia.
3) Biden: Afghan withdrawal may start with 'a couple of thousand troops'
CNN, July 18, 2010
As few as "a couple of thousand" U.S. troops may leave Afghanistan in the first phase of withdrawing forces from there beginning a year from now, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview broadcast Sunday. "It could be as few as a couple of thousand troops; it could be more," Biden told ABC's "This Week."
Asked about a book that quotes him as saying the troop withdrawal would start with "a whole lot of people" leaving Afghanistan, Biden confirmed the comment but said he was responding to an assertion that there might be no withdrawal at all at that time. "I did say it," Biden acknowledged, calling the July 2011 withdrawal date "the beginning of a transition" based on the ability of Afghanistan forces to provide security around the country.
Noting there will be more than 100,000 U.S. troops there a year from now, Biden said the situation would be assessed across Afghanistan and troop withdrawals would begin where circumstances allow. At the same time, Biden called the process of training Afghanistan security forces to take over for U.S. forces as "painfully slow and difficult." However, "there will be a transition," he insisted.
4) Let's give Congress our marching orders
Jesse Jackson Sr., Chicago Sun-Times, July 20, 2010
Will the U.S. once more sacrifice economic justice at home for war abroad? Dr. King used to say that the bombs dropped over Vietnam exploded in America's cities. The war on poverty was lost in those jungles.
And now? The war in Afghanistan is now in its eighth year. Vice President Joe Biden told "This Week" that our policy is "going to work," but "all of this is just beginning. And we knew it was going to be a tough slog," so "it's much too premature to make a judgment" about how we are faring.
Just the beginning after eight years? We are spending $100 billion a year on Afghanistan, with U.S. casualties rising, and with no noticeable progress on the ground. The government that we support is noted for its corruption and ineffectiveness. Our military is trying to do nation-building in a country whose warring tribes unite only to expel outsiders.
The drones releasing bombs over Afghanistan are falling on our cities here at home. More than 20 million workers are unemployed or underemployed. States and localities are facing another round of severe cuts, with some 300,000 teachers and educational workers about to face layoffs. Unemployment of young African-American men without college nears 40 percent.
We desperately need Congress to act - to extend unemployment benefits, to forestall debilitating cuts in schools, teachers, Medicaid and basic services, to finance the rebuilding of America in everything from bridges to fast trains to a smart electric grid that will make us more competitive and put people to work.
But war drains our Treasury, takes the lives of our citizens and requires the attention of our leaders. Now our politics is turning perverse. Conservatives rail against deficits and block action on jobs in the Senate. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says that we don't have to offset tax cuts for the wealthy with spending cuts, but leads his party's filibuster against extending unemployment benefits unless they are "paid for." The supplemental for Afghanistan passes; the supplemental to keep teachers working is blocked.
Across the country, there is a growing divide between the elites in Washington and the American people. In a poll for Politico by the firm Penn Schoen Berland, the divide was apparent. Only 27 percent of people outside the Beltway think the country is headed in the right direction; among 227 Washington elites polled, 49 percent think it is on the right track compared with 45 percent who think it's going the wrong way.
This disconnect between Washington and the American people is dangerous. Ironically, most out of touch are the Republican conservatives who may well benefit politically from the economic distress. The vast majority have obstructed everything Obama has tried to do. They made the recovery plan weaker and larded it with tax cuts for the upper middle class. They are prepared to increase the deficit to fight the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to sustain tax cuts for the wealthy, while they impede even basic steps to put people to work.
America is coming once more to a crossroads. We need to rebuild our strength from the inside out. In the short term, we need to put people to work. We need to regain our position on the cutting edge of science and technology. We have to begin making things in America once more.
This will take focus, finances and management. And each of these will be starved so long as our soldiers are mired in wars across the other side of the world. That is why it is time for citizens of conscience to come together and challenge the elite consensus before it is too late. On Aug. 28, the UAW and Rainbow PUSH Coalition and dozens of other groups will convene demonstrations in Detroit and elsewhere to call for action on jobs. On Oct. 2, the one nation coalition led by the NAACP, La Raza and the AFL-CIO will convene a march on Washington with the focus on jobs and justice. This is the beginning of what must be a "tough slog" to put America on the right course.
