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JFP 11/17: Republicans Demand Petraeus Testify on Afghan Review
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 17 November 2010 - 7:31pm
Just Foreign Policy News
November 17, 2010
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1) Mark Sedwill, NATO representative in Kabul, says the target of handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police by the end of 2014 might not be met, the Guardian reports. Many European countries that contribute troops see the 2014 plan as their ticket out of an unpopular war, but Sedwill warned that success was not guaranteed and the 2014 date was merely an "inflection point" in a campaign that would continue for a long time, the Guardian says. Afghan army and police forces are expected to cost $6 billion a year to maintain - half of Afghanistan's current GDP and more than the US gives to Israel and Egypt, the Guardian notes [according to one way of counting the latter - JFP.]
2) House Republicans are demanding that Gen. Petraeus testify about the Administration's review of Afghanistan policy, the Politico reports. The administration's pushback on bringing Petraeus back to Washington is part of an administration effort to down play the December review, Politico says. "There's no success reportable from Afghanistan of sufficient gravitas or importance to warrant making a big deal of this review," said one administration source.
3) The White House promised to give the Afghan government greater control over Special Operations missions in the wake of President Karzai's recent criticism, the Wall Street Journal reports. It is unlikely that the U.S. will completely abandon unilateral Special Operations missions in Afghanistan, the Journal says. U.S. officials have rejected calls to halt the raids.
4) Canada confirmed Tuesday that its military would end its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2011, the New York Times reports. 152 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Public opinion polls indicate little support among Canadians for continued fighting in Afghanistan, the Times says.
5) Sweden's ambassador to Haiti claimed Wednesday as "proved" that Haiti's cholera outbreak originated in Nepal, DPA reports. The Nepalese Army on Tuesday rejected charges that its peacekeepers were responsible for the epidemic.
6) A British government decision to settle a lawsuit by former Guantánamo detainees who claimed they were tortured is bringing renewed attention to Obama administration policies, the Miami Herald reports. The settlements triggered calls from the ACLU for the Obama administration to stop invoking the state secrets privilege to keep details of what happened to detainees from being aired in US courts. Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, said it was "deeply troubling" in the face of the British settlements that "here in the United States the Obama administration continues to shield the architects of the torture program from civil liability while Bush-era officials, including former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney, boast of their crimes on national television."
7) Breaking the Silence, a group of former Israeli soldiers, accuse the Israeli military of deliberately killing civilians, using Palestinians as human shields and looting homes in the West Bank, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to testimony and photographs released by the group, soldiers routinely humiliate Palestinians, raid civilian homes as a form of harassment and violate international laws regarding occupied territory.
8) Sectarian violence targeting Christians is spreading from Baghdad to the north, CNN reports. Many Christian families in Iraq said they feared for their safety and wanted to leave the country, but didn't have the means to do so.
9) Appeals from Haitian leaders and foreign epidemiologists for an official investigation of the origin of the cholera outbreak in Haiti have been ignored, the Guardian reports. The controversy has shone a new light on the continued presence of UN troops in Haiti, the Guardian says. Many Haitians have long criticized the troops as a cumbersome occupation force that squanders $500m better spent on building up ramshackle local police and courts. "Speaking in a personal capacity, I don't know why we have them," said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based NGO Christian Aid. Most of the population believed the cholera came from the Nepalese and that the UN will do its best to hide it, he said.
10) A group of British members of parliament on Tuesday called on Colombia to free "political prisoners," according to Colombia Reports. The group spoke about trade unionists Rosalba Gaviria and Lilany Obando, human rights defenders David Ravelo and Carmelo Agamez, and university professor Dr Miguel Angel Beltran. More than 1,000 British academics have signed an open letter to President Santos demanding the release of Beltran, who has been imprisoned apparently without being convicted of any crime since May 2009. Colombia has more than 5,000 "political" prisoners according to Justice for Colombia, many of whom have been imprisoned for "rebellion."
