Saturday, March 8, 2014

I plan on making my second set of wheels.   Using Velocity Deep V, white with machined walls.   Shimano 600 Ultegra hubs 6400, Sapim double butted spokes, and these new nipples, Sapin brass spokes.   The rims are 32 holes and the spacing will be 126mm.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Asia Foundation  A Survey of the Afghans 2012

This survey is the result of a collaborative effort among several institutions and individuals. It was produced under
the overall guidance of The Asia Foundation’s Afghanistan Country Representative Mark Kryzer, Deputy Country
Representative Abdullah Ahmadzai and Survey Project Manager Habibullah Haidari. Special thanks to Asia
Foundation Program Directors Mohammad Osman Tariq, Fazel Rabi Haqbeen and Palwasha Lena Kakar for their
contributions as principal authors of the survey. We also acknowledge the hard work of assistant authors Abdul
Ghafor Asheq, Fazel Rabi Wardak and Habibullah Haidari, and staff who helped in the technical work of all
chapters including Bezhan Abdali, Lima Kohestani, Khatera Azizpoor, Yar Mohammad Sameem, Khushal Qeam
and Abdul Khalil Qaney. ACSOR fielded the survey enumerators. Sudhindra Sharma and Pawan Kumar Sen from
Inter Disciplinary Analysts (IDA) provided analytical support and guidance. Nancy Hopkins, an Asia Foundation
consultant, served as editor for the survey. Foundation staff from San Francisco and Washington, DC provided
critical support as well.
The Asia Foundation would like to thank the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Foreign
and Commonwealth Office/Department for International Development (FCO/DFID), Australian Agency for
International Development (AusAID) and German Foreign Affairs Ministry for making this important research and
capacity-building tool possible.

Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) agree that women and men should have equal educational opportunities,
including 48% who strongly agree. Two thirds of Afghans surveyed say they think women should be allowed
to work outside the home. Survey findings reveal a substantial difference between men and women’s attitudes
in this regard. Four fifths of female respondents (80%) say women should be allowed to work outside
the home compared to just over half (55%) of men who say so. Significantly more urban respondents agree
(81%) than their rural counterparts (61%).

on democracy

Eighty percent of respondents agree that the government should allow peaceful opposition, and 83% agree
that everyone should have equal rights under law, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.
When asked an open-ended question about what personal benefits they believe they will gain from democracy
in Afghanistan, 30% said peace, 29% said freedom and 20% said good security. Other popular responses were
rights and law (15%), Islamic democracy (14%), less corruption (13%), a government of the people (12%)
and more job opportunities (12%).
A majority of respondents (58%) say they think the 2010 parliamentary elections were free and fair, while
more than one third (37%) say they were not. There is large difference between rural and urban respondents;
sixty-one percent of rural respondents say that the past parliamentary elections were free and fair, while just
under half of urban respondents (45%) say they were.

Just over half of respondents (52%) say Afghanistan is moving in the right direction, up from 46% in 2011.  People surveyed identify insecurity (including attacks, violence, and terrorism) (28%), unemployment (27%)
and corruption (25%) as the three biggest problems facing Afghanistan as a whole.

Three quarters (75%) of respondents give central government performance a positive assessment, including
15% who say it is doing a very good job and 60% who say it is doing a somewhat good job. Over time,
an increasing number of people report satisfaction with the way the central government is carrying out its
responsibilities. In several substantive areas, Afghans’ positive assessment of government performance is at
its highest point since 2010, including in education (89%), security provision (70%) and maintaining relations
with neighboring countries (55%).

The most commonly cited reasons for optimism are good security (41%) and reconstruction/rebuilding
(35%), followed by the opening of schools for girls (14%), improvement in the education system (13%), and
having an active Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) (13%). Insecurity (39%)
is the most commonly cited reason for pessimism. Security thus remains the most significant factor in shaping
Afghans’ assessment of progress in the country.

Survey findings show that Afghans’ support for peace and reconciliation remain very high in 2012, as it has
been in previous years. A large majority of respondents (81%) agree with the government’s national reconciliation
and negotiation efforts, with 38% strongly in favor. Although majority within all ethnic groups are in
favor of the government’s reconciliation efforts and negotiation with the armed opposition, a relatively higher
number of Pashtuns (85%) and Uzbeks (84%) are supportive of this endeavor. Support is relatively higher in
the East (91%), North East (86%) and South West (84%).
A majority of respondents say they have no sympathy at all (63%) with armed opposition groups in Afghanistan,
while 10% say they have a lot of sympathy and 20% say they have some level of sympathy. Over time,
there has been a decline in the number of people who sympathize (either a lot or little) with these armed
opposition groups that use violence. While the 2012 figures are fairly similar to 2011, there has been a noticeable
decline from 2011 to 2012 in the proportion of Afghans with no sympathy for armed opposition groups
in a few regions, including Central/Kabul (74% to 70%), the West (60% to 56%) and the South West (61%
to 55%). Among those who express a high level of sympathy toward the armed opposition groups, 34% say
it is because these groups are Afghans, while a similar proportion (33%) says it is because they are Muslims.
Over half of respondents (53%) reported that their families are more prosperous today than they were during
the Taliban era. Fewer than one third (31%) say they are less prosperous. A higher proportion of urban residents
(66%) than rural residents (49%) report that their families are more prosperous today, and more rural
residents (34%) than urban residents (22%) say that they are less prosperous.

