Just Foreign Policy News
March 3, 2010
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Help Kucinich Use War Powers Act to Force Afghanistan Debate
This week, Representative Kucinich plans to introduce a privileged resolution invoking the War Powers Act to force the President to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year. Because it will be a privileged resolution, Congress will be forced to debate the issue of the open-ended U.S. war in and occupation of Afghanistan. Ask your Representative to become a co-sponsor of Representative Kucinich’s resolution.
1) Some American doctors are pleading U.S. officials to keep the Navy hospital ship Comfort in Haiti, the Baltimore Sun reports. University of Southern California surgeon Randy Sherman, medical director for the aid organization Operation Smile, said "there is no doubt" there are enough earthquake victims to keep the Comfort busy. He thinks it could operate at high volume for at least three more months. US doctors say Haiti is replete with patients whose orthopedic injuries have healed improperly and require complex surgeries that only the Comfort can provide.
2) Human Rights Watch said Honduran authorities should ensure that recent killings and other attacks on opponents of the 2009 coup are promptly and thoroughly investigated. HRW has received credible reports of multiple acts of violence over the past month targeting members of the National Popular Resistance Front, including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault.
3) Brazil rebuffed a U.S. appeal for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, vowing during a visit from Secretary of State Clinton not to "bow down" to international pressure, AP reports. "It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall," President Lula said. "The prudent thing is to establish negotiations."
4) A federal prosecutor testified that a US Embassy official told him State Department officials sought to obstruct investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, the New York Times reports. David Farrington, a State Department security agent, told prosecutors some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment. Prosecutors contended they had evidence that there had been a concerted effort to make the case go away by at least some embassy officials.
5) Afghan President Karzai’s public invitation to the Taliban to attend a peace conference this spring has sparked disagreement between the U.S. and Britain, the Washington Post reports. The Obama administration has argued that substantive talks should wait until the military balance has shifted more sharply in favor of the coalition. But the British, facing strong domestic disapproval over the war, appear eager to see negotiations begin sooner rather than later. That position is shared by a number of senior U.S. military officials, who predicted that negotiations with insurgents could gain traction as early as this year.
6) Afghan civilian deaths in "escalation of force incidents" in which U.S. troops fired on civilians who came close to their convoys or roadblocks increased 43 percent in 2009 to 113, McClatchy reports. A McChrystal order involving "aggressive driving" hasn’t cut the number of civilians killed when U.S. troops warn approaching civilians to back away, then end up opening fire on them. Military commanders told McClatchy that a review of incidents since McChrystal issued his driving directive found that in every instance in which U.S. troops opened fire on a car since McChrystal arrived, subsequent investigation found that there was no threat to the soldiers.
7) The Obama administration is seeking to reverse a 12-year-old ban on training a unit of the Indonesian military whose members have been convicted of beatings, kidnappings and other abuses, the Washington Post reports. Sen. Leahy and Human Rights Watch criticized the move.
8) Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing concern over Israel’s image, persuaded Jerusalem’s mayor to delay demolition of Palestinian homes in a municipal tourism project, Reuters reports. The US praised Netanyahu’s move.
9) Aid workers say that families displaced by the U.S. assault on Marja cannot find temporary housing or medical assistance, writes Joshua Foust in the New York Times. Marja needs to hold a constitutionally mandated election to choose a mayor, not face a governor forced upon it by Kabul, Foust suggests.
10) Afghanistan promised to clarify restrictions on news coverage of Taliban strikes, and hinted it may row back from a total ban on filming during attacks, Reuters reports. US officials said they would make clear to Afghanistan their support for a free media.
11) Prosecutors urged a Venezuelan court to approve a request for the US to extradite former President Carlos Andres Perez for government violence committed during street protests in which hundreds of people died, AP reports. Perez has lived in the Miami area for more than a decade.
1) Doctors want Comfort to stay in Haiti; U.S. considers ending mission
Robert Little, Baltimore Sun, March 3, 2010
The Navy hospital ship Comfort discharged its last remaining patient last weekend and is anchored in Port-au-Prince harbor, empty but for its 993- member crew, waiting for military leaders to decide whether it still has a role in the U.S. response to January’s deadly earthquake in Haiti.
