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Afghanistan War Weekly: February 14, 2011
Almost lost in this week’s international news were three important developments in Pakistan, each of which threatens to further destabilize its tottering government. They include the issuing of an arrest warrant for former President/Dictator Musharraf, charging him with complicity in the murder of Benazir Bhutto; new revelations/claims that Dr Aafia Siddiqui, now jailed in the United States in a case strongly contested by the Pakistan government itself, was in fact kidnapped and held in secret for years by Pakistan’s intelligence services; and a fierce but mysterious conflict between the United States and Pakistan over the arrest of US “diplomat” Raymond Davis. Each of these cases, examined in articles/essays linked below, contributes to Pakistan’s destabilization, a subject explored more generally by Tariq Ali (featured essay). Perhaps the examples of Tunisia and Egypt will give Pakistan’s corrupt bureaucratic/military regime its final push.
In Afghanistan, President Karzai is attempting to reclaim control of the war, especially control over money flows and military and security units; but he is opposed in each case by the equally strong desire of US General David Petraeus to control everything in Afghanistan. Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings examines Petraeus’ strategy in a good essay linked below, and the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins has a lengthy round-up of the saga of the Kabul Bank heist in this month’s New Yorker. A new report from NYU shows that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are engaged in very different projects, and that the Taliban’s connection with al-Qaeda is limited and tactical. The declared basis of US policy in Afghanistan – that a Taliban victory would provide a sanctuary for al-Qaeda – has no evidence to support it and much evidence disproving it. Good articles by Gareth Porter and Spencer Ackerman review this story, and the report itself is also linked below.
Other good reading linked below includes several essays on the Pentagon’s rear-guard action against budget cuts and the faux defense “cuts” concealed in Obama’s proposed budget; two excellent articles about the drugging-to-death of returned US veterans; the cover-up in the latest National Intelligence Estimate of the growth in the number of Taliban fighters; an excellent article examining the “civil society” developed by the Taliban in an area formerly under its control in eastern Afghanistan; and links to this week’s developments in the on-going WikiLeaks drama.
Once again, if you find this newsletter useful, I would appreciate your help in expanding circulation. I would also appreciate suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=4111) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Pakistan: Can It Get Worse? Yes!
By Tariq Ali, Counterpunch [February 7, 2011]
---- What stops the military from taking power immediately is that it would then be responsible for stopping the drone attacks and containing the insurgency that has resulted from the extension of the war into Pakistan. This is simply beyond it, which is why the generals would rather just blame the civilian government for everything. But if the situation worsens and growing public anger and economic desperation lead to wider street protests and an urban insurgency the military will be forced to intervene. It will also be forced to act if the Obama administration does as it threatens and sends troops across the Pakistan border on protect-and-destroy missions. Were this to happen a military takeover of the country might be the only way for the army to counter dissent within its ranks by redirecting the flow of black money and bribes (currently a monopoly of politicians) into military coffers. http://counterpunch.org/tariq02072011.html
King David's War
By Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone [February 2011]
---- Taking over from McChrystal, Petraeus moved quickly to institute his own, more aggressive version of COIN — one that calls for lots of killing, lots of cash and lots of spin. He loosened the restrictions McChrystal had placed on the rules of engagement, giving U.S. soldiers the green light to use artillery, destroy property and defend themselves more vigorously. He drastically upped the number of airstrikes, launching more than 3,450 between July and November, the most since the invasion in 2001. He introduced U.S. tanks into the battle, unleashed Apache and Kiowa attack helicopters, and tripled the number of night raids by Special Forces. The fighting was calculated to force the Taliban to the bargaining table and reduce NATO casualties, which soared to 711 last year — the highest of the war. Above all, Petraeus launched a full-scale offensive to reshape how Congress and the American people view the war. …The key to victory, Petraeus concluded, is "perception." http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-news-section/46-46/4829-king-dav...
