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JFP 12/20: Biden: '11 drawdown won't be "token"; out in '14 "hell or high water"
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 December 2010 - 7:44pm
Just Foreign Policy News
December 20, 2010
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Reporters Without Borders: WikiLeaks is Protected by First Amendment
"Prosecuting WikiLeaks' founders and other people linked to the website would seriously damage media freedom in the US and impede the work of journalists who cover sensitive subjects. It would also weaken the US and the international community efforts at protecting human rights, providing governments with poor press freedom records a ready-made excuse to justify censorship and retributive judicial campaigns against civil society and the media. We believe the US credibility as a leading proponent of freedom of expression is at stake, and that any arbitrary prosecution of WikiLeaks for receiving and publishing sensitive documents would inevitably create a dangerous precedent."
Afghanistan experts call for peace deal and exit strategy
Afghanistan experts with decades of experience in the country call on President Obama to change course and push for a peace settlement and exit strategy. Signers include: Scott Atran, Michael Cohen, Gilles Dorronsoro, Bernard Finel, Joshua Foust, Anatol Lieven, Ahmed Rashid, and Alex Strick van Linschoten.
Rap News 6 - Wikileaks' Cablegate: the truth is out there
Latest installment from Robert Foster.
1) Vice President Biden promised Sunday that the US will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, "come hell or high water," the Huffington Post reports. "We're starting it in July 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014," Biden told Meet the Press. He also said the 2001 drawdown "will not be a token amount."
2) Michael Moore says US diplomats made up a story that Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, in an attempt to discredit the film, the Guardian reports. A US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks claimed Cuba banned the film because it painted such a "mythically" favorable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash".
[The Guardian originally reported the cable as fact; as of this morning, the original Guardian story had been removed from the Guardian's website, although one could still find it in the internet cache - JFP.]
[This episode illustrates several important things: 1) not every assertion by U.S. government officials in the WikiLeaks cables is true; 2) according to the claim that WikiLeaks isn't "journalism" because "journalism" evaluates claims and facts and places them in context, the original Guardian story wasn't "journalism"; 3) the Guardian seems to have a hard time acknowledging error, since it simply disappeared the bogus article, rather than correcting it; 4) an important piece of the scandal of U.S. foreign policy as revealed by the WikiLeaks cables consists of cables which are false, such as cases where US diplomats were sending garbage to Washington and calling them "reports"- JFP]
3) Commentators in elite U.S. media have concluded that the WikiLeaks cables reveal that the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy in a largely admirable fashion, notes Fairness and Accuracy in reporting, citing many examples from elite media. FAIR then lists many examples from the cables that show the opposite, including: attempting to block accountability for US torture; attempting to block the investigation of the US killing of a journalist; lying about US airstrikes in Yemen; lying about the coup in Honduras.
4) Leaked cables show California Republican Dana Rohrabacher undermined U.S. policy in Honduras by telling the Lobo government to ignore US demands for a "truth commission" to investigate Zelaya's removal, the New York Times reports. Rohrabacher told officials of the Lobo government he was an "emissary" of friends of the Lobo government in the US Congress, in particular, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, now set to become its chair.
The same NYT story reports that Senator Richard Lugar and his staff have intervened with nations including Turkey and Norway to defend Eli Lilly, whose employees are major contributors to Lugar's political campaigns, against plans to introduce generic versions of some of its most profitable drugs.
5) Bradley Manning spends 23 hours a day alone in a cell, with a sink, a toilet, and a bed, according to his attorney, the Daily Beast reports. His attorney says the extended isolation - now more than seven months - is weighing on his client's psyche.
6) Even the carefully written five-page public summary of the Administration's Afghanistan review isn't as reassuring as some of the headlines it earned, writes Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. Claimed progress in Afghanistan is "fragile and reversible"; claimed progress in Pakistan hasn't removed "safe havens" for Al Qaeda or the Afghan Taliban. And the public version of the report barely mentioned some of the most daunting problems facing the U.S. in Afghanistan. It did not make much of a case that Pakistan, focused on its own problems, is likely to commit more troops and take more risks to help the U.S.
7) MSNBC host Joe Scarborough says US envoy Richard Holbrooke admitted privately that the Afghanistan war was a losing proposition, the Huffington Post reports.
8) Human Rights Watch, in a new report titled "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," says Israeli policies in the West Bank harshly discriminate against Palestinian residents. "Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits," said Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch.
