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JFP 3/30: Hillary - "arming rebels" = "protecting civilians"
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 30 March 2011 - 8:18pm
Just Foreign Policy News
March 30, 2011
*Action: Pressure Congress to Debate Libya
Whatever one thinks of the ongoing U.S. military intervention in Libya, President Obama has set a dangerous precedent by embarking on a major military operation in Libya without Congressional authorization. Eight Members of the House have brought forward H. Con. Res. 31, a bi-partisan resolution affirming that the President must obtain specific statutory authorization for the use of U.S. armed forces in Libya. Ask your Representative to join them in affirming that U.S. military action in Libya must have Congressional authorization.
Contrary to the President's Speech, Removal of Qaddafi Is the Military Objective
In his speech, the President claimed that the military mission in Libya has a narrow objective of protecting civilians. But a report in the New York Times on the Administration's strategy shows that's not true: the objective of the military mission is to bomb the Libyan army until it forces Qaddafi to leave.
Video: Dennis Kucinich: American Democracy is the Critical Issue
"We are in the midst of a foreign policy and constitutional crisis. The Administration has committed our nation to a war against Libya in violation of the Constitution of the United States…. the New York Times today reports that elements of the opposition may be linked to Al Qaeda and that we are considering arming them…. Tomorrow, I will present to Congress a definitive one hour response to the Administration's Libyan War in the form of facts and questions. Congress must challenge violations of our Constitutional principles relating to war and peace. The critical issue today is not the defense of Libyan democracy but the defense of American democracy."
Sen. Rand Paul Takes Senate Floor and Speaks on Libya
Rand Paul offers a Senate resolution quoting candidate Obama on war powers.
Jon Stewart on Obama's Speech
Stewart hit 4 key points:
- made fun of the President for telling America why we should bomb Libya, 2 weeks after he started bombing Libya
- made fun of the President for saying that we are "handing off" the operation to NATO, when we are NATO
- made fun of the President for pretending that there is a distinction between the military mission and overthrowing Qaddafi
- asked what we are going to do if bombing and acting as the rebels' air force doesn't cause Qaddafi to go.
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1) Senior officials said the Obama administration is engaged in a fierce debate over whether to supply weapons to the rebels in Libya, with some fearful providing arms would deepen US involvement in a civil war and some fighters may have links to Al Qaeda, the New York Times reports. While Secretary of State Clinton said the administration had not yet decided whether to actually transfer arms, she said the US had a right to do so, despite an arms embargo on Libya, because of the UN Security Council's broad resolution authorizing military action to protect civilians.
2) Experts in international law have warned the US is likely to be in breach of the UN Security Council's arms embargo on Libya if it sends weapons to the rebels, the Guardian reports. On Monday, NATO Secretary General Rasumussen, stressed the importance of respecting the arms embargo. "The UN mandate authorises the enforcement of an arms embargo," he said. "We are not in Libya to arm people but to protect people."
3) A growing number of lawmakers in both parties have lashed out at the administration in recent days, questioning both the constitutionality of the Libya intervention and the wisdom of staging another Middle Eastern offensive while the U.S. already is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Hill reports.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) on Wednesday became the latest lawmaker to add an opposing voice to the administration's actions. In a fiery floor speech, she accused Obama of concocting a "premeditated" plan to launch the attacks after Congress left Washington for last week's recess. "I'm highly concerned that this military intervention took the familiar pattern of launching attacks just when Congress left town to go back to our districts for a week, thus silencing our voices in Congress even more as this floor was shut down," she said. "How premeditated, and how irresponsible, I believe the current course of events to be."
4) Voters oppose 47 - 41 percent America's involvement in Libya, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. They say 48 - 41 percent the U.S. should not use military force to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power. American voters split 46 - 45 percent on whether protecting Libyan civilians from Gadhafi is a goal worth having U.S. troops "fight and possibly die." Voters say 61 - 30 percent that removing Gadhafi is not worth having American troops "fight and possibly die." 74 percent of voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that the U.S. will get embroiled in a long-term military conflict in Libya.
5) Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican freshman from Idaho, argues the U.S. should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Libya, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the Senate, newly elected members Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) have sharply questioned the Libya action. "Of course, I think Congress needs to be consulted. The fact that it wasn't is an insult to the Constitution," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.).
