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Mr. Obama’s commitment to maintain perhaps 50,000 troops in Iraq after the drawdown of combat forces over the next 19 months, combined with his decision to send an additional 17,000 troops (for starters) to Afghanistan, could be the beginning of an unwanted debate about commitments abroad. If the country begins to see mounting costs in lives and money from the administration’s war policies, it risks distractions from the more urgent designs the president described in his campaign and recent messages to the Congress and the country.
Only if our troop levels hit 100,000 and fighting floods over into Taliban havens in Pakistan will Washington be likely to look hard at the alternative policy for Afghanistan — withdrawing most American forces and refocusing our power on containing, deterring and diplomatically encircling the terrorist threat. But by then it will be too late.
If you're interested in a "way forward" in Afghanistan that's not built around killing a bunch of innocent people for no reason, then I strongly encourage you to read and absorb every word of Carlotta Gall's report in Wednesday's New York Times, "As U.S. Weighs Taliban Negotiations, Afghans Are Already Talking."
Some key points, based on conversations with Afghan officials and Western diplomats in Kabul:
- Far from being "pie in the sky," discussions with the Taliban leadership are already underway and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the US. The ongoing talks were actually initiated by an overture from the Taliban: the Taliban leadership council first approached the government about peace talks last year.
Russian advice: More troops won't help in Afghanistan
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
The old diplomat sighed as he recalled his years in Afghanistan, and then leaned forward and said in a booming voice that no escalation of troops would bring lasting peace.
As the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan from 1979 to 1986, Fikryat Tabeyev saw the numbers rise to more than 100,000 troops without any possibility of victory against a growing insurgency.
A progressive Presidency is a terrible thing to waste. It only comes around once every so often. Wouldn't it be a shame if Americans' hopes for the Obama Administration were squandered in Afghanistan?
Members of Congress who want the Obama Administration to succeed won't do it any favors by keeping silent about the proposed military escalation in Afghanistan. The actions of the Obama Administration so far clearly indicate that they can move in response to pressure: both good pressure and bad pressure. If there is only bad pressure, it's more than likely that policy will move in a bad direction. In announcing an increase in U.S. troops before his Afghanistan review was complete, Obama partially acceded to pressure from the military. If we don't want the military to have carte blanche, there needs to be counterpressure.
Leaked analysis condemns US for lack of co-operation • Senior officers' criticisms also cover Iraq campaign
By Peter Beaumont, The Guardian/UK
A highly critical analysis of the US-led coalition's counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations in both countries - and the intelligence underpinning them.
Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials - and marked for "official use only" - the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.
H.E. MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
I urge the Council to focus on the profound problems that have been created by the massive violations human rights in Iraq. Even as the world absorbs the inhumanity of the recent invasion of Gaza, we see Iraq as a contemporary and ongoing example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights. It has set a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand. The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as its runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in article 2(4) of the UN Charter. All pretended justifications not withstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations, constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations.
Today is a good moment to give some thought to one of the worst remaining legacies of the Bush era, the prison where that administration's grotesque offshore detention policies -- the beatings, the torture, the works -- were first put into play, the prison that has yet to go away. And as Karen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law and the author of a striking new book, The Least Worst Place, Guantanamo's First 100 Days, points out, it's not, as you might expect, Guantanamo, but our grim prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration on Thursday marked a clear break with George W. Bush’s policy of isolating Iran by declaring its intention to invite the Islamic republic to an international conference on stabilising Afghanistan.
Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, announced in Brussels that Tehran was likely to be invited to a meeting that would bring together all “interested parties” on Afghanistan. Administration officials later confirmed Iran would be on the guest list.
Iran has already signalled its willingness to attend. A firm date for the conference has not been fixed. Italy, as holder of the G8 presidency this year, has proposed hosting such a conference in Trieste in June.
UN General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann on Wednesday urged the Human Rights Council to investigate "massive human rights violations" in Iraq.
The Nicaraguan diplomat describes Iraq as "a contemporary and on-going example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights."
He says "it sets a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand."
Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films writes:
Watch the video Many of you reading this e-mail worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change.
Many of you reading this e-mail worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change.
By Dave Lindorff
The dithering and ducking going on in the Obama White House and the Holder Justice Department over the crimes of the Bush administration are taking on a comic aspect.
On the one hand, we have President Obama assuring us that under his administration, there will be respect for the rule of law, and on the other hand we have this one-time constitutional law professor and his attorney general declaiming that there is no need for the appointment of a prosecutor to bring charges against the people in the last administration, in the CIA, in the National Security Agency and in the Defense Department and the military who clearly have broken the law in serious and felonious ways.
What gets silly is that America is either a nation of laws…or it isn’t. It is either a place where “nobody is above the law”…or it isn’t.
There is really no middle ground here.