9) The US military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among civilians. The unprecedented home demolition policy and other harsh tactics used in the offensive suggest that Gen. Petraeus has abandoned the pretense that he will ever win over the population in those Taliban strongholds, Porter writes. The district governor in Arghandab acknowledged that entire villages had been destroyed. He referred to "Khosrow" as one of the villages he said the Americans "had to destroy to make them safe."
10) The CIA has pulled its station chief from Pakistan after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt, the Guardian reports. The CIA cited "security threats" in calling station chief Jonathan Banks home. But the Pakistani lawyer for the journalist bringing suit for the death of his brother and son said the CIA pulled Banks to avoid prosecution.
11) Neoconservatives are pressing for a new approach to Iran that ramps up support for the Iranian opposition and revives the Bush-era goal of regime change, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Among the top priorities of the members of Congress, former Bush administration officials, and Iran experts touting an overtly anti-regime policy is removal of an exiled Iranian opposition group - the People's Mojahedin of Iran or the MEK (Mujahideen-e Khalq) - from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
1) Joe Biden: We'll Be Out Of Afghanistan By 2014, 'Come Hell Or High Water'
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, December 19, 2010
Washington - Vice President Biden promised Sunday that the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, "come hell or high water."
Last week, the Obama administration issued its strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, assuring the public that it is still on target to begin withdrawing U.S. troops in July 2011 and fully hand over security operations to Afghan forces by 2014. But many observers have raised concerns about what the pace of withdrawal will look like within that time frame.
But in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Vice President Biden said that the withdrawal that begins next year will be more than symbolic:
"It will not be a token amount, but the degree to which we draw down - if I can make an analogy to Iran, excuse me, to Iraq, which I've been put in charge of - What happened there? We signed three years ago an agreement with the Iraqis saying that what we're going to do is two summers ago we're going to draw all combat troops out of the cities, populated areas. Then we said that our administration, we're going to draw 100,000 troops out the next summer, and we're going to be totally out.
In the meantime, we'll help to build a government. We'll transfer responsibility and we'll be gone. That's exactly what we did at the recent Lisbon conference, NATO conference, where we said we're starting this process like we did in Iraq.
We're starting it in July 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014."
2) WikiLeaks cables: Michael Moore film Sicko was 'not banned' in Cuba
Film-maker says diplomats made up the story to discredit film that showed healthcare was worse in US than Cuba
David Batty, Guardian, Saturday 18 December 2010 15.26 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/18/wikileaks-us-diplomats-story-cuba-banned-sicko-film
American diplomats made up a story that Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, in an attempt to discredit the film which painted an unflattering picture of the US healthcare system, the film-maker said today.
A confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks claimed that Castro's government banned the Oscar-nominated film because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash".
But Moore said that far from being supressed by Havana, the film - which attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system - was shown on national television.
The film-maker said on his blog that the diplomatic cable, dated 31 January 2008, was "a stunning look at the Orwellian nature of how bureaucrats for the state spin their lies and try to recreate reality (I assume to placate their bosses and tell them what they want to hear)".
He added: "The entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of 'Sicko' were set up in towns all across the country."
3) What We Learn From WikiLeaks
Media paint flattering picture of U.S. diplomacy
In U.S. elite media, the main revelation of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables is that the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy in a largely admirable fashion.
[FAIR then lists many examples of this characterization in US media - JFP.]
These conclusions represent an extraordinarily narrow reading of the WikiLeaks cables, of which about 1,000 have been released (contrary to constant media claims that the website has already released 250,000 cables). Some of the more explosive revelations, unflattering to U.S. policymakers, have received less attention in U.S. corporate media. Among the revelations that, by any sensible reading, show U.S. diplomatic efforts of considerable concern:
-The U.S. attempted to prevent German authorities from acting on arrest warrants against 13 CIA officers who were instrumental in the abduction and subsequent torture of German citizen Khaled El-Masri (Scott Horton, Harpers.org, 11/29/10; New York Times, 12/9/10).
-The U.S. worked to obstruct Spanish government investigations into the killing of a Spanish journalist in Iraq by U.S. forces, the use of Spanish airfields for the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program and torture of Spanish detainees at Guantánamo (El Pais, 12/2/10; Scott Horton, Harpers.org, 12/1/10).
-WikiLeaks coverage has often emphasized that Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh reassured U.S. officials that he would claim U.S. military airstrikes in his country were the work of Yemeni forces. But as Justin Elliot pointed out (Salon, 12/7/10), the United States has long denied carrying out airstrikes in the country at all. The secret attacks have killed scores of civilians.