6) Military experts said air power alone will not topple Tripoli, USA Today reports. A key question, military analysts said, is whether the coalition will maintain the air campaign long enough for rebels to build their forces to the strength needed to oust Gadhafi. Ken Pollack of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution asked, "If it takes two years to build up a capable opposition, are the French and Brits going to be willing to provide" continued air coverage during that time?
7) Sander Levin, ranking member of the Ways and Means, said the government of Colombia needs to make extensive changes to its laws and bolster its protection of union members before a trade agreement moves forward, the Washington Post reports. Levin said the reforms needed are complex and have been stymied in the country's legislature before. They include reform of Colombia's labor laws to restrict the use of what Levin called "shell companies" that insulate larger corporations from collective bargaining agreements, and prosecution of several high-profile cases of violence against union leaders. Until those and other actions are taken, Levin said the administration should not submit the Colombia deal for ratification.
8) Coalition airstrikes on an ammunition depot apparently resulted in Libyan rockets hitting the Mizdah's general hospital, a nearby apartment complex housing foreign medical staff members and a single-family home, the Los Angeles Times reports. Like the rebel advance on the Kadafi stronghold of Surt to the east, a move by rebel fighters into Mizdah risks igniting long-simmering tribal animosities, the LAT says.
9) President Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters. Obama signed the order within the last two or three weeks. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will, Reuters says.
10) Taliban militants have taken over the Waygal district in eastern Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports.
11) The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza condemned the building and storage of anti-Israel rockets in densely populated areas, a practice that has led to injuries and deaths of civilians, the New York Times reports. PCHR said that it had investigated recent rocket explosions and found that locally produced projectiles had fallen on private homes in Gaza or exploded inside factories where they were made or stored. Shrapnel severely wounded a number of people, including a 22-year-old woman and her 7-month-old baby. PCHR called on the Hamas government to investigate "and take measures to protect Palestinians and their property."
1) Washington in Fierce Debate on Arming Libyan Rebels
Mark Landler, Elisabeth Bumiller and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, March 29, 2011
Washington - The Obama administration is engaged in a fierce debate over whether to supply weapons to the rebels in Libya, senior officials said on Tuesday, with some fearful that providing arms would deepen American involvement in a civil war and that some fighters may have links to Al Qaeda.
The debate has drawn in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, these officials said, and has prompted an urgent call for intelligence about a ragtag band of rebels who are waging a town-by-town battle against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, from a base in eastern Libya long suspected of supplying terrorist recruits. "Al Qaeda in that part of the country is obviously an issue," a senior official said.
On a day when Libyan forces counterattacked, fears about the rebels surfaced publicly on Capitol Hill on Tuesday when the military commander of NATO, Adm. James G. Stavridis, told a Senate hearing that there were "flickers" in intelligence reports about the presence of Qaeda and Hezbollah members among the anti-Qaddafi forces. No full picture of the opposition has emerged, Admiral Stavridis said. While eastern Libya was the center of Islamist protests in the late 1990s, it is unclear how many groups retain ties to Al Qaeda.
The French government, which has led the international charge against Colonel Qaddafi, has placed mounting pressure on the United States to provide greater assistance to the rebels. The question of how best to support the opposition dominated an international conference about Libya on Tuesday in London.
While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the administration had not yet decided whether to actually transfer arms, she reiterated that the United States had a right to do so, despite an arms embargo on Libya, because of the United Nations Security Council's broad resolution authorizing military action to protect civilians.
In a reflection of the seriousness of the administration's debate, Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he was keeping his options open on arming the rebels. "I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in," Mr. Obama told NBC News. "We're still making an assessment partly about what Qaddafi's forces are going to be doing. Keep in mind, we've been at this now for nine days."
But some administration officials argue that supplying arms would further entangle the United States in a drawn-out civil war because the rebels would need to be trained to use any weapons, even relatively simple rifles and shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons. This could mean sending trainers. One official said the United States might simply let others supply the weapons.
The question of whether to arm the rebels underscores the difficult choices the United States faces as it tries to move from being the leader of the military operation to a member of a NATO-led coalition, with no clear political endgame. It also carries echoes of previous American efforts to arm rebels, in Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and elsewhere, many of which backfired. The United States has a deep, often unsuccessful, history of arming insurgencies.