The Afghan Bank Heist
By Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker [February 14, 2011]
---- Poring over stacks of documents, investigators at the American Embassy in Kabul have pinpointed dozens of instances in which Kabul Bank executives may have bribed Afghan officials, including a successful bid to process the salaries that the government pays its employees each month—at least seventy-five million dollars. Access to the salaries would give bank officials an opportunity to earn millions of dollars in interest in the course of a single year. American officials say that Kabul Bank’s largesse extended to members of parliament and almost anyone whose silence would allow bank executives to embark on a spree of buying, lending, and looting. In addition, some current and former Afghan officials say, Kabul Bank became an unofficial arm of the Karzai government, bribing parliamentarians in order to secure votes for its legislative agenda. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110214fa_fact_filkins#ixzz...
Can Afghanistan Afford to Survive?
An Interview w/Juan Cole, The Diplomat [February 5, 2011]
---- I’m pessimistic about Afghanistan in large part because I can’t understand how this government is going to finance itself in the long term. The kind of army that’s being stood up by the US and NATO is probably going to cost $1 billion or $2 billion a year to maintain in nominal terms. And I don’t think the Afghan gross domestic product is more than about $12 billion. So it’s completely unrealistic that Afghanistan can maintain an army like this. …As far as I can tell, the international community is going to be called upon to just give Afghanistan several billion dollars a year to run its government, for possibly decades. I’m worried that the international commitment to Afghanistan may not be sustainable. And when the money stops coming in, then the whole enterprise could be in trouble. http://the-diplomat.com/2011/02/05/can-afghanistan-afford-to-survive/
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Obama's Pentagon cuts not what they seem
By Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley, CNN [February 11, 2011]
---- For those of us who believe the U.S. government is spending more on defense than it needs to, President Obama's budget on Monday will bring what sounds like welcome news: The administration is expected to propose a $78 billion reduction in defense spending over the next five years. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to the story. First of all, the cuts might prove illusory. The federal government appropriates money one year at a time, and the vast majority of that $78 billion reduction would take place in 2014 and 2015, when there will be a new Secretary of Defense and possibly a new president. In fact, Obama's expected 2012 request of $553 billion would be 5% higher than what the Defense Department plans to spend this year. In inflation-adjusted dollars, this figure is higher than at any time during the Bush years or during the Cold War. http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/11/news/economy/lawrence_korb_defense_obama...
See also: Walter Pincus, “Defense officials warn of crisis unless Congress approves 2011 funding bill,” Washington Post [February 12, 2011] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/12/AR201102... Sebastian Abbot, “Report: US needs to show progress on Pakistan aid,” Associated Press [February 8, 2011] http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/08/v-print/1684416/report-us-needs-to-sh... and Jason Ditz, “USAID Says Budget Cuts Threaten War in Afghanistan,” Antiwar.com [February 13, 2011] http://news.antiwar.com/2011/02/13/usaid-says-budget-cuts-threaten-war-i...
Deferring to Petraeus, NIE Failed to Register Taliban Growth
By Gareth Porter, InterPress Service [February 14, 2011]
---- Despite evidence that the Taliban insurgency had grown significantly in 2010, the U.S. intelligence community failed to revise its estimate for Taliban forces as part of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan in December. That unusual decision was in deference to Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan, who did not want any official estimate of the insurgency's strength that would contradict his claims of success by Special Operations Forces in reducing the capabilities of the Taliban in 2010. That major step-up in operations suggested that the Taliban had grown substantially between 2009 and 2010. Yet no revised intelligence estimate of Taliban strength appeared in late 2010, even though the National Intelligence Council produced a National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan in December. Such an NIE would normally be expected to include an updated estimate of insurgent strength. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=54470
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 25 US soldiers were killed in January, and 5 have been killed so far in February. In total, 2,325 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,476 soldiers from the United States. 273 US soldiers were wounded in January; the total US wounded during 2010 was 5,178, and the number wounded since the war began is 10,226. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org and to http://tomhayden.com/downloads/Wounded.pdf. On US wounded soldiers, see the important article by C.J.Chivers, “In Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises,” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/asia/08wounded.html?_r=1&hp
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53709120101221?rpc=401&feedType=... For an extensive listing of casualty estimates since the war began, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_War_in_Afghanist...