-According to the cables, U.S. Special Forces are actively conducting operations inside Pakistan, despite repeated government denials (Jeremy Scahill, Nation, 12/1/10).
-The U.S. ambassador to Honduras concluded that the 2009 removal of president Manuel Zelaya was indeed a coup, and that backers of this action provided no compelling evidence to support their legal claims (Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, 11/29/10). Despite the conclusions reached in the cable, official U.S. statements remained ambiguous. If the Obama administration had reached the same conclusion in public as was made in the cable, the outcome of the coup might have been very different.
-The U.S. secured a secret agreement with Britain to allow U.S. bases on British soil to stockpile cluster bombs, circumventing a treaty signed by Britain. The U.S. also discouraged other countries from working to ban the weapons, which have devastating effects on civilian populations (Guardian, 12/1/10).
-The U.S. engaged in an array of tactics to undermine opposition to U.S. climate change policies, including bribes and surveillance (Guardian, 12/3/10).
-U.S. diplomats in Georgia were uncritical of that country's claims about Russian interference, a dispute that eventually led to a brief war (New York Times, 12/2/10). U.S. officials "appeared to set aside skepticism and embrace Georgian versions of important and disputed events....as the region slipped toward war, sources outside the Georgian government were played down or not included in important cables. Official Georgian versions of events were passed to Washington largely unchallenged."
-U.S. officials put forward sketchy intelligence as proof that Iran had secured 19 long-range missiles from North Korea-claims that were treated as fact by the New York Times, which subsequently walked back its credulous reporting (FAIR Activism Update, 12/3/10)
All of these examples-an incomplete tally of the important revelations in the cables thus far-would suggest that there is plenty in the WikiLeaks releases that does not reflect particularly well on U.S. policymakers.
4) Private Links in Lawmaker's Trip Abroad
Eric Lipton, New York Times, December 19, 2010
Washington - When Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, visited Honduras early this year to congratulate the newly elected president, the congressman showed up with an unusual delegation.
There at his side was not just the typical collection of Washington foreign policy aides, but also a group of California real estate investors and businessmen, including a dealer in rare coins, and top executives from a fledgling San Diego biofuels company run by a friend of the congressman's wife.
Using his status as a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher cheered his hosts in Honduras by openly challenging the Obama administration's foreign policy agenda there, then arranged a series of meetings with top Honduran officials, including the president, during which the congressman "enthusiastically promoted" the biofuel company's plans to perhaps set up operations in Honduras, says a State Department summary of the meetings included in the files obtained by WikiLeaks.
The country was eager to accommodate the congressman - who said in an interview that his actions were entirely appropriate and reflected his activist approach to foreign policy - given that the previous Honduran president had been forced out of office and into exile, and the new government was angling for United States support.
Mr. Rohrabacher's three-day trip to Tegucigalpa and his advocacy for SG Biofuels, a small company run by a family friend, stood out from the dozens of written reports detailing summaries of official visits by members of Congress to foreign nations that were included in the vast trove of State Department documents obtained by the WikiLeaks group and reviewed by The New York Times.
These memos - written by State Department officials who often sit in on lawmakers' meetings with foreign leaders - show that Congressional trips are often much more than simply fact-finding missions. Members of Congress at times push their own foreign policy agendas, even if they conflict with those of the administration in office.
Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana and one of the Senate's most influential voices on foreign affairs, has repeatedly pushed leaders in Central Asia to consider working with international oil companies, like Chevron, to expand production capacity. He and his staff have also intervened with nations including Turkey and Norway to defend Eli Lilly & Company, an Indiana-based pharmaceutical company whose employees are major contributors to Mr. Lugar's own political campaigns, against plans to introduce generic versions of some of its most profitable drugs, the documents show.
Mr. Rohrabacher, challenging the stand taken by some Obama administration officials, ridiculed suggestions that Mr. Zelaya's removal was a coup d'état, and used his visit to Honduras to praise government leaders there who played roles in removing Mr. Zelaya, including members of the Supreme Court and the president of the Honduran Congress, Juan Orlando Hernández.
Just days before Mr. Rohrabacher's arrival, the Obama administration had pressed Honduras's new president, Porfirio Lobo, to name a "truth commission" to investigate Mr. Zelaya's removal, and implied that United States financial assistance to the poor Central American nation might hinge on such a move.
By tradition, members of Congress are not supposed to freelance foreign policy that goes against the sitting administration. But Mr. Rohrabacher, in meetings with members of the Honduran Supreme Court, told them that a truth commission was unnecessary and a waste of time.
