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JFP 9/15: In Defense of the Afghanistan Study Group
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 September 2010 - 7:50pm
Just Foreign Policy News
September 15, 2010
Urge the State Department to Work to Free Abdullah Abu Rahmah
Palestinian nonviolence advocate Abdullah Abu Rahmah faces two years in prison for organizing protests in Bilin. The sentencing portion of the trial was scheduled to begin today.
You can ask Secretary of State Clinton to speak out, as Europe's Catherine Ashton has, by calling the State Department's comment line at 202-647-6575 and pressing 1.
Or you can send a letter through the State Department's website, by following the instructions here:
Why Peaceniks Should Care About the Afghanistan Study Group Report
Experts who crafted the Afghanistan Study Group report have a strategy to move Washington towards ending the war. If their recommendations are followed, fewer Americans and Afghans will be killed.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert - naiman/why - peaceniks - should - care_b_712333.html
The report, which is short and accessible, can be found here:
Jon Stewart: Islamophobiapalooza
"Squirrel!" Jon Stewart mocks the TV media obsession with a Florida pastor.
Bacevich: Washington Rules
Andrew Bacevich's book, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War," is a call for Americans to reject the Washington consensus for permanent war.
September 24th: JFP "Virtual Brown Bag" with Andrew Bacevich
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1) Responding to criticism of the Afghanistan Study Group reports, ASG director Matthew Hoh, writing in the Huffington Post, notes that the ASG recognizes, like the US government, that support for the Taliban occurs due to local issues, foreign occupation and resentment towards a corrupt and unrepresentative government, as opposed to supporting a trans-national terrorist cause with ties to al-Qaeda. So, the ASG's first recommendation is to prioritize the expansion of the political process and reconciliation. This is similar to measures undertaken in Iraq in 2007-8 that addressed legitimate political grievances held by the Sunni insurgency, which decreased violence. Current policy in Afghanistan does not emphasize such measures. Hoh notes that claims that a massive US troop presence in Afghanistan is necessary to fight terrorism implies that the US must also have a massive troop presence in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; and that the drawdown in Iraq must be reversed.
2) Writing in his personal blog, ASG member Bernard Finel of the American Security Project responds to criticism that the ASG wants the US to "dictate" power sharing and political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Finel notes that Afghan government officials, including President Karzai, appear to want the same broad reconciliation that the ASG recommends; and that Western press reports of resistance in Afghanistan to Karzai's outreach indicate that at least some of it is from non-Pashtun groups who stand to lose politically from any reconciliation with the Pashtun plurality. The US cannot impose a political settlement to the civil war, but it can propose one; the Afghans can reject it. But a quasi-permanent commitment which undergirds the rejectionism of one side is hardly more conducive to Afghan self-determination than encouraging a settlement.
3) Writing for the National Interest, ASG member Justin Logan argues that a key contribution of the ASG was calling the question about what the national interest of the US is in Afghanistan. He notes that when Andrew Exum produced a policy paper in 2009 urging the administration to expand the war effort in Afghanistan, Andrew Bacevich demanded to know the strategic justification for escalating the "war on terror" in this way. Exum essentially conceded that he had not considered whether the policy he advocated was in the national interest, only how a policy that he expected to be adopted, because it was politically expedient, could be best implemented.
4) A direct correlation between stepped up night raids in Kandahar and a sharp fall-off in the proportion of IEDs being turned in by the local population indicates that the raids backfired badly, bolstering the Taliban's hold on the population, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. Night raids, which are viewed as a violation of the sanctity of the home and generate large numbers of civilian casualties, are the single biggest factor in generating popular anger at U.S. and NATO forces, as Gen. McChrystal conceded.
5) India has imposed a round-the-clock curfew since Sunday in the Kashmiri of Srinagar, the New York Times reports. Even ambulances are having trouble getting past security checkpoints. "It's collective punishment," said a Kashmiri lawyer. "Every Kashmiri is being forced to stay inside."