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $378 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.152 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html
Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- According to the Afghanistan Study Group, two-thirds of self-identified conservative voters and Tea Party supporters call for either a reduction of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan (the 39% plurality) or a complete withdrawal "as soon as possible" (27%). 24% think that the current levels of troops should be maintained. The majority 71% of conservative voters, including over two-thirds of Tea Party supporters, are worried that the war's cost to American taxpayers - $120 billion spent on the war in 2010 - will make it more difficult to reduce the U.S. deficit next year and balance the U.S. federal budget in the next decade. http://www.afghanistanstudygroup.org/2011/01/12/afghanistan-study-group-...
---- “63 Percent of Americans Oppose War In Afghanistan.” Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, with 63 percent of the public now opposed to U.S. involvement there, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Just 35 percent of survey respondents say they still support U.S. involvement. The increase in opposition to U.S. involvement comes as pessimism about how the war is going is rising. According to a poll done Dec. 17-19, 56 percent of the public believes that "things are going badly for the U.S. in Afghanistan." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/63-percent-of-american-public-o...
---- US public perceptions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have sunk to new lows as the war campaign against Islamic extremism approaches its 10th year, a poll said Friday. Some 14 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Afghanistan and 82 percent hold a negative review, the Gallup poll said. For Pakistan, 18 percent saw the country favorably and 76 percent viewed it unfavorably. The views were the most negative since Gallup began asking the question. Opinion about the two nations peaked in 2005, when upwards of 40 percent of Americans saw both Afghanistan and Pakistan in a positive light. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110211/pl_afp/uspoliticsafghanistanpakista...
For earlier polls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
For Some Troops, Powerful Drug Cocktails Have Deadly Results
By James Dao, Benedict Carey and Dan Frosch, The Independent [UK] [February 2011]
---- After a decade of treating thousands of wounded troops, the military’s medical system is awash in prescription drugs — and the results have sometimes been deadly. By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. The Pentagon has looked to pharmacology to treat those complex problems, following the lead of civilian medicine. As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/us/13drugs.html?ref=world
See also: Jennifer Senior, “Our soldiers are falling apart,” New York Magazine [February 6, 2011]http://nymag.com/news/features/71277
THE WAR IN KABUL
I don’t know if there is a connection, but President Karzai’s failure to manufacture a lower house of parliament that would be obedient to him has been followed by a new round of assertiveness vs. US/NATO. Broadly speaking, he is demanding that money for development, etc. flow through him, and not go directly to projects on the ground, and that the US/NATO cease in its efforts to set up military or other bodies (e.g. Provincial Reconstruction Teams) that are independent from his control. Several articles below examine these issues. Also, as Gareth Porter reports, a new NYU study adds to the growing pile of evidence that the Taliban is, and has been for many years, quite separate from – and even antagonistic to – al-Qaeda. This undercuts the main propaganda myth of Obama/Petraeus, that victory in Afghanistan is necessary to prevent it from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda.
Karzai Seeks End to NATO Reconstruction Teams
By Judy Dempsey, New York Times [February 6, 2011]
---- President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan called Sunday for the speedy dismantling of NATO-run provincial reconstruction teams, the first time he had made such a demand. To an audience of foreign ministers and defense experts attending the annual Munich Security Conference, Mr. Karzai also repeated his call for allied governments to stop using private security companies, contending that they, along with the civilian-military reconstruction teams, are an impediment to the central government’s expanding its authority throughout the country. …Donor and coalition countries finance the reconstruction teams directly rather than through the Afghan government because of corruption concerns. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/world/asia/07munich.html?_r=1&ref=worl...
See also: Joshua Foust, “Actually, Karzai is right about PRTs,” Foreign Policy [February 8, 2011]
http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/08/actually_karzai_is_right... ; Michael Birnbaum, “Karzai critical of aid bypassing Afghan government,” Washington Post [February 6, 2011]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/06/AR201102... Joshua Partlow, “Afghan government accuses 16 security firms of violations,” Washington Post [February 8, 2011] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/08/AR201102... and David Brunnstrom, “Karzai to announce Afghan handover start March 21,” Reuters [February 6, 2011] http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110206/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_transition
Karzai Admits US Seeks Permanent Military Bases in Afghanistan
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 8, 2011]
---- With President Obama having long ago disavowed the 2011 date he pledged would be the beginning of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, its remained to be seen how quickly the 2014 date, confirmed most recently at Lisbon, would fall by the wayside. It seems like it will be quite soon, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed today that the Obama Administration has been in secret talks with him to formalize a system of permanent military bases across the war torn nation, effectively pledging to keep the unpopular occupation a permanent aspect of life in Afghanistan. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/02/08/karzai-admits-us-seeks-permanent-mili...
