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JFP 7/27: NATO concedes election was more violent; FBI raids homes of anti-war activists
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 September 2010 - 8:33pm
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September 27, 2010
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1) US-led forces conceded that the Afghan elections were more violent than they initially claimed, and more violent than last year, the Guardian reports. ISAF said there were about 100 more attacks compared with the roughly 280 attacks during last year's election. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office said it recorded 443 insurgent attacks around the country on 18 September, a 56% increase on the 20 August presidential election last year. Turnout was the lowest of any of the four national elections since 2001
2) An Afghan journalist who worked as a cameraman for Al Jazeera was released by US-led forces after complaints from media workers, human rights groups, and the Afghan government, AP reports.
3) In an excerpt from Bob Woodward's new book, he reports in the Washington Post that last year top military officials refused to present President Obama with any options for Afghanistan besides military escalation with tens of thousands of more troops. The first option presented peaked at about 108,000 troops in late 2010 [essentially what has happened - JFP] and then slid back down to the then-current level of 68,000 in 2016. When that was rejected, the military proposed a faster drawdown beginning in 2012. The then-current level of 68,000 would be reached by spring of 2013.
4) Palestinian president Abbas said he would consult with Arab leaders before following through on his pledge to quit talks with Israel if the partial moratorium on Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank were allowed to expire, Al Jazeera reports. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on Abbas to uphold his promise and quit the talks.
5) Pakistan reacted angrily today after NATO said US helicopters had crossed into its territory to attack militants, the Guardian reports. Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the incursions as a "clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which ISAF operates", saying it had made a formal protest to NATO. A former top Pakistani security official urged the Pakistani government to deploy troops to fire on NATO if they repeat the incursion [not an idle threat - it happened during the Bush Administration - JFP.]
6) FBI agents raided the homes of anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, claiming they were looking for evidence of ties to terrorist groups, AP reports. Several activists said they thought the searches amounted to "fishing expeditions" in light of a recent Supreme Court decision. The federal law cited in the search warrants prohibits "providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations." In June, the Court rejected a free-speech challenge to the law from humanitarian aid groups that said some provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities.
7) Evidence is mounting that fraud in Afghanistan's parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, the New York Times reports. US officials said the election was an Afghan process and Afghans were responsible for its outcome. But a less than credible parliamentary election would place international forces in the awkward position of defending a government of waning legitimacy, and diplomats acknowledged it could undermine efforts to persuade countries to maintain their financing and troop levels, the Times says.
8) Peace Now has created an application for the iPhone called "Facts on the Ground" that enables you to track Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Ha'aretz reports. There is also a web version.
9) An IAEA resolution backed by Arab countries calling on Israel to join the NPT and submit its facilities to IAEA inspection was narrowly defeated, AP reports. 46 voted yes; 51 voted no; 23 abstained. Most industrialized countries and their allies voted no, while developing countries voted yes.
10) Jewish activists protesting the blockade on Gaza set sail for Gaza from Cyprus, AP reports. They said they would not resist the Israeli army if they are stopped, as they anticipate.
11) Colombia's attorney general removed Sen. Piedad Cordoba from Congress for 18 years for allegedly having promoted the FARC, CNN reports. Cordoba heads Colombians for Peace, a group trying to end the war. Cordoba has had a hand in the release of at least 19 FARC hostages.
12) President Chavez's allies held on to control of Venezuela's congress in election results released Monday, AP reports. But Chavez no longer has a two-thirds majority. "There's going to be some paralysis in the assembly because many decisions require a two-thirds majority. It's going to put some brakes on Chavez's project," said Gregory Wilpert. Miguel Tinker Salas said the outcome could prompt Chavez to concentrate on resolving pressing domestic problems.
1) Afghanistan elections 'more violent' than last year's presidential poll
Embarrassment for US-led coalition force after figures show insurgent attacks increased by more than a third
Jon Boone, Guardian, Thursday 23 September 2010
Kabul - The US-led coalition force in Afghanistan has conceded that last week's parliamentary elections were far more violent than it first claimed and that the country was rocked by many more insurgent attacks than during last year's presidential election.
The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said there were about 100 more attacks compared with the roughly 280 attacks during last year's election.