6) The Israeli actors' boycott, and a similar statement by Israeli academics, have raised the question of whether there is a public consensus in Israel that the settlement of Ariel, deep inside the West Bank, must be part of Israel in a peace settlement, the Washington Post reports. The article notes reports that the current Israeli partial moratorium would be modified so as not to include "large settlement blocs such as Ariel that Israel wants to keep in a future peace agreement." [But this is the crux of the issue: if the partial moratorium on construction is lifted from Ariel, Israel is saying that Ariel will be part of Israel in a final deal; if the Palestinian negotiators agree to this, it is reasonable to expect that they will be accused by Palestinians of conceding this point - JFP.]
7) Dozens of people were injured in a clash between "anti-American" protestors and Afghan police in Kabul, the New York Times reports. Many recent protests are widely believed to be organized by political candidates trying to gain political clout by rallying around "anti-American" sentiments ahead of Saturday's parliamentary elections.
8) An analysis by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission found that more than 80 percent of provincial lawmakers and more than 60 percent of those elected in Kabul had "links to armed groups," McClatchy reports.
9) Seven Iraqi civilians were killed in night raid by US and Iraqi security forces near Falluja on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.
10) Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez said the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba has gotten tougher under Obama, Reuters reports. Rodriguez said the US is levying bigger fines, applying sanctions more firmly and pursuing embargo-busting financial transactions more vigorously under Obama. The UN is scheduled to hold its annual vote on a resolution condemning the embargo October 26. Last year, only the US, Israel and Palau voted against the measure.
11) The CUT labor federation says thirty-six union leaders have been murdered in Colombia so far this year, compared with 26 during the first eight months of 2009, EFE reports. More than 2,700 unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1986, including 40 slain last year.
1) The Case for a New Way Forward in Afghanistan
Matthew Hoh, Huffington Post, September 14, 2010
[Hoh, who resigned from the State Department in protest over the war in Afghanistan, is director of the Afghanistan Study Group.]
Last month's monthly record high for August for American combat dead of 55 might not have been the all time monthly record for American combat dead (that inglorious title is held by the month previous), but it was the 32nd month of the last 37 to see monthly records on an annual basis. That negative trend is consistent across the board, whether it be for improvised explosive device attacks, suicide attacks, assassinations, civilian casualties, etc.
In Afghanistan's parliamentary elections this coming Saturday, 350 less polling centers will open than last year. That's with roughly 30,000 more US troops in the country than there were at this time last year. For the latest expectation that this year's elections will be as stolen as they were last year, despite young Americans dying for democracy abroad, see the Guardian.
To understand how the current strategy is not just failing, but is counterproductive, I would point readers to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, as well as Gareth Porter's Inter Press Service article from three days ago.
Both articles clearly show that the increased US, NATO and Afghan military presence, has not engendered support among the rural southern Pashtun population, in spite of the counter insurgency (COIN) theories that state they should. In the most recent data available, southern Pashtuns accounted for less than 2% of Afghan Army recruits (southern Pashtuns making up the bulk of the insurgency that are killing US troops), while the Afghan population, again, despite a five fold increase in US and NATO troops over a five year period and clearly in contradiction to COIN theory, only reported 1% of the improvised explosive devices found or detonated in June. Both of these indicators, support for government forces and a population willing to cooperate with the government, are extremely important indicators of support for the insurgency.
The fact that these indicators are near zero demonstrates not just an enormous reluctance of support for the Karzai government, but of popular support for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Which leads to one last metric regarding the counter productive nature of our current strategy before I turn to the points made by Andrew Exum and Joshua Foust as highlighted by Andrew Sullivan (and thanks to Andrew Sullivan for helping to advance a debate sorely missed over the last several years). In February 2005, Lieutenant General David Barno, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, stated there were only 2000 Taliban in Afghanistan and predicted that movement's near total collapse by 2006 .
Four year's later the Taliban's estimated strength was 25,000.
Again, remember that NATO troop strength grew every year over that period and the argument that we weren't doing COIN until recently, well General Barno thought we were doing it as early as February 2004.
We recognize, like the US government, that support for the Taliban occurs due to local issues, foreign occupation and resentment towards a corrupt and unrepresentative government, as opposed to supporting a trans-national terrorist cause with ties to al-Qaeda.
