Wednesday, February 18, 2009

US Administration to Escalate the Afghanistan War, 17,000 More Occupation Troops To Arrive in the Country

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
13:13 Mecca time, 10:13 GMT

More US troops set for Afghanistan

Obama said the extra US troops are needed to 'stabilise' a deteriorating situation

Barack Obama, the US president, has approved the deployment of an extra 17,000 troops for Afghanistan, the White House has confirmed.

The deployment would include an additional US army brigade and a marine expeditionary force, along with support staff, Obama said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This increase is necessary to stabilise a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires," he said.

Obama said he made the deployment decision after a request from Robert Gates, the US secretary of defence.

The move puts troops on the ground in time for the increase in fighting that usually comes with warmer weather, and in time for national elections to be held in Afghanistan in August.

Meanwhile, the office of Hamid Karzai announced that Obama spoke to the Afghan president of Tuesday - the first time since the US presidential inauguration last month.

The two leaders spoke on the telephone about security issues and the Afghan presidential elections, Karzai's office said on Wednesday.

Forces boosted

The troop increase is the first instalment of a larger influx of US forces that Obama was widely expected to announce after entering office in January.

Hamish MacDonald, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, said that Obama's announcement on the troops' deployment had come later than expected.

"I think it is important to point out that there were expectations that this announcement would be made much earlier," he said.

"It has been widely reported that when Obama had his first meeting with the US senior military leadership, he was not satisfied with the strategy that they presented for the use of those additional troops.

"He sent them away, we are told, to look into a more convincing strategy and told them to come back with a request again. Only then would he announce the deployment."

The US administration is currently reviewing its policy in Afghanistan, the results of which are expected to be released in April, although Obama said the increase in troops would not "pre-determine" the outcome of the review.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds says that for Obama to wait until April for a troop increase would be to risk a further increase in violence, which is why he acceded to his commanders' request.

However, he says the Pentagon may still be a little wary of too many soldiers in Afghanistan – many in the US are warning Obama not to go down the same route as Lyndon Johnson, the former US president, who found himself in a quagmire in Vietnam.

Analysts say US troop build-up in Afghanistan could reach up to 60,000 troops from current levels of 38,000 in the coming months.

Afghan-US tension

Obama has previously criticised the Afghan government for seeming "detached" from the problems the country faces.

He told Canadian television on Tuesday that Afghanistan remained "winnable" despite a rise in deadly attacks by Taliban fighters, but said force alone would not guarantee victory.

"I'm absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in the region solely through military means," he told CBC.

"We're going to have to use diplomacy; we're going to have to use development."

Tensions have also increased after a number of US military operations led to civilian deaths.

A United Nations report says the number of civilians killed in the Afghanistan conflict last year jumped by 40 per cent to more than 2,100.

The US sent troops into Afghanistan in October 2001 following the September 11 attacks the same year, in a bid to destroy the al-Qaeda network and oust the Taliban from power.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

February 18, 2009

Putting Stamp on Afghan War, Obama Will Send 17,000 Troops

New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Tuesday that he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, putting his stamp firmly on a war that he has long complained is going in the wrong direction.

The order will add nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there. A further decision on sending more troops will come after the administration completes a broader review of Afghanistan policy, White House officials said.

Mr. Obama said in a written statement that the increase was “necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”

At least for now, Mr. Obama’s decision gives American commanders in Afghanistan most but not all of the troops they had asked for. But the decision also carries political risk for a president who will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Many experts worry that Afghanistan presents an even more formidable challenge for the United States than Iraq does, particularly with neighboring Pakistan providing sanctuary for insurgents of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Under Mr. Obama’s plan, a unit of 8,000 marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will be deployed in the next few weeks, aiming to be in Afghanistan by late spring, administration officials said, while an Army brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash., composed of 4,000 soldiers, will be sent in the summer. An additional 5,000 Army support troops will also be deployed in the summer.

Antiwar groups criticized Mr. Obama’s decision even before the White House announced it.