Pentagon officials won’t say what the ship’s next step is. But as signs mount that the floating medical center is preparing to leave Haiti six weeks after it arrived, so is the clamor rising from doctors on the ground in the battered country who say earthquake victims still need the Comfort’s equipment and skills.
"We haven’t figured out what the end of this looks like yet," said Dr. Andrew N. Pollak, an orthopedic surgeon at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore who is returning to Haiti on Friday to work at the crumbled St. Francois de Sales Hospital in the capital. "Until we do, until the capabilities improve on the ground, the Comfort is the only solution for some people."
Dr. Randy Sherman, a University of Southern California plastic surgeon who has worked with the Navy, is pleading with officials to keep the Comfort in Haiti. "The ship provides such a special capability, fills such a big hole, that to lose it is catastrophic," he said. He called the 1,000-bed ship "the medical equivalent to 85 fighter pilots on an aircraft carrier," adding: "If you take away the aircraft carrier, what are they going to do?"
Designed as a floating emergency room for treating combat injuries, the Baltimore-based Comfort arrived Jan. 19 and quickly was overwhelmed with patients who had suffered fractures, crush injuries, infections and other consequences of the earthquake a week earlier. In a city whose medical infrastructure was slight before the disaster, it arrived as the best-equipped, most capable medical treatment facility in the country and was quickly flooded with complicated cases. Its medical staff has treated more than 1,000 Haitian patients and performed nearly 850 surgeries.
New admissions declined weeks ago as patients with untreated injuries became increasingly scarce and have nearly come to a halt in recent days as the ship continued to discharge patients to clinics and medical facilities on land. According to a Navy officer on the Comfort, the only Haitian treated on board Tuesday was a young boy who received a CT scan, then was taken ashore. During peak operations, the ship had a crew of 1,288; nearly 300 have left.
Navy officials acknowledge the diminished workload but won’t say much about the Comfort’s future. "The ship is still there," said Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Southern Command, which is overseeing the military’s relief efforts in Haiti. "And it will remain there until Southcom determines that her capabilities are no longer required to support the mission."
[…] Sherman, medical director for the aid organization Operation Smile, has worked at two ground clinics in Haiti since the earthquake and said any perceived shortage of patients comes from poor communications rather than the resolution of the country’s medical needs. "There is no doubt" there are enough earthquake victims to keep the Comfort busy, he said. He has asked top Navy officials to keep the Comfort in Haiti and proposed staffing it primarily with civilian medical workers. He thinks it could operate at high volume for at least three more months.
Sherman, Pollak and others tell the same story: They say the country is replete with patients whose orthopedic injuries have healed improperly and require complex surgeries that only the Comfort can provide.
Many patients treated in the days after the earthquake had bones set with external pins in tent hospitals without X-rays, they say, and those injuries need to be reset to give the patients functional limbs. "The problem is the second wave of these," Sherman said. "There is this large, large subset of patients who require additional treatment, and the nature of that treatment is more complicated and highly instrumental."
2) Honduras: Investigate Attacks on Coup Opponents
Human Rights Watch, March 3, 2010
(Washington, DC) – Honduran authorities should ensure that recent killings and other attacks on opponents of the 2009 coup are promptly and thoroughly investigated, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí.
Human Rights Watch has received credible reports of multiple acts of violence over the past month targeting members of the National Popular Resistance Front (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular), including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault. Threats reportedly received by victims and comments allegedly made by the assailants suggest that these abuses may have been politically motivated.
"Without a thorough investigation to identify who committed the crimes, to establish motive, and to hold those responsible to account, these events could generate a chilling effect that would limit the exercise of basic political rights in Honduras, including the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression," the letter said.
3) Brazil rebuffs US, says it will go own way on Iran
Matthew Lee, Associated Press, Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 3:50 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/03/AR2010030300256.html
Brasilia, Brazil – Brazil rebuffed a U.S. appeal for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, vowing during a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton not to "bow down" to gathering international pressure.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pre-empted Clinton even before she could make the case for new United Nations Security Council penalties. Silva is an outspoken opponent of sanctions, and his country currently sits on the Security Council, which will be asked to approve its toughest-ever penalties on Iran later this year. "It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall," Silva told reporters hours before meeting with Clinton. "The prudent thing is to establish negotiations."