5) Buying Venezuela's Press With U.S. Tax Dollars
Jeremy Bigwood, NACLA, Jul 15 2010
The U.S. State Department is secretly funneling millions of dollars to Latin American journalists, according to documents obtained in June under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The 20 documents released to this author-including grant proposals, awards, and quarterly reports-show that between 2007 and 2009, the State Department's little-known Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor channeled at least $4 million to journalists in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), a Washington-based grant maker that has worked in Latin America since 1962. Thus far, only documents pertaining to Venezuela have been released. They reveal that the PADF, collaborating with Venezuelan NGOs associated with the country's political opposition, has been supplied with at least $700,000 to give out journalism grants and sponsor journalism education programs.
Until now, the State Department has hidden its role in funding the Venezuelan news media, one of the opposition's most powerful weapons against President Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian movement. The PADF, serving as an intermediary, effectively removed the government's fingerprints from the money. Yet, as noted in a State Department document titled "Bureau/Program Specific Requirements," the State Department's own policies require that "all publications" funded by the department "acknowledge the support." But the provision was simply waived for the PADF. "For the purposes of this award," the requirements document adds, " . . . the recipient is not required to publicly acknowledge the support of the U.S. Department of State."
Before 2007, the largest funder of U.S. "democracy promotion" activities in Venezuela was not the State Department but the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), together with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). But in 2005, these organizations' underhanded funding was exposed by Venezuelan American attorney Eva Golinger in a series of articles, books, and lectures (disclosure: This author obtained many of the documents). After the USAID and NED covers were blown wide open-forcing USAID's main intermediary, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a Maryland-based contractor, to close its office in Caracas-the U.S. government apparently sought new funding channels, one of which the PADF appears to have provided.
Although the $700,000 allocated to the PADF, which is noted in the State Department's requirements document, may not seem like a lot of money, the funds have been strategically used to buy off the best of Venezuela's news media and recruit young journalists. This has been achieved by collaborating with opposition NGOs, many of which have a strong media focus. The requirements document is the only document that names any of these organizations-which was probably an oversight on the State Department's part, since the recipients' names and a lot of other information are excised in the rest of the documents. The requirements document names Espacio Público and Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, two leading organizations linked to the Venezuelan opposition, as recipients of "subgrants."
Neither organization makes clear its connection to the State Department. Espacio Público, according to its website, is a "non-profit, non-governmental civil association that is independent and autonomous of political parties, religious institutions, international organizations or any government" (emphasis added). Two of three images on the homepage are from anti-Chávez demonstrations. The other "subgrantee," the Venezuelan chapter of Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPyS-Ve), is a Peru-based journalism organization that was started with funding from USAID, and that has continued to receive USAID money while launching a series of attacks on Chávez. It has explicitly opposed Chávez since 2000, when it falsely accused him of harboring Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori's fugitive spymaster, Vladimiro Montesinos (Chávez's own authorities later arrested Montesinos and extradited him to Peru).
The revelations of U.S. funding of Venezuelan journalism comes on the heels of a report released in May by the center-right European think tank FRIDE, which found that since 2002 the United States has spent an estimated $3 million to $6 million every year "on small projects with political parties and NGOs" in Venezuela, with funds distributed through an alphabet soup of shifting and intertwined channels. (The report was removed from FRIDE's website soon after it was publicized.) The PADF journalism program thus appears to be part of a much larger project of propping up the Venezuelan opposition.
6) AIDS Activists Launch United Nations Complaint on Impact of Obama Administration
Bush-era Policies Haven't Changed Despite Obama Pledges, Say Activists
Health GAP, July 20, 2010
[full complaint: http://www.healthgap.org/UNComplaint]
Vienna - At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria today AIDS activists from the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Latin America filed a complaint against the United States with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. The complaint argues that the United States, working side by side with multinational pharmaceutical companies, is using its trade policies to coerce countries to adopt intellectual property policies that increase the costs of medicines and violate the human rights of their citizens. These policies directly contradict the promises President Obama made while he was a candidate, when he committed to 'break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving drugs' and pledged support for 'the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs.'