Half of all respondents (50%) say their household financial wellbeing has improved during the past year, and half
(51%) say that access to schools has improved. When asked about their household health and quality of their
diet, roughly equal percentages say they have improved (42% and 41%, respectively) or stayed the same (46% for
each). More than half of respondents (51%) say the availability of products in the market and the condition of
their house/dwelling has stayed the same, and 14% say it is worse. Sizeable numbers of Afghans report that their
electricity supply (32%) and employment opportunities (28%) have gotten worse over the past year.
More than two thirds (70%) of respondents say the employment situation in their local area is quite bad or
very bad, suggesting that the government’s efforts to improve job availability have not yet borne fruit. Sixtytwo
percent are dissatisfied with the supply of electricity in their local area. At the same time, more than three
quarters of respondents (77%) report that availability of education is quite good or very good in their local
area, followed by clean drinking water (76%), the security situation (74%) and freedom of movement (72%).
Comparison of 2007 to 2012 data shows that, with the exception of the availability of jobs, the availability
of the rest of the services has generally improved since 2007/2008, with some fluctuation in between. The
greatest perceived improvement has been in the area of clean drinking water, for which satisfaction rose 14
percentage points from 2008 to 2012.

More than half of those surveyed are aware of development projects related to education (53%) and reconstruction/
building of roads and bridges (50%). Afghans have also noticed projects to improve the drinking
water supply (43%), deliver healthcare (38%), build mosques (29%) and improve the electricity supply (22%).
Generally, awareness about development projects is higher in the East, South West and South East than in the
Central/Hazarajat, Central/Kabul and North East regions.
Among those who indicated awareness of such development projects, more than one third (35%) say the

United States has provided the most aid in their local area. Respondents also identified Germany (9%), Japan
(9%), Australia (5%), India (4%), Turkey (3%), and Sweden (3%), and other aid providers to a lesser degree.
Germany was identified by a relatively higher proportion of people in the North East (30%), and a relatively
high proportion of respondents in the Central/Hazarajat (21%) and East (15%) regions identified Japan. Australia
was named by a higher proportion of people in the Central/Hazarajat (10%) and Central/Kabul (8%)
regions. India was more frequently identified in the East (7%), South West (7%) and South East (6%). The
United Kingdom was identified most often in the South West (6%), but named infrequently in other regions.
Likewise, 10% of respondents in the South West identify Canada as a major aid provider.

Three quarters (75%) of respondents give central government performance a positive assessment, including
15% who say it is doing a very good job and 60% who say it is doing a somewhat good job. Over time,
an increasing number of people report satisfaction with the way the central government is carrying out its
responsibilities. In several substantive areas, Afghans’ positive assessment of government performance is at
its highest point since 2010, including in education (89%), security provision (70%) and maintaining relations
with neighboring countries (55%).
The most frequently cited achievements of central government are a better education system (28%), establishing
peace and security (24%) and reconstruction (21%), with some variation across regions.
The most frequently reported failings of central government are administrative corruption (32%), insecurity
(23%) and lack of job opportunities (18%). Twelve percent of respondents identified suicide attacks, followed
by weak government (9%), failure to remove the Taliban (8%), a weak economy (8%), removing drugs (7%),
a bad education system (5%) and injustice (5%).

Afghanistan in 2012 9
This year, respondents identify a more diverse range of reasons for why freedom of expression has improved.
Half (50%) attribute it to good security conditions in their area, more than one third (39%) say it is due to
the legal guarantee of freedom of speech, and 13% attribute it to peace and democracy and the presence of
the ANP and ANA. Smaller percentages identified good government, unity among people, better education,
removal of the Taliban, freedom of the press and respect for human rights as reasons why people now feel
safer expressing their opinions.
More than half (52%) of respondents say they feel they can influence government decisions by participating
in political processes, including 14% who say they can have a lot of influence and 38% who say they can have
some influence. However, 24% feel that they have no influence at all.

Almost one third of respondents (29%) identify lack of education and/or illiteracy as the biggest problem
faced by women. Ten percent cite the lack of rights/women’s rights, 8% say domestic violence, 6% say forced
marriage/dowry, 5% say general healthcare and 4% say poverty. Since 2006, lack of education and illiteracy
have consistently been identified as the biggest problem for women in Afghanistan, these figures have been
stable since 2007 (29% in 2007, 28% in 2008, 30% in 2009, 31% in 2010 and 25% in 2011) with a small drop
in 2011 and rose back in 2012.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Drones, Statistics, Pakistan and Yemen

 Peter Bergen, Director of the National Security Studies Program
April 23, 2013 
Testimony presented before the U.S. Senate 

The drop in the number of civilian and unknown casualties in Pakistan since 2009 came as a result of several developments, one of which was a directive issued from the White House just days after President Obama took office tightening up the way the CIA selected targets and carried out strikes. Specifically, Obama wanted to evaluate and personally sign off on any strike if the agency did not have a "near certainty" that it would result in zero civilian casualties. 