According to the State Department cable, he said in Honduras that his views carried weight. He told the country's top elected officials that "he was an emissary of Honduras' friends in Congress, in particular member of Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen," referring to a congresswoman from Florida who is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is now set to become its chairwoman.
5) Bradley Manning's Life Behind Bars
Denver Nicks, Daily Beast, December 17, 2010
Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of secret government documents to Julian Assange's WikiLeaks, turns 23 in jail Friday. The Daily Beast's Denver Nicks, in an exclusive interview with Manning's attorney, reports on his solitary confinement, what he's reading (from George W. Bush to Howard Zinn), and his legal strategy.
The last time Bradley Manning saw the world outside of a jail, most Americans had never heard of WikiLeaks. On Friday, Manning, the man whose alleged unauthorized release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents put the website and its controversial leader, Julian Assange, on the map, turns 23 behind bars. Since his arrest in May, Manning has spent most of his 200-plus days in solitary confinement. Other than receiving a card and some books from his family, his birthday will be no different. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, his attorney, David Coombs, revealed key details about Manning's imprisonment and kind gestures from his family that provided a bit of comfort in the inmate's otherwise extremely harsh incarceration.
Manning is being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 hours a day alone in a standard-sized cell, with a sink, a toilet, and a bed. He isn't allowed sheets or a pillow, though First Lieutenant Brian Villiard, an officer at Quantico, said he is allowed bedding of "non-shreddable" material. "I've held it, I've felt it, it's soft, I'd sleep under it," he told The Daily Beast.
He isn't allowed to exercise (Quantico officials dispute this), but he has started stretching and practicing yoga.
For an hour every day, a television is wheeled in front of his cell and he's allowed to watch TV, including news, though usually local news, Coombs told The Daily Beast. He is allowed to read the news as well
The conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held would traumatize anyone (see Salon's Glenn Greenwald for a rundown of the legal and psychological issues associated with extended solitary confinement). He lives alone in a small cell, denied human contact. He is forced to wear shackles when outside of his cell, and when he meets with the few people allowed to visit him, they sit with a glass partition between them. The only person other than prison officials and a psychologist who has spoken to Manning face to face is his attorney, who says the extended isolation-now more than seven months of solitary confinement-is weighing on his client's psyche.
Manning's fate will be determined over the following months. What is clear today is that he's being held in extraordinarily harsh conditions-notably harsher than Bryan Minkyu Martin, the naval intelligence specialist who allegedly tried to sell military secrets to an undercover FBI agent, and is currently being held awaiting trial, though not in solitary confinement. Manning, who has been convicted of nothing, has spent the better part of a year incommunicado, living the life of a man convicted of a heinous crime. Coombs challenges the legality of what he says is "unlawful pretrial punishment." He is working to lift the POI restrictions placed on his client.
6) The war's real report card
On closer reading, even the five-page public summary of the administration's year-end review on Afghanistan isn't as reassuring as some of the headlines it earned.
Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2010
The Obama administration's year-end review of its strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, released last week, was intended to be cautiously reassuring: Yes, there are challenges, but military progress is being made. Overall, President Obama said, "We are on track to achieve our goals."
On closer reading, though, even the carefully written five-page public summary of the review isn't as reassuring as some of the headlines it earned. In Afghanistan, it says, the growth of the Taliban insurgency has been slowed, but that achievement is "fragile and reversible." In Pakistan, progress in the shadowy war against extremists has been "substantial," but not enough to deny either Al Qaeda or the Afghan Taliban the havens that shelter them from defeat; that will require much more military action than the Pakistanis have been willing to undertake so far.
And the report - at least the public version - barely mentioned some of the most daunting problems facing the U.S. in Afghanistan. "Emphasis must continue to be placed on the development of Afghan-led security and governance," it said. Translation: In many areas, there's still no functioning Afghan government or police force. The word "corruption" never appeared; the administration's rocky relationship with Afghanistan's mercurial president, Hamid Karzai, got no mention. Nor did it make much of a case that Pakistan, which is focused on its own problems, is likely to commit more troops and take more risks to help the U.S. and Afghanistan.
More important, the report's on-the-ground focus meant it also largely ignored three of the biggest factors shaping the future of the U.S. enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan: time, cost and the support of the American people.