The figures are an embarrassment for the international community which cited a decrease in violence as proof of the greater capacity of the Afghan army and police to guarantee security during Saturday's election.
A spokesman for Isaf said that although it had originally claimed there were fewer insurgent attacks on Saturday the true figure showed an increase of more than a third over last year's vote, which at the time was the most violent day of Afghanistan's post-Taliban period.
The figures are a significant volte face for Isaf, which on the day after the election asked one news agency to publish a correction after it reported an increase in violence.
Isaf's initial claim had been ridiculed by many observers who reckoned the level of violence was far higher. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office said it recorded 443 insurgent attacks around the country on 18 September, a 56% increase on the 20 August presidential election last year.
For months ambassadors from the main diplomatic missions in Kabul have said that while there would be fraud and violence the elections would be an improvement on last year.
However, turnout was the lowest of any of the four national elections since 2001 and more than 4,000 complaints were registered with electoral authorities, including allegations of ballot stuffing, multiple voting by individuals and intimidation of voters.
2) Afghan official: Detained journalist released
Eric Talmadge, Associated Press, Friday, September 24, 2010; 2:11 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/23/AR2010092300737.html
Kabul, Afghanistan - An Afghan journalist detained by coalition forces for allegedly spreading Taliban propaganda has been freed, a local government spokesman said Friday. The release follows an outcry from media workers and an order from President Hamid Karzai to investigate the detention.
Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohammad Nadir, who was arrested Wednesday in the southern city of Kandahar, was one of three Afghan journalists detained over the past week - two by the coalition and Afghan security forces and a third by the Afghan intelligence service.
In addition to Nadir, Hojatullah Mujadadi, a radio station manager in Kapisa province north of Kabul, was arrested by Afghan agents. Rahmatullah Naikzad, who has worked for Al-Jazeera and as a freelancer for The Associated Press, was detained by coalition forces in the eastern town of Ghazni, and Nadir was arrested in the southern city of Kandahar.
The arrests sparked an angry reaction by Afghan media workers, journalism advocates and human rights groups. Karzai called Thursday for their quick release.
Nadir, the cameraman, was detained about 4 a.m. Wednesday at his home in the southern city of Kandahar. Coalition troops woke up his wife and forcibly removed him from his bedroom as they searched the house, Al-Jazeera said in a statement.
Naikzad was arrested in his home on Monday. NATO said three grenades, magazines and a "significant number of AK-47 rounds" were found in the compound where he was detained. It is common for Afghans to keep weapons for self-protection.
The coalition said they suspected Naikzad of working with the Taliban to spread insurgent propaganda and film attacks tied to the parliamentary elections held last weekend. Naikzad supplied The Associated Press with photographs of Afghans voting peacefully, but the AP did not use them.
Paul Colford, media relations director for the AP in New York, said Naikzad has contributed to the AP from time to time since 2007 as a freelance photographer and videographer.
Al-Jazeera, which has extensive contacts within insurgent groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Nadir and Naikzad were both innocent. "As part of their work, cameramen and crew need to have contact with all sides of those involved in a particular issue, which in this case includes NATO forces, the Afghanistan government as well as the Taliban," the Doha, Qatar-based news organization said. "These contacts should not be seen as a criminal offense, but rather as a necessary component of the work that journalists undertake."
3) Woodward excerpts: Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan
Bob Woodward, Washington Post, Monday, September 27, 2010; 12:34 AM
[The first of three articles adapted from "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward.]
President Obama was on edge. For two exhausting months, he had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were "really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted."
He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end. When his national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009, for its eighth strategy review session, the president erupted.
"So what's my option? You have given me one option," Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command. "We were going to meet here today to talk about three options," Obama said sternly. "You agreed to go back and work those up."
Mullen protested. "I think what we've tried to do here is present a range of options."
Obama begged to differ. Two weren't even close to feasible, they all had acknowledged; the other two were variations on the 40,000. Silence descended on the room. Finally, Mullen said, "Well, yes, sir."
At critical points in the review, the ghosts of Vietnam hovered. Some participants openly worried that they were on the verge of replaying that history, allowing the military to dictate the force levels. While Obama sought to build an exit plan into the strategy, the military leadership stuck to its open-ended proposal, which the Office of Management and Budget estimated would cost $889 billion over a decade. Obama brought the OMB memo to one meeting and said the expense was "not in the national interest."