[…] Iran does have vast business and other ties with most of the rest of the world, and Clinton said the oil giant is exploiting its relationships to try to avoid new U.N. penalties. "We see an Iran that runs to Brazil, an Iran that runs to Turkey, an Iran that runs to China, telling different things to different people," Clinton said angrily.
Standing with her at a press conference in the Brazilian capital, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim was not persuaded. "We will not simply bow down to an evolving consensus if we do not agree," Amorim said. "We have to think by ourselves and with our values and principles."
[…] Another round of sanctions could pass without Brazil’s vote. But the United States and other backers of new sanctions want as wide a backing as possible to show Iran that its behavior is costing it friendships around the globe. [Also, it seems likely that if Brazil were to vote no or abstain, other sanctions skeptics might vote no or abstain, which could lead to as many as 5 no votes or abstentions on the 15-member Security Council, diluting the political impact the U.S. hopes to use to leverage stronger sanctions elsewhere – JFP.]
[…] Silva, who hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil last year, said he did not want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons and would raise the matter when he travels to Tehran in May. Silva said he would have a "frank" conversation with Ahmadinejad about Iran’s nuclear program. "I want for Iran the same thing I want for Brazil: to use the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," he said. "If Iran agrees with that, Iran will have the support of Brazil." And he added that if Iran "wants to go beyond" pursuing nuclear power for peaceful purposes that Brazil would oppose its program.
4) Interference Seen In Blackwater Inquiry
James Risen, New York Times, March 2, 2010
Washington – An official at the United States Embassy in Iraq has told federal prosecutors that he believes that State Department officials sought to block any serious investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater Worldwide security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, according to court testimony made public on Tuesday.
David Farrington, a State Department security agent in the American Embassy at the time of the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, told prosecutors that some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment for a crime that drew headlines and raised tensions between American and Iraqi officials.
The description of Mr. Farrington’s account came in closed-door testimony last October from Kenneth Kohl, the lead prosecutor in the case against the Blackwater guards. "I talked to David Farrington, who was concerned, who expressed concern about the integrity of the work being done by his fellow officers," Mr. Kohl recalled. He said that Mr. Farrington had said he was in meetings where diplomatic security agents said that after they had gone to the scene and picked up casings and other evidence, "They said we’ve got enough to get these guys off now."
[…] In December, a federal judge dismissed the criminal charges against five former Blackwater guards in the Nisour Square shooting, and criticized the Justice Department’s handling of the case, chiding prosecutors for trying to use statements from defendants who had been offered immunity and testimony from witnesses tainted by news media leaks.
The documents made public on Tuesday show that before the December dismissal, prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents working on the Nisour Square case took the stand in October to argue that they had plenty of untainted evidence. In a closed-door hearing, they also contended that they had evidence that, in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, there had been a concerted effort to make the case go away, both by Blackwater and by at least some embassy officials.
In fact, prosecutors were told that the embassy had never conducted any significant investigation of any of the numerous shooting episodes in Iraq involving Blackwater before the Nisour Square case, according to the documents.
In his October testimony, Mr. Kohl described how the Justice Department had "serious concerns" about obstruction of justice in the case. He also said prosecutors briefed Kenneth Wainstein, then an assistant attorney general, on evidence of obstruction by Blackwater management.
Mr. Kohl disclosed that prosecutors had discovered that five Blackwater guards who were on the convoy involved in the Nisour Square shootings reported to Blackwater management what they had seen. One guard, he said, described it as "murder in cold blood." Mr. Kohl said that Blackwater management never reported these statements by the guards to the State Department.
He said that prosecutors informed senior Justice Department officials as early as 2007 that they were investigating whether Blackwater managers "manipulated" the official statements made by the guards to the State Department.
But he testified that prosecutors also had evidence of embassy officials thwarting the inquiry. In addition to the testimony of Mr. Farrington, Mr. Kohl said that United States military officials had told prosecutors that they witnessed State Department investigators "badgering" Iraqi witnesses. He also testified that diplomatic security agents, who conducted the embassy’s initial investigation before the F.B.I. and Justice Department began a criminal inquiry, left out important facts from their report relating to a witness’s account.
5) In Afghanistan, Karzai’s invitation to Taliban creates discord and confusion
Karen DeYoung and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Wednesday, March 3, 2010; A01
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s public invitation to the Taliban to attend a peace conference this spring has sparked disagreement and confusion among the many players in Afghanistan over the shape and speed of negotiations and what they should ultimately accomplish.