“The president is committing these troops before he’s determined what the mission is,” said Tom Andrews, director of the coalition organization Win Without War. “We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

Mr. Obama said in his statement that “the fact that we are going to responsibly draw down our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan.”

American generals in Afghanistan had been pressing for additional forces to be in place by late spring or early summer to help counter growing violence and chaos in the country. Of the 30,000 additional troops that the commanders had initially sought, some 6,000 arrived in January after being sent by President Bush.

The administration’s review of Afghanistan policy is supposed to be completed before early April, when Mr. Obama heads to Europe for a NATO summit meeting at which he is expected to press American allies for more troops and help in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he was “absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means.”

February 18, 2009

Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose 40 Percent in 2008

New York Times

The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan leapt by nearly 40 percent last year, according to a survey released Tuesday by the United Nations, the latest measure of how the intensifying violence between the Taliban and American-led forces is ravaging that country.

The death toll — 2,118 civilians killed in 2008, compared with 1,523 in 2007 — is the highest since the Taliban government was ousted in November 2001, at the outset of a war with no quick end in sight.

Civilian deaths have become a political flash point in Afghanistan, eroding public support for the war and inflaming tensions with President Hamid Karzai, who has bitterly condemned the American-led coalition for the rising toll. President Obama’s decision to deploy more troops to Afghanistan raises the prospect of even more casualties.

The United Nations report found that the Taliban and other insurgents caused the majority of the civilian deaths, primarily through suicide bombers and roadside bombs, many aimed at killing as many civilians as possible.

Taliban fighters routinely attacked American and other pro-government forces in densely populated areas, the report said, apparently in the hope of provoking a response that would kill even more civilians.

But the report also found that Afghan government forces and those of the American-led coalition killed 828 people last year, up sharply from the previous year. Most of those were killed in airstrikes and raids on villages, which are often conducted at night.

One day this month, an old man who called himself Syed Mohammed sat on the floor of his mud-brick hut in the eastern Kabul neighborhood of Hotkheil and recounted how most of his son’s family was wiped out in an American-led raid last September.

Mr. Mohammed said he was awakened in the early morning to the sound of gunfire and explosions. Such sounds were not uncommon; Hotkheil is a Pashtun-dominated area, where sympathies for the Taliban run strong.

In a flash, Mr. Mohammed said, several American and Afghan soldiers kicked open the door of his home. The Americans, he said, had beards, an almost certain sign that they belonged to a unit of the Special Forces, which permits uniformed soldiers to grow facial hair.

“Who are you?” Mr. Mohammed recalled asking the intruders.

“Shut up,” came the reply from one of the Afghan soldiers. “We are the government.”

Mr. Mohammed said he was taken to a nearby base, interrogated for several hours and let go as sunrise neared.

When he returned home, Mr. Mohammed said, he went next door to his son’s house, only to find that most of his family had been killed: the son, Nurallah, and his pregnant wife and two of his sons, Abdul Basit, age 1, and Mohammed, 2. Only Mr. Mohammed’s 4-year-old grandson, Zarqawi, survived.

“The soldiers had a right to search our house,” Mr. Mohammed said. “But they didn’t have a right to do this.”

Bullet holes still pockmarked Nurallah’s home more than four months after the attack, and the infant’s cradle still hung from the ceiling.

The day after the attack, a senior Afghan official came to the door and handed Mr. Mohammed $800.

“If you spent some time here, you would see that we are not the kind of people who would get involved with the Taliban,” Mr. Mohammed said. “Anyway, what was the fault of the babies?”

American military spokesmen in Kabul, Washington and Tampa, Fla., the headquarters of Central Command, did not respond to requests for comment about the civilian deaths.

The newly released United Nations report singled out Special Forces and other military units operating outside the normal chains of command, which, the survey said, frequently could not be held accountable for their actions.

Special Forces groups like Navy Seals and paramilitary units operated by the C.I.A. often conduct raids in Afghanistan, and often at night. Such groups typically operate outside the normal chains of command, which means that their presence and movements are not always known by regular field commanders.