So, the Afghanistan Study Group's first recommendation is to prioritize the expansion of the political process and reconciliation. This is similar to many of the measures undertaken in Iraq in 2007-8 that contributed to that nation's stabilization by addressing legitimate political grievances held by the Sunni insurgency, which splintered that insurgency and decreased violence. Our current policy in Afghanistan does not emphasize such measures nor do the reintegration efforts currently in place appear to be working.
Finally, with respect to Joshua's claims that a significant US military and intelligence presence is required to assist a counter-terrorism campaign, I must assume he recommends deploying tens of thousands of US forces to Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen where we are conducting counterterrorism campaigns now, as well as reversing the drawdown of US forces in Iraq since the Department of State last month reported al-Qaeda's strength in Iraq to be between 1000-2000 members, which should be contrasted with CIA Director Leon Panetta's estimate of only 50-100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan last June.
2) Defending the Afghanistan Study Group
Bernard Finel, bernardfinel.com, September 13th, 2010
[Finel senior fellow at the American Security Project. He was Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at the National War College and Executive Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown.]
Josh Foust has an important post up at Registan criticizing the recent Afghanistan Study Group (full disclosure, I am a signatory to that report). I won't bother to summarize Josh's points. Go read his post. But let me respond to a few issues:
(3) Josh is also upset about us dictating to the Afghans, particular in the report's recommendation on "power sharing and political reconciliation." He writes:
<ASG says that peace will not arrive without the broad support of the Afghan people, and this is true, but no where in this section do they demonstrate that their plans, like encouraging power-sharing "among all parties," including the Taliban, is something the Afghan people actually want.>
Amusingly enough, he contradicts himself in the very next paragraph where he notes that Karzai himself seems to want a broad reconciliation. Yes, Karzai's outreach is "deeply controversial" but the WSJ article that Josh himself cites notes that at least some of this resistance is from non-Pashtun groups who, as a practical matter, stand to lose politically from any reconciliation with the Pashtun plurality. De-centralization is a middle-ground option. It aims at Pashtun reconciliation without restoring Pashtun domination. We can't enforce that, and we shouldn't. But recognizing that this is the logical negotiation saddle point and developing a policy around pursuing it is hardly a neo-colonial enterprise.
Think more in terms of international conflict resolution mechanisms. An outside party may try to push parties towards what seems like a logical outcomes - say a two state solution in Palestine/Israel (also deeply controversial) - without necessarily impinging on self-determination. The United States is not obligated to Afghanistan, so if we are to remain involved we can make movement towards what we consider a durable peace a precondition. The Afghans can always reject it, deciding instead they prefer endless warfare. But a quasi-permanent commitment which undergirds this sort of rejectionism is hardly more conducive to Afghan self-determination. Either way, we're messing with the equilibrium. Recognizing that and trying to move toward a fair situation is the best we can do under the circumstances.
3) In Defense of the Afghanistan Study Group Report
Justin Logan, The National Interest, September 13, 2010
If the opposition to the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan were anywhere near as hysterical or shrill as the attacks on the report of the Afghanistan Study Group (in which I participated), the country might be in a happier place. Perhaps it is unsurprising, but I don't think the critics have covered themselves in glory.
For example, blogger Joshua Foust offered over 3,600 words of what he now admits was "vitriol" to critique the report. I will leave aside the polemical language and ad hominem attacks because they are not worth responding to. One brief note, however, on the signatories:
Foust writes that the Group "did not contain anyone with expertise on Afghanistan or the military." Does Foust really believe that Michael Desch, Pat Lang, Barry Posen, and Stephen Walt do not have expertise on the military? Have Juan Cole, Bernard Finel, Selig Harrison, Parag Khanna, Pat Lang, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, Anatol Lieven (!), and Paul Pillar never "studied Afghanistan in any detail?" I'd humbly suggest Foust may want to revisit this claim.