Karzai Threatens to Close Afghan Women's Shelters
By Gayle Lemmon, Ms. Magazine [February 11, 2011]
---- Women’s shelters in Afghanistan, long under fire from conservatives in the country, now face their toughest battle yet for survival. A government proposal now being considered would bar non-governmental organizations from running private safe houses and bring the 14 women’s shelters opened over the last decade under the direct control and supervision of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Women’s advocates see this latest offensive against their work as yet another sign of a conservative resurgence in the country as discussions about peace deals with the Taliban grow louder. In their view, President Hamid Karzai and his government want to position themselves for a Taliban return to power by putting distance between their politics and ‘foreign’ ideas and institutions such as women’s shelters. http://www.truth-out.org/karzai-threatens-close-afghan-womens-shelters67710
See also: Alissa J. Rubin, “Afghan Proposal Would Clamp Down on Women’s Shelters,” New York Times [February 10, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/world/asia/11shelter.html?ref=world
The Taliban and al-Qaeda
Evidence of 2002 Taliban Offer Damages Myth of al-Qaeda Ties
By Gareth Porter, InterPress Service [February 7, 2011]
---- The central justification of the U.S.-NATO war against the Afghan Taliban – that the Taliban would allow al-Qaeda to return to Afghanistan – has been challenged by new historical evidence of offers by the Taliban leadership to reconcile with the Hamid Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001. The evidence of the Taliban peace initiatives comes from a new paper drawn from the first book-length study of Taliban-al-Qaeda relations thus far. … Citing an unidentified former Taliban official who participated in the decision, they report that the entire senior Taliban political leadership met in Pakistan in November 2002 to consider an offer of reconciliation with the new Afghan government in which they would “join the political process” in Afghanistan. “We discussed whether to join the political process in Afghanistan or not and we took a decision that, yes, we should go and join the process,” the former Taliban leader told the co-authors. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2011/02/07/evidence-of-2002-taliban-o...
See also: Spencer Ackerman, “Taliban and al-Qaeda: Unfriended?” Wired [February 7, 2011] http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/taliban-and-al-qaeda-unfriended/. To read the report by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, “Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda: The Core of Success in Afghanistan” [February 2011] – 16 pages - http://bit.ly/dEJfuf
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
Karzai Calls on the U.S. To Free a Taliban Official
By Rod Nordland, New York Times [February 8, 2011]
---- President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he wanted to bring a Taliban official being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison back to Afghanistan to join in reconciliation talks. His remarks seconded a request by the government’s High Peace Council calling for the release of the Taliban figure, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, who has been held at the prison on the United States military base in Cuba since 2002. Mr. Khairkhwa had been the Taliban interior minister and also the governor of Herat Province during the Taliban government. Efforts to start reconciliation talks with the Taliban are a high priority of Mr. Karzai’s government, which last year formed the High Peace Council, whose 70 members include a dozen former Taliban officials. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/world/asia/09afghan.html?ref=world
The Burhani Initiative: Why Did Joe Biden Rush to Visit Pakistan?
By Shaukat Qadir, Counterpunch [February 12, 2011]
---- Joe Biden, the US Vice President, spent a very busy day in Islamabad on January 12, 2011, on a rather hastily scheduled visit, after his trip to Kabul. Ostensibly, this unscheduled visit was to reassure Pakistan of America’s long-term commitment to Pakistan, and to express its concern on Salmaan Taseer’s murder and the public reaction of supporting Mumtaz Qadri. While Biden and Obama favored talks with the Taliban, Petraeus — supported by the secretaries of state and defense — opposed talks until a decisive US victory forces them to the negotiating table from a position of weakness. Needless to add, the GHQ opposes Petraeus’ policy and doubts that US forces can ever achieve a ‘decisive victory’ over the Taliban. http://counterpunch.org/qadir02112011.html
TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY AND POLICE
Petraeus defends plan to arm villagers
By Matthew Green, Financial Times [February 7, 2011]
---- General David Petraeus, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, plans to triple a scheme that has armed thousands of village recruits, dismissing fears that the strategy could nurture a new generation of warlords. With violence in Afghanistan rising and Nato allies anxious to hand over to Afghan forces in 2014, Gen Petraeus wants to bolster security, in part by sending 12-man teams of US special forces to train locals. Human rights groups and aid agencies have called for the plan to be scrapped, fearing it threatens to fuel conflicts and empower the kind of militia commanders who ravaged Afghanistan during years of civil war in the 1990s. The government of Hamid Karzai, the president, has also been wary of similar initiatives. But Gen Petraeus said the scheme was vital in enlisting the support of locals. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6295e620-32e7-11e0-9a61-00144feabdc0.html#axzz...