The report also said the airstrikes that went awry were often those called in by troops under attack. Under such circumstances, some of the normal rules may not apply. Mr. Karzai has been especially critical of airstrikes, saying they are eroding public support for his government and for the effort to defeat the Taliban.

An American attack in the western Afghan village of Azizabad last August highlighted these tensions. An American AC-130 gunship struck a suspected Taliban compound, killing more than 90 people.

American commanders initially insisted that only five to seven civilians had been killed. But reporters visiting the scene saw evidence of a higher death toll, and a United Nations investigation concluded that about 90 civilians had been killed, about 75 of them women and children. The American military appointed a Pentagon-based general to re-examine the episode, and he concluded that more than 30 civilians had died.

In the aftermath of the Azizabad episode, American and other allied commanders tightened the rules for delivering airstrikes. The United Nations survey said it was unclear whether those new rules would have a lasting effect on reducing civilian deaths.

For all the civilians killed at the hands of the Afghan government and American-led forces, the Afghan people have more to fear from the insurgents, the report said. Not only did Taliban fighters kill more civilians, but they also tried repeatedly to kill as many as they could.

Mohammed Amin Kadimi, a 45-year-old laborer in Kabul, survived such a Taliban attack.

One day in late 2006, Mr. Kadimi was pushing his wheelbarrow down a city street, looking for people who might hire him. Sure enough, a young man approached and handed him a large paper bag. It weighed about 10 pounds, Mr. Kadimi recalled.

The young man asked Mr. Kadimi to carry the bag to Pul-e-Khesthi, a neighborhood a few blocks away. The young man said he would follow.

So Mr. Kadimi set off with his wheelbarrow. After a while, he noticed the young man was no longer behind him. Then the bag exploded.

“I flew away,” Mr. Kadimi said.

Mr. Kadimi lost his left leg. The right one is mangled so horribly that it is a wonder he has it at all.

These days, Mr. Kadimi sits in a wooden chair on Kart-e-Char Street, selling cellphone cards. He is a father of six. Occasionally, he wonders why the young man chose him, and what his purpose was.

“It’s just anarchy,” he said.

The United Nations report also described a Taliban campaign of assassination to intimidate anyone who associates with the Afghan government.

One grisly example comes from the southern city of Kandahar, where 24 clerics who joined a government-backed council have been killed in recent months, many of them in the downtown. Some 271 Afghan officials and others who cooperated with the government were assassinated last year, the report said.

The survey also documented the Taliban’s campaign to intimidate children, and particularly girls, from going to school. More than 640 schools have ceased to function, the survey said, depriving some 230,000 children of education.

February 18, 2009

Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas

New York Times

WASHINGTON — Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

These and other signs suggest that the administration’s changes may turn out to be less sweeping than many had hoped or feared — prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies.

In an interview, the White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, asserted that the administration was not embracing Mr. Bush’s approach to the world. But Mr. Craig also said President Obama intended to avoid any “shoot from the hip” and “bumper sticker slogans” approaches to deciding what to do with the counterterrorism policies he inherited.

“We are charting a new way forward, taking into account both the security of the American people and the need to obey the rule of law,” Mr. Craig said. “That is a message we would give to the civil liberties people as well as to the Bush people.”

Within days of his inauguration, Mr. Obama thrilled civil liberties groups when he issued executive orders promising less secrecy, restricting C.I.A. interrogators to Army Field Manual techniques, shuttering the agency’s secret prisons, ordering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year and halting military commission trials.

But in more recent weeks, things have become murkier.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

Moreover, the nominee for C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, opened a loophole in Mr. Obama’s interrogation restrictions. At his hearing, Mr. Panetta said that if the approved techniques were “not sufficient” to get a detainee to divulge details he was suspected of knowing about an imminent attack, he would ask for “additional authority.”

To be sure, Mr. Panetta emphasized that the president could not bypass antitorture statutes, as Bush lawyers claimed. And he said that waterboarding — a technique that induces the sensation of drowning, and that the Bush administration said was lawful — is torture.