In London, Mrs. Clinton and other Western leaders made it clear that the NATO-led operation would end only with the removal of Colonel Qaddafi, even if that was not the stated goal of the United Nations resolution.
Mrs. Clinton - who met for a second time with a senior opposition leader, Mahmoud Jibril - acknowledged that as a group, the rebels were largely a mystery. "We don't know as much as we would like to know and as much as we expect we will know," she said at a news conference.
A European diplomat said France was adamant that the rebels be more heavily armed and was in discussions with the Obama administration about how France would bring this about. "We strongly believe that it should happen," said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he had had conversations with two senior administration officials about this issue. Mr. Levin said he was most concerned about how the rebels would use the weapons after a cease-fire. "Would they stop fighting if they had momentum, or would they be continuing to use those weapons?" he asked.
Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said some who had fought as insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan were bound to have returned home to Libya. "The question we can't answer is, Are they 2 percent of the opposition? Are they 20 percent? Or are they 80 percent?" he said.
One crucial voice, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has experience in the unintended consequences of arming rebels: As a C.I.A. official in the late 1980s, he funneled weapons to the Islamic fundamentalists who ousted the Soviets from Kabul. Some later became the Taliban fighting the United States in Afghanistan.
2) Arming Libya rebels not allowed by UN resolutions, legal experts warn US
Washington questioned over its assertion that UN mandate permits supply of arms to anti-Gaddafi rebels
Robert Booth, Guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 March 2011 11.15 BST
The US is likely to be in breach of the UN security council's arms embargo on Libya if it sends weapons to the rebels, experts in international law have warned.
After Hillary Clinton said it would be legal to send arms to support the uprising, lawyers analysing the terms of the UN's 26 February arms embargo said it would require a change in the terms for it not to breach international law.
"The embargo appears to cover everybody in the conflict which means you can't supply arms to rebels," said Philippe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London.
His view was backed by other experts in international law who said they could not see how the US could legally justify sending arms into Libya under the current resolutions.
Clinton told a press conference in London on Tuesday that this month's UN security council resolution creating a no-fly zone and allowing strikes to protect civilians effectively amended or overrode the absolute prohibition on arms to anyone in Libya, "so that there could be a legitimate transfer of arms if a country should choose to do that".
Asked whether the US itself would arm Libya revolutionaries, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said: "We have not made that decision but we've not certainly ruled that out."
February's UN security council resolution 1970 on the arms embargo states that all member states must prevent the supply to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya - the Libyan nation - of arms including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts. The embargo also relates to the provision of technical assistance, training or financial and bans the provision of mercenaries.
It includes an exemption for "other sales or supply of arms and related material, or provision of assistance or personnel, as approved in advance by the committee". The committee was established to oversee the implementation of the embargo and is chaired by José Filipe Moraes Cabral, Portugal's ambassador to the UN.
Professor Nicholas Grief, director of legal studies at the University of Kent, said that to him the 17 March resolution in fact appeared to strengthen the arms embargo by calling for its "strict implementation" by member states.
"I don't see how they can say that reading them together means they can circumvent the arms embargo," he said. "The resolution makes clear it is for the security council to decide whether to strengthen, suspend or lift the arms embargo, not for member states to act unilaterally."
On Monday, the Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasumussen, stressed the importance of respecting the arms embargo. "The UN mandate authorises the enforcement of an arms embargo," he said. "We are not in Libya to arm people but to protect people."
3) Administration to brief skeptical Congress on Libya intervention
Mike Lillis, The Hill, 03/30/11 03:05 PM ET
White House officials who are briefing Congress Wednesday on U.S. operations in Libya face a tough sell to a skeptical audience.
A growing number of lawmakers in both parties have lashed out at the administration in recent days, questioning both the constitutionality of the intervention and the wisdom of staging another Middle Eastern offensive while the U.S. already is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least two members - one Democrat, one Republican - even accused President Obama of launching the military campaign while Congress was in recess so he would not have to get its assent.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will address House and Senate lawmakers Wednesday afternoon in separate classified briefings designed to provide an operational update and quell congressional concerns.