Specifically, the complaint alleges that the U.S. threatens countries with trade sanctions for making use of legal, WTO-compliant measures that bring down the cost of AIDS drugs and other essential medicines. The U.S. government does so by listing these countries on "watch lists" in a process known as "Special 301," which threatens sanctions against foreign countries for their intellectual property laws. In 2010 the U.S. put countries including Thailand, India, and Brazil-key manufacturers of AIDS drugs for African and other developing nations-on these lists for failing to adopt intellectual property laws that would undermine people's health in order to maximize profits for big pharmaceutical companies.
"President Obama promised to support the rights of countries to make low-cost AIDS medicines available to their people, but instead his trade representative is threatening countries who are doing just that," said Matthew Kavanagh, Director of US Advocacy at Health GAP (Global Access Project), a US-based AIDS and human rights group. A range of health experts testified at a recent USTR hearing on Special 301. However, the Special 301 Report released by the White House in 2010 virtually ignored this expert guidance. "President Obama is continuing policies that are holdovers from Bush-putting drug company profits over peoples lives," said Kavanagh.
"The complaint filed today demonstrates that the continuation of Special 301 attacks on affordable medicine policies violate international human rights obligations in addition to the Obama administration's own policies," said Sean Flynn, a Professor of Law and American University and the Associate Director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.
"Due to compulsory licenses, a great number of Thai patients now have access to essential medicines for free through the national health insurance system and have regained their quality of life.," said Supatra Nakapew, Foundation for AIDS Rights in Thailand. "Through the complaint submitted to the Special Rapporteur for the Right to Health, we urge the U.S. government to respect human rights and stop pressuring Thailand and other developing countries. Moreover, the U.S. government should encourage developing countries to actively promote the use of TRIPS flexibility measures to increase access to anti-retroviral and other essential medicines."
7) Food co-op in Rachel Corrie's hometown boycotts Israeli goods
The Olympia Food Co-op announced last week that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores.
Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz, 20.07.10
Last week, the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.
"We met last Thursday for the board members meeting and a pretty large group - about 40 people - presented the boycott project and answered our questions," Rob Richards, a board member, told Haaretz. "A couple of board members were concerned about what will be the financial effect on the organization, but it's minimal. For me personally there is a moral imperative that goes beyond any financial concern. So we decided to adopt the boycott which went into effect the next day."
Asked whether the boycott includes all products made in Israel, or only in settlements, Richards explained: "As far as I know - it concerns any Israeli products. We exempted "Peace Oil" - it's a joint product produced by the Palestinian farmers. Any product that is made by the company that works to improve the conditions of the Palestinians will be exempted."
It is probably no coincidence that Olympia is the hometown of the International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie who was killed seven years ago in Gaza - a Caterpillar bulldozer ran over her as she tried to prevent demolition of a Palestinian house. Last month, the student body of Evergreen State College in Olympia, where she studied, passed two resolutions which called for the college foundation "to divest from companies that profit from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine," and the second one called to ban the Caterpillar company equipment from campus.
The Olympia Food Co-Op boycott is only a tiny part of an effort that the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is mounting on U.S. companies. On Monday, Jewish Voice for Peace activists planned to attend the TIAA-CREF annual meeting the company headquarters in New York City to deliver thousands of signatures calling on the company to divest its money from Caterpillar, Elbit, Motorola and some other companies, that, as JVP puts it, "profit from the violation of international law through home demolitions, the destruction of life sustaining orchards, the construction of roads and transit that only Israelis can use, the killing of civilians by drones, and many other injustices."
8) Suspected Afghan army trainer opens fire on fellow instructors
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 20, 2010; 12:47 PM
Kabul - A suspected Afghan army trainer on a shooting range in northern Afghanistan opened fire on his fellow instructors Tuesday, killing two American civilian trainers and one other Afghan soldier before being killed himself, NATO officials said.
On a day when world diplomats gathered in Kabul for an international conference intended to further a transition to Afghan security responsibility, the violence showed the risks and setbacks that can come with a rapid expansion of Afghan military forces. The shooting, at a weapons training base near the city of Mazar-e Sharif, comes just one week after another rogue Afghan soldier killed three British soldiers at a base in Helmand province.
The killings could add greater pressure to tighten the vetting process for Afghan recruits. An Afghan who wants to join the army now must provide a government ID card, pass a medical screening, receive a letter of guarantee from two people in his village, such as a tribal elder or local government official, take a drug test and submit to biometric screening. If he matches a biometric database of previous insurgent activity, the soldier is kept out of the course, according to NATO.