1) Afghanistan could face 'eye-watering violence' after troops leave
Nato representative in Kabul says 2014 deadline for ending combat role might not be met
Jon Boone, Guardian, Wednesday 17 November 2010 11.55 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/17/afghanistan-violence-troops-leave
Kabul - Afghanistan could experience "eye-watering" levels of violence after foreign combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan in four years' time, the Nato representative in Kabul warned today.
Mark Sedwill, the civilian counterpart to US commander General David Petraeus, also said that the target of handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police by the end of 2014 might not be met.
The alliance's plan for the "transition" of responsibilities from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the still embryonic Afghan army and police will be high on the agenda at this week's Nato summit in Lisbon.
Many European countries that contribute troops see the plan as their ticket out of an unpopular war, but Sedwill warned that success was not guaranteed and the 2014 date was merely an "inflection point" in a campaign that would continue for a long time. In some areas of the country transition could run "to 2015 and beyond" he said.
Although the alliance hopes that foreign-led counterinsurgency operations will come to an end, troops would still be required to train and support the Afghan security forces and maintain "a strategic over watch" position, he said.
He conceded that a "residual insurgency" was likely to continue in many parts of the country. "There would still be a certain level of violence and probably levels of violence that by western standards will be pretty eye-watering," he said.
In such a scenario special forces units would be required to remain and fight, he said, in addition to the logistical support, training and equipment provided for Afghan units.
Sedwill said that with so many uncertainties, Nato's 2014 deadline was "realistic but not guaranteed".
The attempt to create an army and police up to the job of taking over requires vast sums of money. Even after they have been built up to strength, officials say they will cost around $6bn a year to run - about half of Afghanistan's current GDP and more than the US gives to both Israel and Egypt. Sedwill said the IMF had calculated that Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security forces until 2023.
2) House Republicans want David Petraeus to testify
Gordon Lubold, Politico, November 17, 2010 04:29 AM EST
House Republicans are about to open up a new front on the war in Afghanistan. The newly empowered GOP is preparing to flex its muscle and demand that Gen. David Petraeus fly to Washington to provide his assessment in person of progress in the Afghan war.
GOP lawmakers believe the only way to get the ground truth about the war is to get the commander in a seat in the hearing room. They complain Congress has conducted little oversight since President Barack Obama announced his new Afghan strategy nearly one year ago.
They will encounter stiff resistance from a White House unlikely to want to create the kind of spectacle that Petraeus did in September 2007 when he testified on Iraq. That won't stop GOP leaders from trying to get Petraeus back.
Next month, the National Security Council is scheduled to complete a much-anticipated review of the strategy in Afghanistan. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), in line to chair the House Armed Services Committee, says Petraeus should appear on the Hill soon thereafter. "During the December review, the American people deserve to hear from the new commander on the ground," McKeon told an audience Monday at a conference hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the general is unlikely to appear. "We understand the Congress's interest in hearing from Gen. Petraeus and as of now there are no plans to bring him to Washington to testify," Morrell told Politico. "The secretary believes he is most needed right now in Kabul, focusing on the war."
Republicans have wanted more clarity from the administration on everything from the July 2011 deadline to begin drawing down the force to the number of troops Petraeus can use for the mission.
The pushback on bringing Petraeus back to Washington is part of an administration effort to down play the December review, sources told Politico. While officials point to initial signs of progress, the "surge" of forces just arrived there and officials believe next summer will be a far more logical inflection point to assess the strategy. "There's no success reportable from Afghanistan of sufficient gravitas or importance to warrant making a big deal of this review," said one administration source.
But the official acknowledged Petraeus would likely have to make an appearance. "Petraeus will have to come back, and for him not to come back will raise flags," the source said.
3) Kabul Is Offered Wider Role in U.S. Missions
Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2010
Washington - The White House sought to ease tensions with Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, promising to gradually give Afghans greater control over Special Operations missions that the Afghan president has sharply criticized.