As U.S., NATO and Afghan forces continue a major operation in Helmand province in the south and prepare for another in neighboring Kandahar, the Obama administration has argued that substantive talks should wait until the military balance has shifted more sharply in favor of the coalition.
But the administration’s British allies, facing strong domestic disapproval over the long-running war, appear eager to see negotiations begin sooner rather than later. That position is shared by a number of senior U.S. military officials, who predicted that negotiations with insurgents could gain traction as early as this year. "I would not be surprised if we see Taliban from the south ending up in the parliament, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing," said one military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
[…] Some coalition members, fearing that a rush to dialogue could critically destabilize Afghanistan’s fragile government, said Britain pushed Karzai to move further than he had intended at the London conference, a charge a British official "categorically" denied.
"What we wanted was to use that [conference] to create political space for the conversation on reconciliation. That’s true," the official said. The midwife role is easier for Britain to play than the United States, he said, because the British public is more eager to leave Afghanistan and is less concerned about "things like women’s rights."
But the British, he said, were trying to hold the Afghan president from going too far with reconciliation. "It’s nonsense if Karzai says, ‘Right, give me Omar’s cell number and I’ll call him up and invite him next week,’ " the official said.
Just a week after the London conference, Karzai appeared to be heading in that direction. Asked in an interview with Germany’s Spiegel magazine whether he could envision receiving the Taliban chief at the presidential palace, Karzai replied: "Mullah Omar is first and foremost an Afghan, and we want all Afghans to return. . . . We welcome all Afghans back to their country, with this little bracket of not being part of al-Qaeda or the terrorist networks."
Only a "small fraction" of the Taliban is in contact with al-Qaeda, Karzai said. "Even at the higher levels of their command structure, there are people . . . who have never seen Osama bin Laden and who don’t even understand what al-Qaeda is up to."
Like most guerrilla wars, the Afghanistan conflict is being fought among compatriots with ethnic and familial ties. Those ties inevitably mean that the sides have contact with one another. "Every Pashtun family in the south has friends or relatives in the Taliban . . . including the leadership of this country," Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said during a visit to Kabul last month. "It’s not a secret. And they’re always in contact." Holbrooke emphasized, however, that the communication doesn’t mean substantive dialogue is taking place.
[…] A senior NATO official in Kabul agreed that Afghans "are on the horn every day talking across that border," but he suggested that recent conversations have taken a new tenor "because the notion of reintegration and reconciliation is on the table in a big way." Even the coalition military has channels of communication, he said. "I can call up an individual who can call someone in Pakistan. And ask him a question. And get a truthful answer," the official said.
6) Airstrikes Kill Fewer Afghans, But More Dying On Ground
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, Tue, Mar. 02, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan – Even as U.S. forces take steps to reduce the number of Afghan civilians killed by aerial attacks, other civilian casualties remain stubbornly high – deaths in so-called escalation of force incidents in which edgy American troops fire on civilians who’ve come too close to their convoys or roadblocks.
The number of Afghans killed in such incidents rose 43 percent in 2009 to 113, from 79 in 2008, while the total number of NATO coalition-caused civilian deaths and injuries declined 15.5 percent, to 535 from 633.
[…] Shortly after Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal assumed command of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan in June, he ordered U.S. troops to back off some fights if civilian casualties couldn’t be avoided. In the months since, the use of U.S. air power has dropped, even during the recent offensive in Marjah, where errant air strikes killed at least 35 civilians in incidents that Afghan President Hamid Karzai called "unjustifiable."
However, a similar order involving what McChrystal called "aggressive driving" hasn’t cut the number of civilians killed when nervous U.S. troops on the ground warn approaching civilians to back away, then end up opening fire on them.
[…] Some say they constantly struggle to keep their comrades safe without violating the directive, and that’s never easy. Late last year in Afghanistan’s Nanaghar province, members of the Georgia National Guard often repeated an unofficial mantra that spread through the unit when discussing the directive: "I am going to get all my guys home, no matter what."
Military commanders told McClatchy, however, that a review of incidents since McChrystal issued his driving directive disproves that. In every instance in which U.S. troops opened fire on a car since McChrystal arrived, officials told McClatchy, the subsequent investigation found that there was no threat to the soldiers.