Before the briefing, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Hill, "I probably wouldn't have gone in in the first place." McKeon said he wants to hear "what the end game looks like, how long will this go on, what are the costs, and plans for arming the rebels."
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) on Wednesday became the latest lawmaker to add an opposing voice to the administration's actions. In a fiery floor speech, she accused Obama of concocting a "premeditated" plan to launch the attacks after Congress left Washington for last week's recess.
"I'm highly concerned that this military intervention took the familiar pattern of launching attacks just when Congress left town to go back to our districts for a week, thus silencing our voices in Congress even more as this floor was shut down," she said. "How premeditated, and how irresponsible, I believe the current course of events to be."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), another fierce critic of the Libyan operation, is scheduled to make an hour-long floor speech on Thursday criticizing the war as unconstitutional because Congress never approved it. "We are in the midst of a foreign policy and constitutional crisis," Kucinich said on the floor Wednesday. "The administration has committed our nation to a war against Libya in violation of the Constitution of the United States."
Kucinich recently wondered aloud whether that was an impeachable offense, though he later said he had no intention of bringing impeachment proceedings against Obama.
Two House Republicans - Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) - have offered legislation calling for an end to the Libyan intervention unless Congress provides its stamp of approval. "There's a strong belief that the president has acted illegally," Johnson told Fox News this week.
Other co-sponsors of that measure include Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Kucinich.
4) More Voters Oppose U.S. Involvement In Libya
Quinnipiac University, March 30, 2011
Voters oppose 47 - 41 percent America's involvement in Libya. In the survey concluded Monday evening as President Obama was addressing the nation about Libya, voters say 58 - 29 percent that he has not clearly stated U.S. goals for Libya.
American voters give conflicting signals about U.S. involvement in Libya:
They approve 53 - 35 percent of using cruise missiles to destroy Libya's air defense;
They say 48 - 41 percent the U.S. should not use military force to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power;
They say 65 - 27 percent the U.S. should use military force to protect civilians from Gadhafi.
American voters split 46 - 45 percent on whether protecting Libyan civilians from Gadhafi is a goal worth having U.S. troops "fight and possibly die." And voters say 61 - 30 percent that removing Gadhafi is not worth having American troops "fight and possibly die."
A total of 62 percent of voters are "very confident" or "somewhat confident" that the U.S. mission to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi will be successful.
But 74 percent of voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that the U.S. will get embroiled in a long-term military conflict in Libya.
The pattern of political support for the president regarding Libya is somewhat different than with the war in Afghanistan, for which public support continues to deteriorate. Now, 50 percent of voters say the U.S. should not be involved in that conflict while 41 percent says it is the right thing to do.
"Republicans have been the strongest supporters of the Democratic president's policy. Currently, 50 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independent voters support the effort in Afghanistan," Brown said.
"On Libya, 48 percent of Democrats but only 40 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of independent voters voice support."
5) Republicans Show Divisions Over the U.S. Intervention
Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2011
Washington - Republicans are grappling with internal divisions on their approach to the U.S. intervention in Libya, making it harder to present a unified front as Congress ratchets up its scrutiny of President Barack Obama's decision to act there.
While some Republicans chastise Mr. Obama for not intervening earlier and more forcefully, others are demanding the president consult Congress or pull out of the operation altogether.
At the same time, a faction powered in part by tea-party activists and strengthened by the last election is complaining about the cost as well as the policy of foreign interventions. Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican freshman from Idaho, argues the U.S. should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Libya.
"We're already engaged in two wars in the Middle East, and I think we need to get out of both of them," Mr. Labrador said. "Now we're engaging in a third one, and we don't have the resources."
Mr. Labrador's comments reflect the views of many in a large freshman class in Congress who are skeptical of foreign interventions, partly due to their cost. In the Senate, newly elected members Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) have sharply questioned the Libya action.
For now, many Republican leaders have settled on a middle ground of demanding more clarification and consultation about the Libya mission. They've been joined in that by a number of Democrats.
Democrats face their own split on Libya, with most leaders supporting Mr. Obama but an anti-war contingent voicing deep skepticism. "Of course, I think Congress needs to be consulted. The fact that it wasn't is an insult to the Constitution," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.). "And do I think we as a nation can afford this? No, I don't."