As for [Andrew] Exum, he co-authored a policy paper in the summer of 2009 urging the administration to expand the war effort in Afghanistan. When, on the report's release, Andrew Bacevich demanded to know the strategic justification for escalating - or even continuing the "war on terror" in this way - Exum thanked Bacevich for a contribution that "starts asking these questions about where exactly our interests are," then admitted that his report had "specifically focused…on the operational questions and some of the lower-level strategic challenges that are presented by Afghanistan and Pakistan without getting into grand strategy." Exum closed by condemning Bacevich's own thinking for being "completely divorced from the political realities facing this administration."
It seems to me that the role of people who work at think tanks is not to defer to the alleged "political realities" facing any administration, but rather to educate policy elites in Washington and educated lay people about the challenges the country faces and how best to deal with them, rather than offering politically-deferential, operational-only recommendations for "triaging" bad policies. The latter can be called many things, but "strategy" ought not to be one of them.
4) Doubling of SOF Night Raids Backfired in Kandahar
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Sep 15
Washington, Sep 15 (IPS) - During a round of media interviews last month, Gen. David Petraeus released totals for the alleged results of nearly 3,000 "night raids" by Special Operations Forces (SOF) units over the 90 days from May through July: 365 "insurgent leaders" killed or captured, 1,355 Taliban "rank and file" fighters captured, and 1,031 killed.
Those figures were widely reported as highlighting the "successes" of SOF raids in at least hurting the Taliban.
But a direct correlation between the stepped up night raids in Kandahar province and a sharp fall-off in the proportion of IEDs being turned in by the local population indicates that the raids backfired badly, bolstering the Taliban's hold on the population in Kandahar province.
Night raids, which are viewed as a violation of the sanctity of the home and generate large numbers of civilian casualties, are the single biggest factor in generating popular anger at U.S. and NATO forces, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal conceded in his directive on the issue last March.
Nevertheless, McChrystal had increased the level of SOF raids from the 100 to 125 a month during the command of his predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, to 500 a month during 2009. And the figures released by Petraeus revealed that McChrystal had doubled the number of raids on homes again to 1,000 a month before he was relieved of duty in June.
The step up in night raids has been overwhelmingly concentrated on districts in and around Kandahar City. It began in April as a prelude to what was then being billed as the "make or break" campaign of the war.
The response of the civilian population in those districts can be discerned from data on the Taliban roadside bombs and the proportion turned in by the population. Increasing the ratio of total IEDs planted found as a result of tips from the population has been cited as a key indicator of winning the trust of the local population by Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, head of the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
But JIEDDO's monthly statistics on IED's turned in by local residents as a percentage of total IEDs planted tell a very different story.
The percentage of Taliban roadside bombs turned in had been averaging 3.5 percent from November 2009 through March 2010, according to official statistics from JIEDDO. But as soon as the SOF raids began in Kandahar in April, the percentage of turn-ins fell precipitously to 1.5 percent, despite the fact that the number of IEDs remained about the same as the previous month.
The turn-in ratio continued to average 1.5 percent through July.
There is a similar correlation between a sudden increase in popular anger toward foreign troops in spring 2009 and a precipitous drop in the rate of turn-ins.
In the first four months of 2009, turn-ins had averaged 4.5 percent of IED incidents. But in early May 2009 a U.S. airstrike in Farah province killed between 97 and 147 civilians, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. As popular outrage over the biggest mass killing of civilians in the war spread across the country, the ratio of turn-ins fell to 2.1 percent of the total for the month, even though IEDs increased by less than 20 percent.
Then McChrystal took command and ordered a quadrupling of the number of night raids. The turn-in ratio continued to average just 2.2 percent for the next five months.
In Kandahar, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, popular anger at foreign troops was undoubtedly stoked by the inevitable killing and detention of the innocent people that accompanies SOF night raids.
According to the figures released by Petraeus, for every targeted individual killed or captured in the raids, three non-targeted individuals were killed and another four were detained.
5) Kashmir Is Locked Down, but Bloodshed Continues
Somini Sengupta, New York Times, September 14, 2010
Srinagar, Kashmir - Since Sunday, when the government announced a round-the-clock curfew, everyone - men, women, teenagers, toddlers - has been locked in. There is no telling when the curfew will be lifted, and there is no leaving.
On Tuesday the government announced that for the next three days at least, all flights going in and out of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, were suspended, for the first time in more than a decade.