See also: Joshua Partlow, “U.S. initiative to arm Afghan villagers carries some risks,” Washington Post [February 6, 2011] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/06/AR201102...
NATO: 740 trainers still needed for Afghan forces
By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press [February 13, 2011]
---- More nations are pledging support, yet NATO still faces a shortage of 740 trainers needed to get Afghan soldiers and policemen ready to take the lead in securing their nation, the coalition's top training official says. Needed most are 290 police trainers, including those to work in new training centers opening in Afghanistan this year, U.S. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of NATO's training mission, told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday. http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AFGHAN_SECURITY_FORCES?SITE=D...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
In Eastern Afghanistan, at War With the Taliban’s Shadowy Rule
By C. J. Chivers, New York Times [February 6, 2011]
---- The picture is of an underground government by local fighters, organized under the Taliban’s banner, who have established the rudiments of a civilian administration to complement their shadowy combat force. They run schools, collect taxes and adjudicate civil disputes in Islamic courts. And when they fight, their gunmen and bomb makers are aided by an intelligence and support network that includes villagers, who signal for them and provide them shelter, and tunnels in which to elude capture or find medical care. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/world/asia/07taliban.html
Afghan Air War Doubles: Now 10 Attacks Per Day
By Noah Shachtman, Wired [February 8, 2011]
---- Dave Petraeus won’t let up his aerial assault on Afghanistan. After taking the air war to record highs in the fall, coalition aircraft are now flying about 10 bombing missions a day, nearly double the rate over the same period last year. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/afghan-air-war-doubles-now-10-at...
A Blood-Stained Rifle, and Questions of the Taliban
By C.J. Chivers, New York Times [February 7, 2011]
---- Whatever the real motivations behind his dash on a bicycle into the kill zone, the officers and intelligence analysts who puzzle over incidents like this are left wonder: What propelled him there? He was a legally justifiable target. But was he really a fighter? Child soldiers have long been a fact of war in Afghanistan. When the Taliban fields them, what does it say of the movement? Was Muhammad Sharif’s sudden appearance in the field a sign of Taliban weakness, or is it a sign of Taliban strength?
See also: Alissa J. Rubin and Taimoor Shah, “Suicide Bombers Attack Afghan Police in Kandahar,” New York Times [February 12, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/world/asia/13afghanistan.html?ref=world; and Rod Nordland and Sharifullah Saha, “Afghan Government Says Prisoner Directed Attacks,” New York Times [February 10, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/world/asia/11afghan.html
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Pakistan Issues Arrest Warrant for Musharraf in Bhutto’s Killing
From Reuters [February 12, 2011]
---- A Pakistani court on Saturday issued an arrest warrant for former President Pervez Musharraf in connection with the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister and his rival. The authorities did not provide details of their accusations against Mr. Musharraf, who left under the threat of impeachment in 2008 and has been living in exile in London and Dubai. In October, Mr. Musharraf apologized to Pakistan for what he characterized as mistakes he made in office, and he said he would return to the country as the new head of a political party in time for elections due by 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/world/asia/13pakistan.html?ref=world
India and Pakistan Agree to Renew Peace Talks
By Lydia Polgreen, New York Times [February 10, 2011]
---- India and Pakistan announced Thursday that they would resume peace talks that had been stalled since 2008, when Pakistani militants staged coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The agreement appeared to set the stage for high-level, open-ended talks on a variety of contentious issues like counterterrorism and improving economic relations. The renewal of talks is likely to be welcomed by the United States, which has been eager to ease tensions between the two countries so that Pakistan can divert troops from its border with India to its frontier with Afghanistan and aid the American fight against Taliban insurgents. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/world/asia/11talks.html?ref=world&page...