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is already in its 10th year, even though (as administration officials often point out) it has only been waged at its current full strength of 140,000 American and allied troops for the last six months. Initially, U.S. military officials hoped to show quick successes on the ground that would provide what they call "proof of concept" in time for last week's report. That timetable, like every timetable in Afghanistan, has slipped; proof of concept is now on the agenda for a full review that is scheduled for July 2011.
Some military officers are already saying that even then they may need more time to show what they can do, and they are readying their arguments in favor of the slowest possible drawdown of troops.
The United States and NATO have embraced Karzai's target of turning over principal responsibility for the war to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, but that goal is only "aspirational," a Pentagon spokesman has said. (Moreover, he added, "It's the end of 2014, so effectively that's 2015.") And handing off to the Afghans won't mean a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops; officials have estimated that at least 35,000 would stay behind as advisors, even under a best-case scenario.
The longer the war continues, the more it costs in both lives and money. Because of stepped-up military operations, U.S. deaths in Afghanistan are on track to reach 500 this year, up from 317 last year. The financial cost is heavy too - more than $100 billion a year, money the cash-strapped U.S. government can ill-afford. In a report of its own last month, the Council on Foreign Relations - the heart of the traditional foreign policy establishment - warned: "We are mindful of the threat we face. But we are also aware of the costs of the present strategy. We cannot accept these costs unless the strategy begins to show signs of progress."
7) MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: Richard Holbrooke Told Me Afghanistan Was A Losing Proposition
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 12-20-10
Washington - Before his death, Richard Holbrooke admitted that Afghanistan is a war that cannot be won, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough revealed Monday.
"Afghanistan is so depressing to me because I've yet to talk to a foreign policy expert, including Richard Holbrooke - off the record - that didn't know this was a losing proposition," said Scarborough. "And it seems like the president is just buying time because he doesn't want the Republicans to call him weak on defense."
8) Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal
Under Discriminatory Policies, Settlers Flourish, Palestinians Suffer
Human Rights Watch, December 19, 2010
Jerusalem - Israeli policies in the West Bank harshly discriminate against Palestinian residents, depriving them of basic necessities while providing lavish amenities for Jewish settlements, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report identifies discriminatory practices that have no legitimate security or other justification and calls on Israel, in addition to abiding by its international legal obligation to withdraw the settlements, to end these violations of Palestinians' rights.
The 166-page report, "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," shows that Israel operates a two-tier system for the two populations of the West Bank in the large areas where it exercises exclusive control. The report is based on case studies comparing Israel's starkly different treatment of settlements and next-door Palestinian communities in these areas. It calls on the US and EU member states and on businesses with operations in settlement areas to avoid supporting Israeli settlement policies that are inherently discriminatory and that violate international law.
"Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits," said Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch. "While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp - not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes."
By making their communities virtually uninhabitable, Israel's discriminatory policies have frequently had the effect of forcing residents to leave their communities, Human Rights Watch said. According to a June 2009 survey of households in "Area C," the area covering 60 percent of the West Bank that is under exclusive Israeli control, and East Jerusalem, which Israel unilaterally annexed, some 31 percent of Palestinian residents had been displaced since 2000.
9) Gains in Kandahar Came with More Brutal U.S. Tactics
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Dec 17
Washington - The Barack Obama administration's claim of "progress" in its war strategy is based on the military seizure of three rural districts outside Kandahar City in October.
But those tactical gains have come at the price of further exacerbating the basic U.S. strategic weakness in Afghanistan - the antagonism toward the foreign presence shared throughout the Pashtun south.
The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive.
The unprecedented home demolition policy and other harsh tactics used in the offensive suggest that Gen. Petraeus has abandoned the pretense that he will ever win over the population in those Taliban strongholds.
The New York Times first reported the large-scale demolition of houses in a Nov. 16 story that said U.S. troops in Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwaii districts had been using armoured bulldozers, high explosives, missiles and airstrikes in "routinely destroying almost every unoccupied home or unused farm building in areas where they are operating".
Neither U.S. nor Afghan officials have offered any estimate of the actual number of homes destroyed, but a spokesman for the provincial governor told the Times that the number of houses demolished was "huge".
Confirming the widespread demolition policy, Col. Hans Bush, a spokesman for Petraeus, suggested that it was necessary to provide security, because so many houses were "booby- trapped" with explosives.
But Bush also acknowledged that U.S. troops were using a wide array of "tools" to eliminate tree lines in which insurgents could hide. And the demolition policy was clearly driven primarily by ISAF's concerns about the IED war that the Taliban has been winning in 2010.