6) Air power won't seal win for Libyan rebels
Jim Michaels, USA Today, March 30, 2011
Libyan rebel forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes were fighting their way toward Tripoli on Tuesday but air power alone will not topple the stronghold of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, military experts said.
Experts said the untrained and poorly equipped rebels will need arms, training and air attacks to oust Gadhafi militarily.
"Air power in and of itself will not be decisive," said Peter Mansoor, a military history professor at Ohio State University who served as a brigade commander in Iraq. "It can prevent the rebels from losing," he said. "It won't necessarily allow them to win."
Ousting Gadhafi and taking control of Tripoli requires a more organized and better- equipped rebel force, military analysts said. "To finish this conflict, at some point the rebels have to establish a ground capability," Mansoor said. "Given that they're starting from a very amateurish level, it's going to take some time to build up their capabilities."
A key question, military analysts said, is whether the coalition will maintain the air campaign long enough for rebels to build their forces to the strength needed to oust Gadhafi.
Ken Pollack of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution asked, "If it takes two years to build up a capable opposition, are the French and Brits going to be willing to provide" continued air coverage during that time?
7) Levin: Major changes needed before Colombia trade pact can proceed
Howard Schneider, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 29, 11:21 PM
The government of Colombia needs to make extensive changes to its laws and bolster its protection of union members before a free trade agreement moves forward, a key Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday in the most explicit statement yet of the hurdles facing the proposed Colombia-U.S. trade deal.
The comments by Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee and an important voice on trade issues, shows the quandary faced by the Obama administration. It is trying to push a recently negotiated agreement with Korea through Congress amid Republican demands that long-pending deals with Colombia and Panama move as well.
Levin's comments in a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics raise the prospect of Democratic opposition to the Colombia deal in particular. He urged the administration to pursue separate action on the different agreements, and to pressure the Republican House leadership to vote on Korea now. The work to be done on the other agreements, particularly Colombia, can't be rushed, Levin said.
"They need to change their laws and they have to take steps" to ensure that workers can organize and that violence against union leaders is prosecuted, Levin said. Although Levin said he believes the new administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is sincere about improving conditions for unions in the country, the reforms that are needed are complex and have been stymied in the country's legislature before.
They include, for example, reform of Colombia's labor laws to restrict the use of what Levin called "shell companies" that insulate larger corporations from collective bargaining agreements, and prosecution of several high-profile cases of violence against union leaders.
Until those and other actions are taken, Levin said the administration should not submit the Colombia deal for ratification.
8) Western Libyans Brace For Fighting
Airstrikes have opened up the area for rebel advances. Authorities show journalists a hospital and other buildings they say were damaged by the multinational coalition.
Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2011
Mizdah, Libya - The multinational coalition executing airstrikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi appears to have paved the way for a new rebel front by bombing positions near a rural stretch along the country's western border.
Libyan authorities took journalists to the city of Mizdah, about 100 miles south of Tripoli, the capital, on Tuesday to view evidence of damage to civilian buildings caused by coalition warplane and missile strikes Sunday and Monday on military targets. Military sites in both Mizdah and Gharyan, another city struck by coalition warplanes this week, lie on the front line against the rebel-controlled towns of Zintan and Nalut to the west.
Mizdah showed the perils of using airstrikes in an attempt to change the balance of military power on the ground. Coalition airstrikes on an ammunition depot apparently resulted in Libyan rockets hitting the town's general hospital, a nearby apartment complex housing foreign medical staff members and a single-family home. Several civilians were injured but there were no deaths, hospital officials said.
Like the rebel advance on the Kadafi stronghold of Surt to the east, a move by rebel fighters into Mizdah risks igniting long-simmering tribal animosities. "If they come here the people from Zintan are going to kill us," said Ahmad Ali, 25, a member of the Assayeh tribe, which views those from Zintan with suspicion. "It's because between our grandfathers and their grandfathers, there was a dispute over land."
Rebel forces to the west and along the Tunisian border can count on at least some support within the population of towns like Mizdah, which was also briefly under rebel control early in an uprising against Kadafi that erupted last month and was violently crushed.