The Siddiqui Case: Lawyers Release Explosive, Secretly Recorded Tape
By Victoria Brittain, Counterpunch [February 14, 2011]
---- In 2003 an MIT-educated expert in children’s learning patterns, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, disappeared with her three children in Pakistan. Was she, as the Americans said, an Al Qaeda operative who in 2008 emerged after five years undercover, carrying a handbag full of chemicals and plans for major terror attacks in the US, and then attempted to shoot US soldiers? Or was she, as her family, and most people in Pakistan have always maintained, seized by Pakistani agents for reasons unknown? Now new evidence of the kidnapping of Dr Siddiqui prises open part of one of the most shocking of the myriad individual stories of injustice in the war on terror. It also underlines the recklessness and perfidy of a key United States’ partner in the war on terror, which carries its own threat of explosion.
What’s the Raymond Davis Case All About?
The angry standoff between the United States and Pakistan over the arrest of Raymond Davis is clearly important, but almost every aspect of the case is mysterious. The only certainty is that the United States, in order to get Davis back asap, is willing to damage it’s already frayed relationship with Pakistan. The main questions are: Who is Davis and what was he doing in Pakistan? Did Davis murder two Pakistan nationals in cold blood, or was it self-defense? And, is the United States correct that Davis has “diplomatic immunity,” and thus Pakistan has no right to hold him, no matter what he did? The vehement popular opposition to the release of Davis without a trial reflects the strong anti-US feeling in the country. Can an already weak Pakistan government give in to the United States on this issue, irrespective of the facts of the case and the legal rights and wrongs, without destabilizing the country further? The essays linked below look at the different aspects of the case.
Putting in my own two cents, it is clear that Davis’s “diplomatic immunity” depends on what his diplomatic status was and what he was doing. Based on the US’s own guidelines for diplomatic immunity (in the case of foreign nationals in the United States), it makes a difference whether Davis was working for the US Embassy in Islamabad (as the State Department initially claimed) or the US Consulate in Lahore (claimed by Davis himself). Also, Davis is described by the State Department as a member of the “administrative and technical staff”; i.e., not a “diplomat” in the full sense. Both of these facts – if true -- appear to qualify significantly Davis’s “immunity.” As the State Department publication “Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities” explains: “The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations grants a very limited level of privileges and immunities to consular personnel assigned to consulates that are located outside capitals. There is a common misunderstanding that consular personnel have diplomatic status and are entitled to diplomatic immunity" (p.5); and “Consular employees perform the administrative and technical support services for the consular post. They have no personal inviolability, only official acts immunity, and enjoy immunity from the obligation to provide evidence as witnesses only in respect of official acts.” (p. 6) [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/150546.pdf] That is, contrary to assertions in the New York Times and elsewhere, Davis does not automatically have diplomatic immunity, and an inquiry into the facts – murder, self-defense, official acts, etc. – is warranted.
For some information on who was Davis, what was he doing in Pakistan, etc., see: Dave Lindorff, “Lahore Killings Update: US Terror Campaign in Pakistan?” Counterpunch [February 10, 2011] http://counterpunch.org/lindorff02102011.html; “Qureshi dismisses US sought immunity for Davis,” The News [Pakistan] February 13, 2011] http://www.thenews.com.pk/NewsDetail.aspx?ID=11061; Waqar Gillani and Jane Perlez, “Pakistan Extends Jailing of American Held in 2 Deaths,” New York Times [February 11, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/world/asia/12pakistan.html?ref=world; Andrew Buncombe, “How Pakistan could be made to pay for an American killer,” The Independent [UK] [February 12, 2011] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/how-pakistan-could-be-made-... and Jane Perlez, “U.S. Postpones Meeting With Pakistan and Afghanistan,” New York Times [February 14, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/asia/14pakistan.html?ref=world&p...