Washington hopes to smooth over differences with Mr. Karzai and present a united front at a NATO conference this weekend in Lisbon, where coalition leaders are expected to endorse a plan that sets the goal of handing over security control to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
In recent months, Special Operations raids have assumed a higher profile, with U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization military officials in Afghanistan touting the number of insurgent leaders who have been killed or captured, and saying the missions are a critical part of the war strategy. But the raids, mostly at night, have long been a sore point with Mr. Karzai because of concerns about civilian casualties.
The Afghan leader, in an interview with the Washington Post this past weekend, called for an end to raids by Special Operations forces, spotlighting tensions between the U.S. and Afghanistan on how to conduct the war.
U.S. officials have rejected calls to halt the raids. But in a news briefing Tuesday, administration officials sought to play down the rift with the Afghan government as temporary. "As Afghan special forces capacity increases, we'd expect to transition from what is today a predominantly international special operations forces role to one that's increasingly Afghan," White House Afghanistan adviser Douglas Lute told reporters.
It is unlikely, however, that the U.S. will completely abandon unilateral Special Operations missions in Afghanistan.
4) Canada To End Combat Role In Afghanistan At End Of 2011
Ian Austen, New York Times, November 16, 2010
Ottawa - The government of Canada confirmed Tuesday that its military would end its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2011.
The United States had asked Canada to continue the military effort in Afghanistan with other members of NATO, but Parliament had already set the timetable for withdrawing combat troops. Some soldiers will remain in the country after next year, training Afghan security forces.
The war in Afghanistan is the first since the conflict in Korea in which Canadian soldiers have died in significant numbers. To date, 152 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, with most occurring after the Canadian military's efforts were shifted to the southern province of Kandahar in 2006.
Public opinion polls indicate little support among Canadians for continued fighting in Afghanistan.
Under the new plan, the current deployment of about 2,700 troops will be cut by about two-thirds by the end of next year. The 950 remaining soldiers will be withdrawn from Kandahar and train Afghan troops and police officers until 2014 on military bases near Kabul and possibly elsewhere. The remaining troops will also support Canadian aid and reconstruction efforts.
"This will not be a combat mission," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons. "It will occur in classrooms, behind the wire and in bases."
The government had been largely silent for months about its plans for Afghanistan, and the announcement on Tuesday came days before a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon.
5) Swedish diplomat says Haiti cholera strain came from Nepal
DPA, Nov 17, 2010, 18:56 GMT
Stockholm - A Swedish diplomat claimed Wednesday that Haiti's cholera outbreak originated in Nepal. 'Unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that the cholera came from Nepal,' Claes Hammar, Sweden's ambassador to Haiti, told daily Svenska Dagbladet.
Hammar, who visited Haiti two weeks ago, said the information came from 'a diplomatic source. It is 100 per cent true. Tests were made and the source was traced to Nepal.' On November 1, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said the cholera strain linked to the outbreak is 'most similar' to cholera strains found in South Asia. However, it cautioned that more work was needed to determine the origin of the cholera strain in Haiti.
The Nepalese Army on Tuesday refuted charges that its peacekeepers were responsible for the epidemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives, a day after protests in Cap Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city.
'The UN has already issued a press release saying the Nepalese forces were not responsible for the cholera outbreak after conducting a series of tests,' Nepalese Army spokesman Ramindra Chettri said in Kathmandu.
6) Amid Torture Suit, Calls For U.S. To Come Clean
Carol Rosenberg and Margaret Talev, Miami Herald, Wednesday, 11.17.10
Washington - A British government decision to settle a lawsuit by former Guantánamo detainees who claimed they were tortured after they were turned over to U.S. authorities is bringing renewed attention to Obama administration detention policies.
Britain announced Tuesday that it will pay as many as 16 former Guantánamo detainees millions of dollars to settle claims that its government was complicit in their abuse at the hands of U.S. officials. Details of the settlements have not been publicly disclosed.
The settlements triggered calls from the American Civil Liberties Union for the Obama administration to stop invoking the state secrets privilege to keep details of what happened to detainees from being aired in American courts.