7) U.S. May Train Indonesian Unit
John Pomfret, Washington Post, Wednesday, March 3, 2010; A08 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030204053.html
As President Obama prepares to travel to Indonesia, his administration is seeking to reverse a 12-year-old ban on training an elite unit of the Indonesian military whose members have been convicted of beatings, kidnappings and other abuses.
The administration is floating a plan to test a training program for younger members of the Indonesian Komando Pasukan Khusus, or Kopassus. Four members of the force, including its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Lodewijk Paulus, are in Washington to discuss the proposal, several sources said.
[…] In seeking to strengthen ties with Kopassus, the Obama administration is going further than its predecessor, which attempted to resume training operations with Kopassus but was warned off by a State Department ruling in 2008.
Under a 1997 measure known as the Leahy Law, the United States is banned from training foreign military units with a history of human rights violations unless the government in question is taking effective measures to bring those responsible to justice.
The Obama administration is seeking to thread that needle, sources said, by training and conducting joint exercises only with Kopassus soldiers who, because of their age, could not have been involved in the unit’s earlier abuses. (Australian forces currently train Kopassus soldiers, in human rights issues among other things.)
There is some opposition to the new policy, though, from Obama’s own party. "We know there are some who favor resuming aid to Kopassus, but U.S. law requires the government of Indonesia to take effective measures to bring Kopassus members to justice," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations and wrote the Leahy Law.
Speaking about Obama’s trip to Indonesia, which is scheduled to start March 20, Leahy said, "It would be a mistake to walk away now from an important principle that has been a consistent element of our policy through several U.S. administrations."
In a Feb. 4 letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Brad Adams, the Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said his organization was opposed to the administration’s plan because, he contended, Indonesia has not done enough to prosecute human rights violators in its security services. "Unfortunately, human rights abusers continue to serve and be promoted through the ranks of [the Indonesian armed forces], notably in Kopassus," Adams wrote.
Adams cited the case of Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, who was appointed deputy defense minister on Jan. 6, 2009, despite long-standing allegations of his involvement, as a senior Kopassus officer, in the disappearance in the late 1990s of pro-democracy student activists and in violence by Indonesian troops and militias around the time of East Timor’s referendum on independence in 1999. The United States denied Sjamsoeddin entry into the country in September.
Kopassus served as the muscle for Suharto’s regime until he was forced to resign in 1998. Led for several years by Suharto’s son-in-law, Maj. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, it has been linked to assassinations, the instigation of anti-Chinese riots and disappearances of government critics.
After Suharto’s departure, Kopassus’s leadership was changed, but apparently no sustained effort was made to prosecute human rights abuses. For example, Adams wrote, in 1997 and 1998, as the Suharto regime fell, 23 student activists were abducted. Nine were released, one was found dead, and 13 remain missing. In 1999, a military court convicted eight Kopassus officers and three noncommissioned officers of kidnapping. Of the 11, seven were serving in the military as of 2007, and all had received promotions, Human Rights Watch said.
8) Netanyahu intervenes in sensitive Jerusalem project
Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Reuters, Tuesday, March 2, 2010; 6:23 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030203219.html
Jerusalem – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing concern over Israel’s international image, persuaded Jerusalem’s mayor on Tuesday to put on hold any demolition of Palestinian homes in a municipal tourism project.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the project as another attempt by Israel to cement its claim to all of Jerusalem, and urged the international community to stop Israel from carrying it out.
The United States praised Netanyahu’s move, saying the two sides appeared to be closer to resuming peace negotiations that have been frozen for more than a year and it did not want either to do anything to derail their possible resumption.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and considers the entire city its indivisible and eternal capital, a claim that has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Mayor Nir Barkat has unveiled a plan that would involve demolishing about 20 Palestinian homes built without permits in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, and reshaping parts of it into parkland and tourism-based business areas. In return, Palestinian residents would receive permission to build elsewhere in Silwan, which is adjacent to Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
[…] The plan has stoked Palestinian anger and any demolitions would be certain to raise international concern. "These escalatory actions add a high degree of danger to a situation that was already dangerous," Fayyad said in the West Bank town of Ramallah, denouncing Israel for "strengthening its grip" on East Jerusalem.
The United States, and other Western countries have called on Israel to cease the demolition of Palestinian homes built without municipal permits in East Jerusalem. Palestinians say it is nearly impossible to obtain permission to build from Israeli authorities.