"It's suffocating," said Sajid Iqbal, 26, a lawyer, who has spent most of the last three months at home. "It's collective punishment. Every Kashmiri is being forced to stay inside."
Even ambulances are having trouble getting past security checkpoints. On Sunday evening, security forces seized and tore the curfew pass of an ambulance driver and threatened him with a caning. By the time he returned to the hospital after a whole day of transporting patients and staff members, he switched off his phone and hid for a while, shaking with anger and fright.
The lockdown is the latest iteration of a cycle of stone-pelting street protests by Muslims and lethal crowd-control measures by the state security forces that has upended daily life since June, leaving nearly 90 people dead.
Even with the curfew, this week has been one of the bloodiest. The authorities said that at least 18 people and one security officer had been killed Monday, with more than 70 people wounded, as separatist protesters clashed with Indian paramilitary officers. Minor clashes continued Tuesday.
Schools have been effectively closed for the past three months. Crucial college exams have been postponed. Grocery stores and pharmacies can open only in the small windows between strikes and curfews. A summer football season, the rare bit of leisure for Kashmiri boys, has been suspended.
Young people with computers at home are glued to their screens all day, chronicling violence in their neighborhoods, arguing about Indian rule, spreading rumors. Lawyers are on strike, meaning that even when judges can show up in court, they can do no more than defer cases.
Yet there is no end in sight. Already, the separatist faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani has announced a protest calendar for the next 10 days. It calls for a series of protests, on the streets and on social-networking sites like Facebook, and it specifies days and hours in which shops are to be opened and when Kashmiris are to partake in "cleanliness drives." Its most provocative gesture is a call for protests "up to the destinations of army establishments."
So far protests have focused on state and federal police installations. Calling civilians to confront the Indian Army is a marked escalation and a likely invitation to more bloodshed.
No one - not Kashmiri separatist leaders, nor Kashmiri politicians nor the Indian government in New Delhi - can agree on a road map to restore normalcy. Instead, the government simply expanded the curfew on Tuesday and sent more security forces to the valley.
The government's move followed an especially lethal outburst on Monday. Like fresh logs in a fire came reports of the desecration of a Koran in the United States, broadcast on an Iranian television station here and spread across the Internet.
More protests broke out across the region. Christian schools were burned, something Muslim leaders in India condemned. Government offices were destroyed. All told, 18 people were killed Monday, including a police officer. For Kashmir, it was the bloodiest day of the year.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Shamima Keng, 48, a schoolteacher who was a mother of two young children when the armed insurgency swept through Kashmir in the early 1990s. "The people coming out on the road, they are fearless. They don't fear death. That is very scary."
6) Israeli enclave thrust into debate
Joel Greenberg, Washington Post, Monday, September 13, 2010; 11:01 PM
Ariel, West Bank - From the four-lane highway linking central Israel to this sprawling settlement town on the West Bank, drivers can see the distant towers of Tel Aviv and, beyond them, the shimmering sea.
The enclave of Ariel, with its red-roofed homes, state-of-the art sports complex and tidy streets and parks, looks like an ordinary Israeli town, and feels that way to many of its 19,000 residents.
That sense of normalcy was jolted recently when a group of Israeli actors, directors and playwrights declared that they would not take part in productions at a new performing arts center in Ariel. Their letter drew a statement of support by a group of prominent Israeli authors and intellectuals, and more than 150 Israeli academicians announced that they would not lecture or join seminars at the Ariel University Center or in any other settlement, because they were in occupied territory.
The statement by the theater professionals caused an uproar and was condemned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a boycott "from within." But the debate raised the question of whether there was indeed a public consensus that Ariel, which appears on Israeli weather maps and highway signs, should become part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
With its housing developments stretching across rocky hills about 12 miles inside the West Bank, Ariel and its adjacent industrial zone pose a challenge to the vision of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state - the goal of renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that are to resume Tuesday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The fate of Israeli settlements is one of the core issues in dispute to be thrashed out in the negotiations, which face an early test when a 10-month Israeli moratorium on new construction in the settlements expires on Sept. 26. The Palestinians have warned they will walk out if the building resumes, and Netanyahu suggested this week that some suspended construction would start up again. Israeli media reports said it would be restricted to large settlement blocs such as Ariel that Israel wants to keep in a future peace agreement.