Last month, opposition supporters burned down a police station and the offices of Kadafi's "revolutionary committee" and spray-painted "Down with Kadafi!" on the walls. They also attempted to take control of police and military vehicles and plunder arms caches. Witnesses said the rebels were violent and determined.
"If they want to change the system they could have done it peacefully," said Mona Ali, a 31-year-old nurse at the Mizdah hospital. "What are they doing burning down the police station? All the children are afraid of them."
9) Obama authorizes secret support for Libya rebels
Mark Hosenball, Reuters, 4:46 PM CDT, March 30, 2011
Washington - President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.
Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.
U.S. officials monitoring events in Libya say neither Gaddafi's forces nor the rebels, who have asked the West for heavy weapons, now appear able to make decisive gains.
While U.S. and allied airstrikes have seriously damaged Gaddafi's military forces and disrupted his chain of command, officials say, rebel forces remain disorganized and unable to take full advantage of western military support.
People familiar with U.S. intelligence procedures said that Presidential covert action "findings" are normally crafted to provide broad authorization for a range of potential U.S. government actions to support a particular covert objective.
In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization -- for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces -- the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed.
Former officials say these follow-up authorizations are known in the intelligence world as "'Mother may I' findings."
Members of Congress have expressed anxiety about U.S. government activities in Libya. Some have recalled that weapons provided by the U.S. and Saudis to mujahedeen fighting Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s later ended up in the hands of anti-American militants.
There are fears that the same thing could happen in Libya unless the U.S. is sure who it is dealing with. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said on Wednesday he opposed supplying arms to the Libyan rebels fighting Gaddafi "at this time."
"We need to understand more about the opposition before I would support passing out guns and advanced weapons to them," Rogers said in a statement.
10) Taliban seizes Afghan district in rare show of force
Ernesto Londono and Javed Hamdard, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 29, 10:30 PM
Kabul - Taliban fighters overpowered poorly armed policemen in a district in eastern Afghanistan early Tuesday in a rare show of force that prompted local officials to flee.
Taliban militants, who had been encroaching on the Waygal district for weeks, launched a coordinated assault on the local government building and police station shortly after midnight, Gen. Shamsur Rahman, the police chief of Nuristan province, said in an interview.
Rahman said the insurgents looted the government buildings on Tuesday and are now in control of the district.
Waygal residents are torn over whether to side with the Taliban or government forces, the police chief said. "If the government has control of the district, people will support the government," he said. "If the Taliban is in control, people will support the Taliban."
Hawa Alam Nuristani, a former lawmaker from the province who sits on a government council tasked with brokering a peace deal with the Taliban, said the takeover was not unexpected. She said the Taliban had come to control all but the government buildings in the district in recent months.
"Losing Waygal district is a dangerous signal to the government," Nuristani said. "Waygal is one of the most important districts in the province."
11) Palestinian Rights Group Says Militants' Rockets Hurt Gazans
Fares Akram and Ethan Bronner, New York Times, March 30, 2011
Gaza - A Palestinian human rights group in Gaza took the unusual step this week of condemning the building and storage of anti-Israel rockets in densely populated areas, a practice that has led to injuries and deaths of civilians.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that it had investigated recent rocket explosions and found that locally produced projectiles had fallen on private homes in Gaza or exploded inside factories where they were made or stored. Shrapnel severely wounded a number of people, including a 22-year-old woman and her 7-month-old baby.
It called on the Hamas government, which controls Gaza, to investigate "and take measures to protect Palestinians and their property." It added that "members of the Palestinian resistance continue to store explosives or to treat such explosives in locations close to populated areas."
"This poses a major threat to the lives of the Palestinian civilians and constitutes a violation of both international human rights law and the International Humanitarian Law," it said.
Hamdi Shaqura of the human rights center said conducting such investigations was risky in Gaza. Militant groups generally deny responsibility, insisting that the source of fire was Israel. He also noted that the Hamas Interior Ministry Web site blamed Israel for the landing of what were locally produced rockets on Palestinian targets.
Also Wednesday, Hamas police officers broke up a small demonstration by dozens of youths calling for an end to the split between Gaza and the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority holds sway. Recent efforts by the authority to reconcile with Hamas, including a meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders in the West Bank, have so far led nowhere.
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