9) The Next Battles For Marja
Joshua Foust, New York Times, March 3, 2010
This year will be the third in a row that tens of thousands of new United States troops have arrived in Afghanistan with plans to "clear, hold and build" areas controlled by the Taliban. Those previous surges have achieved little success at holding or building, as the international coalition and Afghan government have inevitably failed to come up with realistic plans for what happens after the fighting is done. Is the campaign in Marja destined for the same fate?
The international coalition’s strategic goal for Afghanistan is to build "an enduring stable, secure, prosperous and democratic state." Only by focusing on the messy medium-term stages of reconstruction – those months, and possibly years, after the fighting dies down – do we have any chance of achieving such a goal. In this regard, Marja presents us with four distinct hurdles. (Disclosure: I work as an analyst for a military contractor, but these views are my own.)
The most pressing problem is displaced civilians. During the weeks leading up to the offensive, Afghan and American authorities asked residents to leave their homes. Many obliged: according to the United Nations, several thousand families, representing upward of 25,000 people, have fled the area.
But accurate reporting is always an issue in Afghanistan, and the Western coalition put the number of families that fled in advance of the fighting at about 200. In either case, aid workers say that the families cannot find temporary housing or medical assistance either in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, or Kabul. Many hundreds of other residents have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed in the fighting.
Then there is the question of how Marja will be governed. Unfortunately, Western leadership is undecided about the nature of the place itself. Depending on which official is speaking, Marja is either a teeming "population center" of 85,000 residents or an isolated farming town of about 50,000 or a district with about 125,000 people. But if Marja is a district, it is unrecognized by the Afghan Interior Ministry. And if Marja is a town, then it needs to hold a constitutionally mandated election to choose a mayor, and not face a governor forced upon it by Kabul.
Regardless of Marja’s status, the choice of new "district governor," Haji Abdul Zahir, does not make sense. Mr. Zahir has lived in Germany for the last 15 years and had never set foot in Marja until two weeks ago. He is also widely seen as an unassertive crony of Gulab Mangal, the provincial governor. Mr. Zahir’s main power rival in the area is Abdul Rahman Jan, a fearsome former police chief whose forces had such a nasty reputation that people in Marja reached out to the Taliban for protection. The international force needs to either find more appropriate candidates or hold an election.
10) U.S. Voices Concern Over Afghan Media Rules
Peter Graff, Reuters, Tuesday, March 2, 2010; 3:57 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030202418.html
Kabul – Afghanistan promised on Tuesday to clarify restrictions on news coverage of Taliban strikes, and hinted it may row back from the most draconian measures, which amount to a total ban on filming during attacks.
Washington said it would make clear to Kabul its support for a free media, one day after the Afghan National Directorate of Security spy agency summoned journalists to its headquarters and threatened to arrest anyone filming while strikes are under way.
"It is pretty obvious that we support a free press. We don’t like restrictions on the press. My whole career has been devoted to supporting that," U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said in Washington. Holbrooke said both he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would make their positions known to the Afghan government.
[…] President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omer, said on Tuesday the new guidelines had not yet been drawn up, and promised they would not amount to censorship.
11) Venezuela to Request Extradition of Ex-President
Associated Press, Monday, March 1, 2010; 2:11 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/01/AR2010030102034.html
Caracas, Venezuela – Prosecutors urged a Venezuelan court on Monday to approve a request for the United States to extradite former President Carlos Andres Perez for violence committed during street protests in which hundreds of people died.
Alejandro Castillo, a top official from the Attorney General’s Office, said prosecutors want the court to authorize a request for Perez’s extradition as they investigate the riots, popularly known as the "Caracazo." Castillo said the court must approve the request before it goes to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court approves it, the government of President Hugo Chavez would be able to proceed with a formal extradition request.
Perez was president when the rioting broke out on Feb. 27, 1989, over a hike in gasoline prices and public transportation fares. Venezuela’s army was deployed to quell the unrest and at least 300 people died. Rights activists say hundreds more were killed, many of them shot indiscriminately by security forces. None of the government officials, military officers or police responsible for putting down the riots has gone to trial for the deaths.
Perez, who has lived in the Miami area for more than a decade, is also wanted in Venezuela on corruption charges.
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