Experienced Obama watchers could see from the back benches of the Situation Room that the president was becoming impatient. He waved a green-colored graph from the military labeled "Alternative Mission in Afghanistan" as if it were a piece of damning evidence in a courtroom.
The graph showed the projected deployments of 40,000 like a slow-rising mountain. The line peaked at about 108,000 troops in late 2010 and then gently slid back down to the then-current level of 68,000 in 2016.
"Six years out from now, we're just back to where we are now?" said Obama in mild disgust. "I'm not going to sign on for that."
Ben Rhodes, the president's foreign policy speechwriter, passed a note to a National Security Council colleague: More troops in Afghanistan in 2016 than when he took office!
The timeline from deployment to drawdown was too long. "Actually," Obama continued, "in 18 to 24 months, we need to think about how we can begin thinning out our presence and reducing our troops."
He later told his staff, "I'm not going to leave this to my successor." The military's plan "compromises our ability to do anything else. We have things we want to do domestically. We have things we want to do internationally."
Obama turned to Gates. "You have essentially given me one option," he said. "It's unacceptable."
Three days later, Mullen and the Joint Chiefs produced a new version of its "Alternative Mission in Afghanistan" graph. The revised chart showed a faster drawdown beginning in 2012, when Obama would be running for reelection. The then-current level of 68,000 would be reached by spring of 2013. Then the shift to an "advise/assist" mission would begin.
The new timetable relied on four "key assumptions," none of which the strategy review had suggested was likely. The assumptions were that Taliban insurgents would be "degraded" enough to be "manageable" by the Afghans; that the Afghan national army and police would be able to secure the U.S. gains; that the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan would be "eliminated or severely degraded"; and that the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai could stabilize the country.
The chart projected about 30,000 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan through 2015.
4) Abbas delays decision on talks
Palestinian president holds back from quitting talks with Israel as Netanyahu allows construction freeze to end.
Al Jazeera, 27 Sep 2010 15:06 GMT
Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement construction has ended despite international pressure to extend it, sparking fears for the future of Middle East talks.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, held back on Monday from quitting the process, saying instead that he would first consult with other regional leaders about how to respond.
"We will not have any quick reactions," he said and added that he would weigh his options with the 22-member Arab league next week. "After this chain of meetings, we might publish a position that clears up the position of the Palestinian and Arab people after Israel has refused to freeze settlements."
Abbas made his comments after talks with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, who reiterated a call for new buildings in the occupied West Bank to stop. "We regret that the unanimous calls for the moratorium on Israeli settlement building to be extended were not listened to. I deplore this," he said after the meeting in Paris, the French capital.
However Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, called on Abbas to uphold his promise and quit the talks. "I call on my brothers at the Palestinian Authority, who had stated they would not pursue talks with the enemy [Israel] if it continued settlement construction, to hold to their promise," he said on Monday.
5) Pakistan furious over Nato cross-border Taliban raids
Nato claims it acted in self-defence after US helicopters crossed 'very briefly' from Afghanistan to attack Taliban fighters
Saeed Shah and Aunohita Mojumdar, Guardian, Monday 27 September 2010 17.54 BST
Islamabad/ Kabul - Pakistan reacted angrily today after Nato said US helicopters had crossed into its territory from Afghanistan to attack militants, claiming to have killed more than 50 Taliban fighters.
The admission that two incursions had taken place over the weekend by helicopters from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), and possibly a further cross-border raid today, came after recent reports of a covert CIA military force in Afghanistan that crosses into Pakistan to kill Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned the incursions as a "clear violation and breach of the UN mandate under which Isaf operates", saying it had made a formal protest to Nato. "In the absence of immediate corrective measures, Pakistan will be constrained to consider response options," said Abdul Basit, the foreign ministry spokesman.
"This should be considered a watershed event," said Mehmood Shah, an analyst who was the top security official for the tribal area. "They [Nato] must be warned: the next time you do this, it can lead to war. Our units should be deployed to fire upon them. This border has sanctity. Nato must realise they have a mandate to operate in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan."