Netanyahu visited Ariel in January, planted a tree and promised that the town, along with other large settlement blocs, would remain an inseparable part of Israel.
But Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist who signed the academicians' letter, said that it, along with the declaration by the theater professionals, had revived public debate on the settlements despite efforts to blur the pre-1967 boundary between Israel and the West Bank, known as the Green Line.
"We have reestablished an emotional, psychological and cultural Green Line between the settlements and us, between the occupation and us," Ezrahi said.
Yossi Polak, an actor who signed the statement by the theater artists, was more cautious about whether the declaration would have a lasting impact. "I think the word 'occupation' has somehow returned to public consciousness, but it can be submerged once again," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."
7) Dozens Injured in Anti-American Protests in Kabul
Adam B. Ellick, New York Times, September 15, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - A clash between anti-American protesters and the Afghan police injured 35 police officers and 12 civilians here on Wednesday, as both sides accused each other of indiscriminately firing shots, police officials and witnesses said.
It was still unclear whether anyone had died in the violence, the latest in a series of outbursts around the country protesting the canceled plan of an American pastor to burn copies of the Koran last week.
Many of the recent protests are widely believed to be organized by political candidates who are trying to gain political clout by rallying around anti-American sentiments ahead of Saturday's parliamentary elections.
On Wednesday, thousands of protesters carrying the white flag of the Taliban gathered at 6:30 a.m., chanting anti-American slogans and burning tires, according to Fareed, a car salesman who witnessed the clash from his showroom in Company, a neighborhood in western Kabul.
In an effort to diffuse the aggressive crowd, the police fired shots into the air. The protesters retaliated by throwing rocks at the police and beating officers with sticks, said General Khalil Dastyar, the deputy police chief of Kabul Province.
An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with standard policy, said some of the protesters were carrying weapons and fired at the police.
A witness said about 15 civilians with severe bleeding were taken away in ambulances. "They were all shot by policemen," he said.
8) Warlords And Killers Seek Re-Election To Afghan Parliament
Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, September 15, 2010 http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/09/14/100574/warlords-alleged-killers-seek.html
Kabul, Afghanistan - Mohammad Eshaq vividly remembers cowering in a crowded Kabul basement as shellfire raged above, fleeing with his family when his Afshar neighborhood's defenses collapsed and returning a year later to find scores of corpses still moldering in the rubble.
"Some were shot and some died from the rockets," said the 55-year-old sweet shop owner, standing by a mass grave on a sun-baked hillside that he helped fill. "We weren't able to wash them. We just laid them side by side and covered them."
Hundreds of minority Hazara civilians were killed in Afshar in February 1993 in one of the bloodiest chapters of the battle for Kabul, between rival U.S.-armed guerrilla factions that had ousted the Soviet-backed regime the previous year.
The man who directed the onslaught, according to residents and human rights groups, was Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, an Islamist member of parliament's lower house who's close to U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai. He's running for re-election from Kabul, and analysts say he could be the next speaker of the lower house.
Sayyaf is among a raft of former guerrilla chieftains and commanders implicated in war crimes who are likely to win re-election Saturday to the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga in polls that are expected to be marred by coercion, fraud and violence.
Ninety percent of the Wolesi Jirga members who were elected in 2005 have been certified to seek re-election. One lawmaker has been disqualified, 15 are retiring and 10 died or were killed while in office.
Yet the winners of the 2005 polls included 40 commanders still associated with armed groups, 24 who belong to criminal gangs, 17 drug traffickers and 19 who face serious allegations of war crimes and human rights violations, according to an analysis cited in a 2005 report by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, an independent research center.
A second, bleaker analysis by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission cited in the report found that more than 80 percent of provincial lawmakers and more than 60 percent of those elected in Kabul had "links to armed groups."
However, none of the former guerrilla chieftains and commanders, whom the George W. Bush administration rehabilitated and paid millions to help oust the Taliban and al Qaida in 2001, has faced criminal trial or been scrutinized by a South Africa-type truth commission.