Human-rights activists also oppose President Barack Obama's stance of not pursing prosecution against Bush-era officials who crafted interrogation policy, including practices such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, that critics say violated international law.
The practices have drawn new attention as former President George W. Bush promotes his new book in which he boasts that such harsh interrogations saved lives by producing valuable information about terrorist plots.
Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, said Tuesday that it was "deeply troubling" in the face of the British settlements that "here in the United States the Obama administration continues to shield the architects of the torture program from civil liability while Bush-era officials, including former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney, boast of their crimes on national television."
"If other democracies can compensate survivors and hold officials accountable for their endorsement of torture, surely we can do the same," he said.
7) Former Israeli soldier seeks to shine a light on Hebron
Yehuda Shaul of the group Breaking the Silence opposes the military's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank city.
Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2010
Hebron, West Bank - Prepare to be pelted with eggs, the tour guide warns. Or maybe it will be rocks, bricks or spit wads.
The projectiles, guide Yehuda Shaul says, are courtesy of angry Jewish settlers opposed to his group, Breaking the Silence, which brings outsiders to the hotly disputed West Bank city of Hebron every week as part of an effort to expose what it considers military misconduct toward Palestinians.
From the moment the former Israeli soldier-turned-military-whistle-blower arrives, Shaul's movements are tracked. Sometimes soldiers discreetly whisper "Yehuda" into shoulder-mounted radios as he passes; other times they shout his arrival like a town crier: "Breaking the Silence guy!"
This time it's a 12-year-old Orthodox boy, with cherub cheeks and sprouting side locks, who spots Shaul and raises the neighborhood alarm. "Trash!" the boy screams, running up to Shaul, pointing and attempting a sort of menacing, in-your-face stance that a little kid can't really pull off against a burly, 6-foot-1 activist. "Traitor! Trash! You will be forgotten!"
Shaul, who served two tours in Hebron during the 2001-03 Palestinian uprising, fixes a smile on his face, ignores the boy and picks up his pace.
His 6-year-old group is made up of former soldiers who once helped Israel manage the occupation and now accuse the military of deliberately killing civilians, using Palestinians as human shields and looting homes in the West Bank.
Today about 800 Jews live around the city's old quarter, protected by nearly as many soldiers. An additional 7,000 settlers live in Kiryat Arba adjacent to the city. More than 150,000 Palestinians live in Hebron, including thousands in Israeli-controlled sectors.
"This is what they call a sterilized road," Shaul says. That means Palestinians are prohibited from using it, even if they live on it. To keep a security buffer, the military has welded shut metal front doors of Palestinian homes and businesses, leaving a row of abandoned shops in what was once a bustling marketplace.
Most businesses left or closed because of a lack of customers. Those who remain have to leave their homes over the rooftops, use backdoors or cut holes in the interior walls of adjacent empty buildings behind them. "Every year they take another corner," Shaul says.
He disagrees with what has happened to Palestinians here, he says. But at the same time, as a former soldier who spent months in Hebron as a grenade machine-gun operator, Shaul recalls the violence against Jews that triggered the crackdown. Over there, he motions, a 10-month-old was shot by a sniper. There were regular stabbings and shootings. Soldiers were killed almost weekly.
The problem, according to Shaul, is that Israel's occupation of Hebron goes beyond what is needed for security. According to testimony and photographs released by his group, soldiers routinely humiliate Palestinians, raid civilian homes as a form of harassment and violate international laws regarding occupied territory. The military rejects the group's allegations.
8) Christian man, daughter killed in bombing in Iraq
CNN, November 16, 2010
Baghdad, Iraq - A bombing in northern Iraq killed a Christian man and his 6-year-old daughter Tuesday, the latest in a series of strikes targeting the country's dwindling Christian population.
The incident occurred in Mosul, a multi-ethnic city in Nineveh province - long the home of significant Christian enclaves. A flurry of attacks in the north over the last 24 hours is a sign that the recent sectarian violence targeting Christians is spreading from Baghdad.