6) Attorney: Feds trying to quiet anti-war activists
Sophia Tareen, Associated Press, Sunday, September 26, 2010; 8:17 PM
Chicago - FBI agents in Chicago took a laptop and documents from the home of a Palestinian-American anti-war activist in an attempt to silence his advocacy, an attorney said Sunday.
The FBI on Friday searched eight addresses in Minneapolis and Chicago, including the home of Hatem Abudayyeh, who is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, attorney Jim Fennerty told The Associated Press. "The government's trying to quiet activists," Fennerty said. "This case is really scary."
More than half a dozen agents went to Abudayyeh's home on Friday and took any documents containing the word "Palestine," Fennerty said.
Abudayyeh, a U.S. citizen whose parent immigrated from Palestine, wasn't home at the time of the raid because he was at a hospital with his mother who is battling liver cancer, Fennerty said.
Abudayyeh's parents immigrated to Chicago in the 1970s and were instrumental in founding a community center that later led to the Arab American Action Network. Abudayyeh joined the group in 1999 and became executive director in 2003.
The nonprofit group advocates for Arabs and new immigrants. Recently, its focus has been to combat anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Abudayyeh has not traveled to Palestine in years, Fennerty said, but he cares about the region and has close cultural ties; his wife is a Palestinian immigrant. In fact, their courtship and marriage was the focus of a PBS "New Americans" documentary several years ago.
In Chicago, anti-war activists Joe Iosbaker and his wife, Stephanie Weiner, said the government targeted them because they've been outspoken against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. funding of conflicts abroad. They denied any wrongdoing.
The homes of longtime Minneapolis anti-war activists Mick Kelly, Jess Sundin and Meredith Aby were also searched.
Several activists said they thought the searches amounted to "fishing expeditions" in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision.
In June, the Court rejected a free-speech challenge to the law from humanitarian aid groups that said some provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities. The federal law cited in the search warrants prohibits "providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations."
7) Widespread Fraud Seen in Latest Afghan Elections
Alissa J. Rubin and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, September 24, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Evidence is mounting that fraud in last weekend's parliamentary election was so widespread that it could affect the results in a third of provinces, calling into question the credibility of a vote that was an important test of the American and Afghan effort to build a stable and legitimate government.
The complaints to provincial election commissions have so far included video clips showing ballot stuffing; the strong-arming of election officials by candidates' agents; and even the handcuffing and detention of election workers.
In some places, election officials themselves are alleged to have carried out the fraud; in others, government employees did, witnesses said. One video showed election officials and a candidate's representatives haggling over the price of votes.
Many of the complaints have come from candidates and election officials, but were supported by Afghan and international election observers and diplomats. The fraud appeared to cut both for and against the government of President Hamid Karzai, much of it benefiting sometimes unsavory local power brokers.
American and international diplomats kept their distance from the tide of candidate complaints this week, and NATO and American Embassy officials said little other than that the election was an Afghan process and that it was the Afghans who were responsible for its outcome.
But a less than credible parliamentary election, following last year's tarnished presidential vote, would place international forces in the increasingly awkward position of defending a government of waning legitimacy, and diplomats acknowledged that it could undermine efforts to persuade countries to maintain their financing and troop levels.
8) West Bank settlements can now be tracked on your iPhone
Peace Now releases 'Facts on the Ground' application in which the settlements are marked in blue, the outposts in red, and clicking on a place name displays demographic statistics.
Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz, 16:35 20.09.10
Download the iPhone ap:
Want to know what's happening in the West Bank settlements in real time? In addition to 'Sudoku' and 'Street Fighter,' iPhone owners will now be able to install the "Facts on the Ground" application, which monitors the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria, created by Americans for Peace Now.
"This new app shows the unfiltered realities that settlements create on the ground of the West Bank. While people are entitled to their opinions on this divisive issue, there is only one set of facts, and our app makes these facts available in unprecedented clarity and detail," said Debra DeLee, APN's President and CEO.
Settlements are symbolized by little blue houses on the map. Clicking once on the icon gives its land area. A second click brings up a window with more details: the year it was established, population, ideology (or lack of), character (secular or religious), amount of 'private Palestinian land' it occupies, and a graph that tracks its population growth.
iPhone users can also zoom in on outposts marked in red. The map includes the route of the Green Line, Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, and the various zones under different security arrangements, Area A and Area B.