Many in Afghanistan oppose Obama's troop buildup plans
Frustration and fear is sparking opposition to plans that would nearly double the size of US forces there.
By Anand Gopal | CS Monitor | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
The lack of public support could provide fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban and hinder US operations..."They don't respect our tradition, culture, or religion."...locals saw two boys practicing their fledgling English with American soldiers who were passing by. The Taliban later executed the children, accusing them of being spies...."The fighting will be intense, and a lot of us villagers are talking about fleeing to Kabul. We are worried our families will be caught in the middle..."
Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington's planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here.
"Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don't send more troops – it will just bring more violence."
By John Nichols, The Nation
MoveOn.org became a meaningful force in American politics when it emerged as a muscular network of activists that was willing to challenge not just Republicans but Democrats when they were wrong about foreign policy.
Democratic leaders in Congress might have been willing to compromise with the Bush administration on Iraq back in 2002. But MoveOn said "no."
And MoveOn was right.
Now, more than ever, we need MoveOn to remain true to its historic mission.
We need MoveOn to be right about Afghanistan.
For that reason, I certainly hope that Justin Ruben, the new MoveOn executive director, was wrong when he told my colleague Ari Melber that he did not think the group would be letting President Obama know he is wrong to be surging more U.S. troops into Afghanistan.
Here's what Ruben said about MoveOn's agenda for the coming months:
The Imperial Unconscious: Afghan Faces, Predators, Reapers, Terrorist Stars, Roman Conquerors, Imperial Graveyards, and Other Oddities of the Truncated American Century
By Tom Engelhardt | Tom Dispatch.com
Sometimes, it's the everyday things, the ones that fly below the radar, that matter.
Here, according to Bloomberg News, is part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's recent testimony on the Afghan War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"U.S. goals in Afghanistan must be 'modest, realistic,' and 'above all, there must be an Afghan face on this war,' Gates said. 'The Afghan people must believe this is their war and we are there to help them. If they think we are there for our own purposes, then we will go the way of every other foreign army that has been in Afghanistan.'"
Now, in our world, a statement like this seems so obvious, so reasonable as to be beyond comment. And yet, stop a moment and think about this part of it: "there must be an Afghan face on this war." U.S. military and civilian officials used an equivalent phrase in 2005-2006 when things were going really, really wrong in Iraq. It was then commonplace -- and no less unremarked upon -- for them to urgently suggest that an "Iraqi face" be put on events there.
U.S. WAR IN AFGHANISTAN HAUNTED BY BUSH’S WAR CRIMES
By Michael Haas
While additional American troops are being deployed to Afghanistan, George W. Bush’s misdeeds continue to handicap combat effectiveness there. Past disrespect to the country must be reversed by an immediate apology to the Afghan people and new orders to field commanders to follow the Geneva Conventions on the battlefield.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan began in 2001 as a war of aggression similar to the attack on Iraq. Prior to the start of that war on Oct. 7, 2001, the Taliban government in Kabul offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, if the U.S. provided proof he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Obama seeks $130 billion for wars next year
By ANNE GEARAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama proposed war spending Thursday that nears $11 billion a month for the next year and a half despite the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq.
The Obama administration wants to spend about $75 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through next fall, costs that were largely set by the Bush administration. On top of that, the new budget proposal asks Congress for $130 billion for next year.
It's not clear whether Obama's promise to bring combat troops home from Iraq will carry a cost savings in the near term. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the budget for next year figures in new costs for Afghanistan, and he warned that the process of pulling out tens of thousands of forces from Iraq will be expensive.
President Barack Obama this week is laying out the road home from the war in Iraq during the next 19 months. More or less.
The President has indicated that he'll order the withdrawal of upward of 100,000 American troops from a war that began six years ago and has cost us more than 4,200 American dead, well over 70,000 wounded or injured and nearly a trillion dollars in national treasure.
This withdrawal, however, will leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces, safeguard American facilities and personnel and continue tracking down and eliminating the worst al Qaida in Iraq terrorists.
Secret negotiations are under way to bring troops fighting alongside the Taliban into Afghanistan's political process, Al Jazeera has learned.
The talks, between Taliban-linked mediators, Western officials and the Afghan government, are believed to involve a proposal for the return to Afghanistan of Gulbaldin Hekmatyar, the country's former prime minister, who has been in hiding for seven years.
Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami forces fighting alongside the Taliban and labelled a "terrorist organisation" by the United States, would be allowed to return to Afghanistan with immunity from prosecution, according to information revealed to Al Jazeera.
Hekmatyar, who is believed to be in the northwest tribal region of Pakistan, would first be offered asylum in Saudi Arabia, under the proposal being backed by the British government.
Visiting Afghanistan's Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said here on Friday that some 10,000 to 15,000 Taliban militants are operating in up to 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces in the country.