The man and his daughter were killed Tuesday afternoon when an explosive attached to a vehicle detonated, local police said. Monday night, attackers went into two homes occupied by Christian families in the Tahrir neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, killed the two male heads of the households, and then drove off, the interior ministry official said.
In central Mosul, at about the same time, a bomb detonated outside a Christian's home. No one was hurt in that blast, which damaged the home's exterior. Attacks in October 2008 on Christians in Mosul prompted a mass exodus from that city of 1.8 million people.
Many Christian families in Iraq who spoke to CNN said they feared for their safety and wanted to leave the country, but didn't have the means to do so. Christians have endured a spurt of attacks in Baghdad since October 31, when militants attacked the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, leaving 70 people dead and 75 wounded, including 51 congregants and two priests. The Islamic State of Iraq, a militant group, claimed responsibility.
9) Haitians turn on UN peacekeepers they blame for cholera outbreak
Rioters and troops clash amid claims from locals that Nepalese soldiers working for UN mission brought disease to country
Rory Carroll, Guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 November 2010 20.25 GMT
Port-au-Prince - The facts are thus: an exploding epidemic has killed more than 1,000, infected tens of thousands and spread anxiety through slums and tent cities. There had been no cholera here in living memory. The strain appears to be from south Asia. Soldiers from Nepal, which has cholera, moved into a base beside the Artibonite river in early October. The base has sanitation problems. A week later the river was contaminated and people in the area started vomiting and getting diarrhoea.
That does not add up to proof, and there are alternative explanations, but it seemed good enough yesterday for crowds in Hinche to assault Nepalese troops with bottles and rocks, wounding six. In Cap-Haitien, the country's second city, a police sub-station was torched, roads were blocked and shots were fired at the UN.
The UN dispatched Spanish soldiers to Cap-Haitien but today it remained cut off, with burning barricades across roads and metal barriers welded to the bridge leading to the airport.
Officials have denied the Nepalese brought cholera and said they all tested negative. Appeals from Haitian leaders and foreign epidemiologists for an official investigation, however, have been ignored.
The controversy has shone a new light on what has been regarded internationally as a successful Brazilian-led mission. Despite extreme poverty and destruction Haiti remains relatively peaceful.
Many Haitians, however, have long criticised the outsiders as a cumbersome occupation force that squanders $500m better spent on building up ramshackle local police and courts.
"Speaking in a personal capacity, I don't know why we have them," said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based NGO Christian Aid. "Yes, we have some gangs but we don't have a war or insurgents."
Most of the population believed the cholera came from the Nepalese and that the UN will do its best to hide it, he said. "If it is confirmed to be from them this will be damaging for the UN and their peacekeeping all over the world."
10) British MPs call on Colombia to free 'political prisoners'
Linda Azodi, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 17 November 2010 08:40
A group of British members of parliament on Tuesday called on Colombia to free "political prisoners."
The parliamentarians posed for photographs holding images of prisoners they claim have been unfairly imprisoned. The group spoke about trade unionists Rosalba Gaviria and Lilany Obando, human rights defenders David Ravelo and Carmelo Agamez, and university professor Dr Miguel Angel Beltran.
"These people are innocent men and women who have been imprisoned simply because they disagree with the Government or criticise Government policies. The Colombian authorities have to understand that jailing people in order to silence their opinions is completely unacceptable," said Jim McGovern MP, in an official press release.
"So long as the regime in Bogota continues to jail trade unionists, human rights activists and other civil society leaders, the UK should not have normal relations with Colombia. President Santos must understand that the international community will not stand by in silence whilst his Government treats opponents in this way," stated Jim Sheridan MP, another parliamentarian who participated in the action.
In the first week of November more than 1,000 British academics signed an open letter to President Santos demanding the release of Beltran, who has been imprisoned apparently without being convicted of any crime since May 2009.
Colombia has more than 5,000 "political" prisoners according to NGO Justice for Colombia, many of whom have been imprisoned for "rebellion."
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