just foreign policy
by Robert Naiman
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently took an important step by passing an intelligence authorization which would require for the first time - if it became law - that the Administration publicly report on civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes.
Sarah Knuckey, Director of the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at New York University School of Law and a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, calls this provision "an important step toward improving transparency," and notes that "Various U.N. officials, foreign governments, a broad range of civil society, and many others, including former U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Koh ... have called for the publication of such basic information."
This provision could be offered as an amendment in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act. It could be offered in the House as an amendment on the intelligence authorization, or as a freestanding bill. But it's not likely to become law unless there's some public agitation for it (you can participate in the public agitation here.)
It's been a parameter of debate that the United States cannot allow Al Qaeda to re-establish a "terrorist haven" in Afghanistan. When I say it has been a parameter of debate, I mean that even many critics of the war, and those who have argued for a timetable for withdrawal or exit strategy, have accepted this as an assumption, and argued that there are better ways to achieve this goal than by maintaining the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan. (As recently as Monday, I made such an argument.)
But in today's Washington Post, Paul Pillar challenges this assumption.
Paul Pillar has what one could call "impeccable establishment credentials." Pillar was deputy chief of the counterterrorist center at the CIA from 1997 to 1999.
How much does a [terrorist] haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland?
And he answers:
not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.
As Pillar notes,
The issue today does not concern what was worth disrupting eight years ago. And it is not whether a haven in Afghanistan would be of any use to a terrorist group -- it would.