Apart from many Afghans who were recruited for economic reasons, most of the insurgents were foreigners operating with Al-Qaida or Central Asian extremist groups, Atmar told reporters.
Atmar, who is here for a three-way dialogue with the United States and Pakistan on a new "war on terror" strategy, denied the saying that insurgents are rampant. "Terrorist attacks do not represent their strength but indeed their weakness," the minister said.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who vowed to beef up effort to battle against extremism in Afghanistan, has authorized a 17,000 troop increase for war in the country.
Six people were hurt when Afghan police opened fire on demonstrators who claimed U.S. troops had desecrated a Koran during a raid on a mosque.
The incident took place in Deh Khodaidad village in Ghazni, southwest of the capital, Kabul.
Police said a government team had been sent to investigate claims that foreign troops had raided the mosque, rounded up worshippers and tore apart copies of the Koran on Thursday night.
A spokesman for the U.S. military said he was aware of a "peaceful protest." Afghan police said any injuries had been caused by "saboteurs" in the crowd.
Obama seeks $205 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars
By Tabassum Zakaria and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama requested about $205 billion in war funding through the end of fiscal 2010 on Thursday, as he sought to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and boost forces fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama's first budget proposal asked for $75.5 billion through September, which would bring total war spending to $141.4 billion for the current fiscal year. Obama also requested a slightly smaller $130 billion to fund the wars for fiscal year 2010, which starts on October 1.
Obama asked Congress to increase the Pentagon's regular budget to $533.7 billion next year -- up 4 percent, or $20.4 billion, from its spending plan for the current year, drawn up under the Bush administration.
A key fact about the recent history of Iraq is absolutely critical to the nascent debate about Afghanistan: there was more to the Iraq "surge" than sending additional troops, so if folks are going to justify sending more troops to Afghanistan on the grounds that sending more troops "worked" in Iraq, we should be talking about the other elements of US policy in Iraq that changed after November 2006, not just about more troops.
US congressman Ron Paul says US military interventions around the world show that American politicians are in pursuit of a "world empire".
US statesmen from both sides of the aisle "are all interventionists, they all believe in the world empire," said the outspoken Republican congressman in an interview with Russia Today.
Paul made the remarks when asked about President Barack Obama's decision to assign 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan contingents.
The Texas congressman called Obama's decision an "outrage", saying the US has suffered "the most because we're paying for our foreign intervention overseas."
"But foreign policies don't change; it doesn't change with Democrats or Republicans," Paul said.
Within a few years, some members of Congress, and leaders of some progressive groups with huge email lists, will look back with regret as they recall their failure to clearly and openly oppose the pivotal escalation of the Afghan war.
Hours after President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, the New York Times printed the news that he plans to gradually withdraw "American combat forces" from Iraq during the next 18 months. The newspaper reported that the advantages of the pullout will include "relieving the strain on the armed forces and freeing up resources for Afghanistan."
Afghanistan's Complex Nature of Fighting
In the Wall Street Journal of January 24, the loathsome McCarthyite neocon David Horowitz gazed approvingly on the inauguration of Barack Obama. To Horowitz it meant the removal of an obstacle to war. Thus he wrote:
By Norman Solomon
Hours after President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress, the New York Times printed the news that he plans to gradually withdraw “American combat forces” from Iraq during the next 18 months. The newspaper reported that the advantages of the pullout will include “relieving the strain on the armed forces and freeing up resources for Afghanistan.”
The president’s speech had little to say about the plans for escalation, but the few words will come back to haunt: “With our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.”
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr., NY Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — An airstrike by the United States-led military coalition killed 13 civilians and 3 militants last Tuesday in western Afghanistan, not “up to 15 militants” as was initially claimed by American forces, military officials here said Saturday.
The civilians killed included three children, six women and four men in the Gozara district of Herat Province, in addition to three people suspected of being Taliban fighters, according to an aide to the provincial governor.
American and NATO forces have come under increasing criticism from Afghans and political leaders in Kabul for the soaring number of civilians killed by airstrikes and fighting between Taliban and American-led forces.
By Globe and Mail/Canada
KABUL - The word "Guantanamo" serves as shorthand among some Afghans for all the reasons they hate foreign troops, but the impending closing of the notorious prison has gotten surprisingly little attention in this country.
Nothing changed with last month's U.S. presidential order to close Guantanamo, many people here say, because another prison inspires even greater fear: Bagram.
Even a man who could be expected to feel the most joy about Guantanamo closing, a former detainee who spent more than six years in the camp, quickly turns the conversation to the detention facility north of Kabul, inside the U.S. military base at Bagram.
"Everybody is happy because our friends will be released from Guantanamo, but there is a big question," said Omar al-Madani, 30, who now lives in Kabul. "What will they do about Bagram?"