9) Mexican drug cartels' newest weapon: Cold War-era grenades made in U.S.
Nick Miroff and William Booth, Washington Post, Saturday, July 17, 2010; A01
Mexico City - Grenades made in the United States and sent to Central America during the Cold War have resurfaced as terrifying new weapons in almost weekly attacks by Mexican drug cartels.
Sent a generation ago to battle communist revolutionaries in the jungles of Central America, U.S. grenades are being diverted from dusty old armories and sold to criminal mafias, who are using them to destabilize the Mexican government and terrorize civilians, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials.
The redeployment of U.S.-made grenades by Mexican drug lords underscores the increasingly intertwined nature of the conflict, as President Felipe Calderón sends his soldiers out to confront gangs armed with a deadly combination of brand-new military-style assault rifles purchased in the United States and munitions left over from the Cold War.
Grenades have killed a relatively small number of the 25,000 people who have died since Calderón launched his U.S.-backed offensive against the cartels. But the grenades pack a far greater psychological punch than the ubiquitous AK-47s and AR-15 rifles - they can overwhelm and intimidate outgunned soldiers and police while reminding ordinary Mexicans that the country is literally at war.
There have been more than 72 grenade attacks in Mexico in the last year, including spectacular assaults on police convoys and public officials. Mexican forces have seized more than 5,800 live grenades since 2007, a small fraction of a vast armory maintained by the drug cartels, officials said.
According to the Mexican attorney general's office, there have been 101 grenade attacks against government buildings in the past 3 1/2 years, information now made public for the first time.
The majority of grenades have been traced back to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to investigations by agents at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and their Mexican counterparts. ATF has also found that almost 90 percent of the grenades confiscated and traced in Mexico are more than 20 years old.
The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush sent 300,000 hand grenades to friendly regimes in Central America to fight leftist insurgents in the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, according to declassified military data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Federation of American Scientists.
One of the most common hand grenades found in Mexico is the M67, the workhorse explosive manufactured in the United States for American soldiers and for sale or transfer to foreign militaries. Some 266,000 M67 grenades went to El Salvador alone between 1980 and 1993, during the civil war there.
Now selling for $100 to $500 apiece on the black market, grenades have exploded in practically every region of Mexico in recent years.
In the past year, assailants have rolled grenades into brothels in the border city of Reynosa. They have hurled one at the U.S. consulate in nearby Nuevo Laredo. They have launched them at a military barracks in Tampico and at a television station in Nayarit state.
In the state of Durango, 10 students, most teenagers but some as young as 8, were ripped apart on their way to receive government scholarships in March when attacked with grenades at a cartel checkpoint. The blasts tore a gaping hole in the side of their pickup, peeling back the door panels as if it were a soda can.
Frequently, grenades are left unexploded at attack scenes. U.S. officials attribute this to operator error rather than the age of the munitions, since grenades can last for decades if stored properly. While some seized grenades are covered in rust or dirt, others are in mint condition, suggesting they may have been removed recently from military stores.
Black-market grenades are so easy to obtain in El Salvador that street gangs routinely use them as tools of extortion, to menace business owners and bus drivers. Concern that grenades could leak out of army garrisons prompted the Salvadoran military to consolidate its abundant supply in two high-security facilities last year, the Salvadoran defense minister, Gen. David Munguía Payés, said in an interview. The U.S. government is planning to send a threat-assessment team to the country to help secure its arsenals.
In Guatemala, aging American-, Israeli- and Asian-made grenades have been seeping out of the country's Mariscal Zavala armory for years, according to military officials and security experts.
The military official who oversees the arsenals, Col. Luis Francisco Juárez, said safeguards are now in place to ensure that no weapons are illegally removed. But Guatemalan court records show that when his predecessor, Col. Carlos Toledo, reported to his superiors last year that 500 weapons were missing, he was stripped of his command and subjected to death threats.
Just two months after Toledo reported the missing weapons, arms diverted from the Guatemalan military turned up at a bloody scene where five police officers were killed while allegedly trying to steal 370 kilos of cocaine from a cartel safe house. A huge arms cache was uncovered at the site, including more than 550 40mm projectile grenades, many of which had lot numbers matching those in the Guatemalan armory and which appeared to be manufactured in the United States, according to military and legal sources.
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