The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran revealed in a Nov. 19 article that, in one operation in Zhari district, the military had used more than a dozen mine clearing charges, each of which destroyed everything - houses, trees, and crops - in a 100-yard-long path wide enough for a tank.
The district governor in Arghandab, Shah Muhammed Ahmadi, acknowledged that entire villages had been destroyed - a policy he defended by claiming that there were no people left in them. "[I]n some villages, like Khosrow," he said, "that we've found completely empty and full of IEDs, we destroy them without agreement, because it was hard to find the people, and not just Khosrow but many villages we had to destroy to make them safe."
But Col. David Flynn, the battalion commander of a unit of the 101st Airborne Division responsible for a section of the district, contradicted the claim that demolition was only carried out if the people who owned the houses could not be found.
Flynn told reporters of London's Daily Mail he had issued an ultimatum to residents of Khosrow Sofia: provide full information on the location of IEDs the Taliban had planted there or face destruction of the village, according to the account published Oct. 26.
Flynn later claimed that the residents had responded to his threat by clearing out all the IEDs themselves, according to Carl Forsberg of the Institute for the Study of War. Researcher and author Alex Strick Van Linschoten, one of the only two Westerners to have lived independently in Kandahar City in recent years, said a friend had been told the same thing.
However, Linschoten told IPS that he understands from an eyewitness that at least two other villages in Flynn's area of responsibility, including the nearby Khosrow Ulya, were leveled and one was reduced to "a dust bowl".
District chief Ahmad referred to "Khosrow" as one of the villages he said the Americans "had to destroy to make them safe".
The threat to destroy a village if its residents did not come forward with information would be a "collective penalty" against the civilian population, which is strictly forbidden by the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
The house demolitions in Kandahar have apparently affected many thousands of people. The demolitions "have made a whole lot of people very angry, because they will be cold and hungry in the coming months", said a U.S. source who asked not to be identified.
But the U.S.-NATO command is evidently unconcerned about that anger. Chandrasekaran quoted a "senior official" as asserting that, by forcing people to go to the district governor's office to submit their claims for damaged property, "in effect you're connecting the government to the people."
Now Brig. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of U.S.-NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, has openly embraced that justification of the house demolition policy. In an interview with AfPak Channel published last week, he suggested that the demolition of houses "allows the district governor to connect with the population…"
But that connection is certain to be marked by bitterness. A tribal elder in Panjawaii was quoted by the Post's Chandrasekaran as dismissing the offer of compensation for houses destroyed as "just kicking dirt in our eyes."
The new level of brutality used in the Kandahar operation indicates that Petraeus has consciously jettisoned the central assumption of his counterinsurgency theory, which is that harsh military measures undermine the main objective of winning over the population.
10) CIA chief in Pakistan leaves after drone trial blows his cover
Jonathan Banks, station chief In Islamabad, back in US after calls for him to be charged with murder over drone attack
Declan Walsh, Guardian, Friday 17 December 2010 16.46 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/17/cia-chief-pakistan-drone-cover
Islamabad - The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America's most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.
The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.
In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing "security concerns" and saying he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan's lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution.
"This is just diplomatic language they are using. Banks is a liability to the CIA because he's likely to be called to court. They want to save him, and themselves, the embarrassment," said lawyer Shahzad Akbar. Pakistani media reports have claimed that Banks entered the country on a business visa, and therefore does not enjoy diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
11) Iran's nuclear program: Is regime change the way to stop it?
While Obama officials tout tougher sanctions to get Iranians to the negotiating table, foreign policy conservatives are looking to revive regime change as the way to stop Iran's nuclear program.
Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2010
Washington - US foreign policy conservatives are pressing for a new approach to Iran that ramps up support for the Iranian opposition and revives the Bush-era goal of regime change in Tehran.
Borne of two catalysts - frustration over President Obama's attempts at engagement with the Iranian regime, and anticipation of the more-Republican Congress taking office in January - the push for a harder line toward Iran looks beyond economic sanctions for pressuring the Tehran regime.
Pro-democracy initiatives and overt support for the Iranian opposition are touted as the best way of felling two birds with one stone: Iran's advancing nuclear program, and the regime developing it. The hardliners are more likely to espouse military action against Iran's nuclear facilities, but support for that route is by no means universal among them.
Among the top priorities of the members of Congress, former Bush administration officials, and Iran experts touting an overtly anti-regime policy is removal of an exiled Iranian opposition group - the People's Mojahedin of Iran or the MEK (Mujahideen-e Khalq) - from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.
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