A truth commission proposal, pushed by the United States and its allies as a way to assuage public demands for accountability, was quietly dropped amid resistance from Karzai. Citing the need for national unity, Karzai signed a bill in 2007 that granted amnesty to the former guerrilla chiefs and their followers.
9) 7 Civilians Killed in U.S. and Iraqi Raid
Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan, New York Times, September 15, 2010
Baghdad - Seven Iraqis were killed in a village near the city of Falluja on Wednesday during an early morning raid by American and Iraqi security forces on the house of a suspected insurgent leader, officials said.
Four of the dead were brothers between the ages of 10 and 18, according to the Iraqi police and residents of the area.
The United States military said in an e-mail on Wednesday afternoon that the Iraqi military had "planned and led" the "joint counterterrorism" operation. Yet, the raid underscored the continuing presence of American service members in security operations, even after the United States declared an official end to combat on Aug. 31.
Of the approximately 50,000 United States troops remaining in Iraq, about 4,500 are Special Operations troops who take part in raids with Iraqi units, pursuing insurgent leaders and suspected members of other armed groups.
It is not clear whether the dead were the targets of the raid or how they were killed. Four other people were wounded during the operation, the police said.
There were stark differences between the American military's description of the raid and the one supplied by villagers.
Maj. Rob Phillips, a spokesman for the United States military in Iraq, said a joint Iraqi-American unit had been seeking a senior leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was believed responsible for a number of attacks in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, in western Iraq. The major said the American forces were acting as advisers while the Iraqis tried to serve an arrest warrant.
The Iraqi police said the raid started about 1 a.m. Wednesday, with at least four American helicopters providing support. Major Phillips said the troops came under fire as they approached the suspect's house and shot back, killing four suspected insurgents - he said he did not know their ages - and wounding three others. Two residents of the village who came out of their homes with weapons were also fatally shot by the troops, he added.
Local residents described a far different scene, one of chaos and fear as American soldiers and Iraqi security officers moved through the area in the darkness. They accused the Iraqis of firing indiscriminately, often at people who represented no threat.
"I was sleeping when I was awakened by gunfire and explosions," said a resident who would give only his first name, Muhammad, because he feared reprisal from Iraqi security. "I went out to see what was happening and they shot at me. They missed, but I went back inside and stayed there."
10) Cuba says U.S. embargo has toughened under Obama.
Nelson Acosta, Reuters, Sep 15, 2010
Havana - The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba has gotten tougher under U.S. President Barack Obama, not more lenient as many had expected when he took office, a top Cuban official said on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in the Cuban government's annual update on the 48-year-old embargo, said the United States is levying bigger fines, applying sanctions more firmly and pursuing embargo-busting financial transactions more vigorously under Obama.
"The embargo policy in the last two years, which is to say under the government of President Obama, has not changed at all," Rodriguez said in a press conference. "In some aspects, it has even hardened."
In terms of U.S. policy toward Cuba, Obama had performed "below expectations that had been created in the international community and American public opinion," Rodriguez said.
The United Nations is scheduled to hold its annual vote on a resolution condemning the embargo on October 26. Last year, only three countries - the United States, Israel and Palau - voted against the measure.
11) 36 Colombian Union Leaders Slain in 2010.
EFE, September 14, 2010
Bogota - Thirty-six union leaders have been murdered in Colombia so far this year, compared with 26 during the first eight months of 2009, an official of the CUT labor federation said Tuesday.
Five of the 36 slain leaders were from a single organization, the Adida union representing teachers in the northwestern province of Antioquia, CUT human rights director Luis Alberto Vanegas said.
Paramilitary groups involved in drug trafficking routinely distribute flyers threatening union activists, he said. "A high percentage of those who threaten and pursue unionists are the private armies of paramilitaries financed by landholding business-owners," Vanegas said.
More than 2,700 unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1986, including 40 slain last year, making the Andean nation the world's most dangerous country for organized labor, the CUT says.
Those statistics have prompted U.S. lawmakers to oppose ratification of the trade accord the Bush administration negotiated with Colombia, a pact that remains on hold. EFE
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