"One of the things that make this tool so powerful is that it democratizes data," DeLee said. "In the past, not many were able to tour the settlements with an expert guide. With the introduction of our app, anyone can explore the West Bank with just a click of a mouse or a touch of a finger."
APN intends to update the map regularly with new information, including the establishment of outposts and their dismantlement, and violent incidents on the part of Palestinians and settlers. Their intention is to turn the app into a "comprehensive real-time view of what is happening on the ground in the West Bank."
9) Arab move to censure Israel stymied at UN meeting
George Jahn, Associated Press, Friday, September 24, 2010; 4:19 PM
Vienna - A 151-nation meeting of the U.N. nuclear agency narrowly defeated an Arab push Friday to censure Israel for shielding its nuclear programs from inspection in a closely watched result that the U.S. said was a positive signal for ongoing Mideast peace talks.
Of the nations present, 51 voted against a resolution called "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities." Forty six voted for, 23 abstained and the rest were absent.
The resolution expressed "concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities," while urging the Jewish state to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to open its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspection.
Most industrialized countries and their allies voted against the measure, while developing countries backed the Arab-sponsored resolution.
10) Activists expect Israel to stop Gaza-bound boat
Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, Monday, September 27, 2010
Jerusalem - A small boat carrying Jewish activists is on course to arrive in the blockaded Gaza Strip late Tuesday morning, though they consider it likely the Israeli navy will stop them, an activist on board told The Associated Press Monday.
The Irene set sail from Cyprus on Sunday, carrying nine Jewish activists from Israel and other countries. They said they are trying to draw attention to Israel's blockade of Gaza and will not resist if they are stopped.
Organizers have said they expect the Israeli navy to overtake the boat as it gets closer to Gaza, possibly as early at Monday evening.
11) Colombian senator ousted for links to FARC
Corboda was disqualified from serving in Congress for 18 years
She has helped free many hostages held by the FARC
CNN, September 27, 2010
CNN - Colombia's attorney general removed and disqualified Sen. Piedad Cordoba from the Congress for 18 years for having "promoted and collaborated" with the FARC guerrillas, the attorney general's office said in a statement. Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado made the announcement Monday.
Cordoba is a controversial political figure in Colombia.
She heads Colombians for Peace, a group trying to end to the decades-old war between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
Cordoba has had a hand in freeing prisoners held by the FARC, including two soldiers released in March, one of them who was a captive of the rebels for 12 years.
Cordoba has had a hand in the release of at least 19 hostages.
While Cordoba lost her senatorial post, she was not charged with treason, the attorney general pointed out.
12) Chavez allies see congressional majority cut back
Christopher Toothaker, AP, September 27, 2010
Caracas, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez's allies held on to control of Venezuela's congress in election results released Monday, but his opponents made major gains that trimmed the firebrand leader's power - an achievement that sent him a warning with two years to go before the next presidential vote.
Both sides claimed the results were a victory, but Chavez lost the two-thirds majority that has allowed his allies to ignore the opposition while giving the president decree powers, rewriting fundamental laws and appointing key officials such as Supreme Court justices.
With the vast majority of votes from Sunday's election counted, Chavez's socialist party won at least 96 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition coalition won at least 61 seats, National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said. Chavez's party had held an overwhelming majority in the outgoing congress because the opposition boycotted the past election.
The remaining eight seats Sunday went either to a small splinter party or had not yet been determined, she said.
"There's going to be some paralysis in the assembly because many decisions require a two-thirds majority. It's going to put some brakes on Chavez's project," said Gregory Wilpert, author of the book "Changing Venezuela By Taking Power."
"For the opposition it's a mixed bag, but it's a step forward in the sense that they've committed themselves to playing the democratic game," Wilpert added, noting that Chavez opponents attempted - and failed - to oust Chavez through a 2002 coup.
Miguel Tinker Salas, a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California, said the outcome could prompt Chavez to concentrate on resolving pressing domestic problems, which include rampant violent crime, a lingering economic recession and Latin America's highest rate of inflation. "It might force him to be more pragmatic and increasingly more focused on internal matters, especially now that he's got his eye looking toward 2012," when he faces re-election, Tinker Salas said.
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