Drones hurt Pakistan bid to win hearts and minds
By Michael Georgy, Reuters [February 14, 2011]
---- The air raids also go to the heart of the resentment that Pakistanis feel against the United States, seeing them as an assault on the nation's sovereignty. The United States still doesn't acknowledge the drone campaign, so American officials decline to confirm specific incidents, underscoring the sensitivities on ties with Pakistan, a nuclear-armed South Asian country. But they do say the attacks are highly effective. Drone strikes have killed high-value al Qaeda and Taliban figures. But these victories for Washington and Islamabad often cause devastation for locals like Khan. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110214/wl_nm/us_pakistan_usa_drones
NATO AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Merkel Gives Testimony on 2009 Airstrike in Afghanistan
By Judy Dempsey, New York Times [February 10, 2011]
---- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany appeared Thursday evening before a special parliamentary committee seeking to clarify the circumstances behind a German-ordered airstrike in Afghanistan that killed at least 91 people, the majority Afghan civilians, in September 2009. Mrs. Merkel is the last witness to be called to testify in the inquiry into the bombings, which left Germany shaken. The inquiry has already lasted 14 months and involved 40 witnesses. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/world/europe/11iht-germany11.html?ref=...
CENTRAL ASIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
US signs compromise fuel deal over Afghanistan airbase
By Richard Orange, The Telegraph [UK] [February 2011]
---- The US on Tuesday signed a deal to pass part of a $630m (£392m) Afghanistan fuel contract to a newly formed state company in Kyrgyzstan, in a compromise designed to safeguard its airbase in the small but strategic former Soviet republic. The deal will help to keep Mina Corp, the existing holder of the contract, supplying the Manas Air base, despite a campaign against the company by Kyrgyz politicians, including President Roza Otunbayeva, who claim that the families of two previous leaders benefited improperly from its dealings. The base, near the capital, Bishkek, is a crucial supply hub for the war in Afghanistan. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/kyrgyzstan/8311515/US-sig...
THE WIKILEAKS LEAK – WEEK ELEVEN
Sources for Cables and Media Coverage
---- WikiLeaks’ new home is at www.wikileaks.ch, courtesy of the Swiss Pirate Party. As of today, 4,073 cables have been posted on the web. They can be searched (e.g., for “Afghanistan” or “corruption”) at http://cablesearch.org/. Another useful site is WikiLeaks Central: “An unofficial WikiLeaks information resource”: http://wlcentral.org// The Wikipedia entry on WikiLeaks is comprehensive and up-to-date: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak. The best WikiLeaks archives in the mainstream media are at The Guardian [UK] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-us-embassy-cables and Aljazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/usembassyfiles/. The New York Times’ site is at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/statessecrets.html?hp. Energy Intelligence, a publication specializing “information of geopolitical importance to the world of energy,” has set up a “WikiLeaks Watch” for energy-related cables posted on WikiLeaks: http://new.energyintel.com/WikileaksWatch. Of the several blogs about the cables and the controversy surrounding them, the best one imo is by Greg Mitchell at The Nation - http://www.thenation.com/authors/greg-mitchell.
New this week
The trials of Bradley Manning, a defense
By Chase Madar, TomDispatch [February 11, 2011]
---- The Obama administration came into office proclaiming “sunshine” policies. When some of the U.S. government’s dirty laundry was laid out in the bright light of day by WikiLeaks, however, its officials responded in a knee-jerk, punitive manner in the case of Bradley Manning, now in extreme isolation in a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. Whatever happens to Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, Washington is clearly intent on destroying this young Army private and then putting him away until hell freezes over. It should not be this way. http://warincontext.org/2011/02/11/chase-madar-the-trials-of-bradley-man...
The leaked campaign to attack WikiLeaks and its supporters
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com [February 11, 2011]
---- The leaked report suggested numerous ways to destroy WikiLeaks, some of them likely illegal -- including planting fake documents with the group and then attacking them when published; "creat[ing] concern over the security" of the site; "cyber attacks against the infrastructure to get data on document submitters"; and a "media campaign to push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities." Many of those proposals were also featured prongs of a secret 2008 Pentagon plan to destroy WikiLeaks. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/11/campaigns/i...
(Video) Defend Wikileaks And Julian Assange
By Tariq Ali, ZNet [February 13, 2011] - 2 parts, 25 minutes
Spy Chief: Damage from WikiLeaks Is Unclear
By Spencer Ackerman, Wired [February 11, 2011]