But Mr. Panetta also said the C.I.A. might continue its “extraordinary rendition” program, under which agents seize terrorism suspects and take them to other countries without extradition proceedings, in a more sweeping form than anticipated.

Before the Bush administration, the program primarily involved taking indicted suspects to their native countries for legal proceedings. While some detainees in the 1990s were allegedly abused after transfer, under Mr. Bush the program expanded and included transfers to third countries — some of which allegedly used torture — for interrogation, not trials.

Mr. Panetta said the agency is likely to continue to transfer detainees to third countries and would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment — the same safeguard the Bush administration used, and that critics say is ineffective.

Mr. Craig noted that while Mr. Obama decided “not to change the status quo immediately,” he created a task force to study “rendition policy and what makes sense consistent with our obligation to protect the country.”

He urged patience as the administration reviewed the programs it inherited from Mr. Bush. That process began after the election, Mr. Craig said, when military and C.I.A. leaders flew to Chicago for a lengthy briefing of Mr. Obama and his national security advisers. Mr. Obama then sent his advisers to C.I.A. headquarters to “find out the best case for continuing the practices that had been employed during the Bush administration.”

Civil liberties groups praise Mr. Obama’s early executive orders on national security, but say other signs are discouraging.

For example, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department last week told an appeals court that the Bush administration was right to invoke “state secrets” to shut down a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees who say a Boeing subsidiary helped fly them to places where they were tortured.

Margaret Satterthwaite, a faculty director at the human rights center at the New York University law school, said, “It was literally just Bush redux — exactly the same legal arguments that we saw the Bush administration present to the court.”

Mr. Craig said Mr. Holder and others reviewed the case and “came to the conclusion that it was justified and necessary for national security” to maintain their predecessor’s stance. Mr. Holder has also begun a review of every open Bush-era case involving state secrets, Mr. Craig said, so people should not read too much into one case.

“Every president in my lifetime has invoked the state-secrets privilege,” Mr. Craig said. “The notion that invoking it in that case somehow means we are signing onto the Bush approach to the world is just an erroneous assumption.”

Still, the decision caught the attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Two days after the appeals court hearing, they filed legislation to bar using the state-secrets doctrine to shut down an entire case — as opposed to withholding particular evidence.

The administration has also put off taking a stand in several cases that present opportunities to embrace or renounce Bush-era policies, including the imprisonment without trial of an “enemy combatant” on domestic soil, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking legal opinions about interrogation and surveillance, and an executive-privilege dispute over Congressional subpoenas of former White House aides to Mr. Bush over the firing of United States attorneys.

Addressing the executive-privilege dispute, Mr. Craig said: “The president is very sympathetic to those who want to find out what happened. But he is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency. So for that reason, he is urging both sides of this to settle.”

The administration’s recent policy moves have attracted praise from outspoken defenders of the Bush administration. Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page argued that “it seems that the Bush administration’s antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy” as Mr. Obama’s team embraces aspects of Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism approach.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the sequence of “disappointing” recent events had heightened concerns that Mr. Obama might end up carrying forward “some of the most problematic policies of the Bush presidency.”

Mr. Obama has clashed with civil libertarians before. Last July, he voted to authorize eavesdropping on some phone calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. While the A.C.L.U. says the program is still unconstitutional, the legislation reduced legal concerns about one of the most controversial aspects of Mr. Bush’s antiterror strategy.

“We have been some of the most articulate and vociferous critics of the way the Bush administration handled things,” Mr. Craig said. “There has been a dramatic change of direction.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The American people trust that Obama shall effectively deal with Afghanistan issues.


Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

I know it may be hard to believe.

However, it is absolutely true that Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

A lot of people know about Reagan’s infamy.

And a lot of people will know about Reagan’s infamy—even until the end of human existence: they’ll find out.

Numbers 32:23: “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, J.D. Candidate
B.S., With the Highest Level of Academic Honors at Graduation, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

(I can type 90 words per minute, and there are thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post. And there are thousands of copies in very many countries around the world.)
‘If only there could be a ban against invention that bottled up memory like scent & it never faded & it never got stale.’ It came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.