The CIA also began utilizing smaller munitions for more pinpoint strikes.16

Also drones can now linger for longer periods of time over targets—ascertaining whether civilians are around the target area—than was the case several years ago. 

Additionally, the drone program has come under increasing congressional oversight in the past couple of years, a layer of accountability that one former CIA official said was unheard of when he left the agency in 2009.17

Since early 2010, members of the Senate and House intelligence committees have held monthly meetings at CIA headquarters to watch video recordings of specific drone strikes, as well as to review the intelligence upon which CIA agents on the ground in Pakistan based their target selection. 

According to data generated by the New America Foundation, by averaging the high and low casualty estimates of militant and non-militant deaths published in a wide range of reliable media outlets, the estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has declined dramatically since 2006, when—due to two large-scale strikes—it was almost 100%. 

U.S. government officials have asserted that the civilian casualty rate is zero. And it has been reported that the Obama administration considers any military-age male in the strike target area as a "militant".10 The New America data is not based on the U.S. official definition of a militant and does not rely on any U.S. official counting of the strikes. Rather, New America records as a militant only those people identified in credible news reports as a militant or a “suspected militant.” The media outlets used by New America in its database of drone strikes are the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France Presse; The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal; the British newspapers The Telegraph and The Guardian; and the Pakistani news outlets The Express Tribune, Dawn, The Daily Times, Geo TV, and The News; as well as the BBC and CNN. The majority of these sources get information on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan from Pakistani intelligence, security, and local government officials, as well as local villagers. 

The New America Foundation’s casualty counts also differentiate between individuals identified as “militants” and those identified as “civilians.” The murkiness of some reporting in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in Yemen led New America researchers to designate another category for “unknown” casualties. If two or more media reports refer to those killed as militants, they are labeled as militants in the New America data. Similarly, if two or more media reports refer to those killed as civilians, they go under the civilian column in the New America database. And if the different media reports on a single strike are so contradictory that researchers do not feel comfortable placing either label on those killed, they are listed as “unknown.”11 
Over the life of the drone program in Pakistan, the estimated non-militant (civilian and unknown) death rate is 20 percent according to the New America data. Under President Bush, it was about 47 percent while under President Obama it has been about 16 percent. In 2012, the proportion of total civilians (2 percent) and unknowns (9 percent) killed was 11 percent. The New America data shows that between 454 and 637 non-militant (civilian and unknown) individuals were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and mid-April 2013. New America estimates that the confirmed number of Pakistani civilians who have been killed by drone strikes during the same time frames is between 258 to 307, or 10.6 percent of the total number of casualties. 

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) and the D.C.-based Long War Journal also maintain counts of drone casualties in Pakistan. BIJ reports that between 411 and 884 Pakistani civilians have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, representing 16 to 25 percent of the total casualties BIJ has counted. On the low end, the Long War Journal reports that 153 Pakistani civilians have been killed, representing just 5.8 percent of the 2,660 deaths it has recorded over the life of the drone campaign. 
All three databases report relatively low civilian casualty figures for 2012: New America reported 5 (as well as 23 to 29 unknowns), BIJ reported 7 to 42 civilian deaths, and the Long War Journal reported 4. 

In March 2013, following a visit to Pakistan, Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, emailed the Associated Press that the Pakistani government had told him it had confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones. This number is in the range of the low estimate of 411 civilian deaths by the BIJ and also computes with the New America figures estimating between 258 and 307 civilians and a further 196 to 330 unknowns have been killed. 

However, Pakistani security officials acknowledged during background interviews with the Washington Post in mid-2010 that, in fact, better technology, a deeper network of on-the-ground informants, and better coordination between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials had all contributed to a significant drop in civilian deaths in drone strikes.14

And Major General Ghayur Mahmood, a commander of Pakistani troops in North Waziristan where the majority of drone strikes take place, conceded publicly in March 2011 that "myths and rumors about U.S. Predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it's a reality that many of those killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners."15 The general went on to say that drone strikes had killed some one thousand militants in North Waziristan. 


Early in his administration, President Obama took it upon himself to act as the chief decision-maker on whether individuals were added to the U.S. drone “kill list” or not. He would reportedly gather with a small group of his top national security advisors every Tuesday to pour over intelligence gathered on suggested new targets, “determined to keep the tether [on the drone program] pretty short,” according to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon.7 It was reported in October 2012 that the administration had been working for at least two years on a secret “disposition matrix” to replace the “kill list.” With the matrix, officials sought to lay out all of the U.S. resources being used to track down and build a case against terrorist suspects who may be either in the reach of drones or outside established drone theaters.

Geographically speaking, of all the U.S. drone strikes reported in Pakistan’s tribal regions, over 70 percent have struck North Waziristan, home to factions of the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which has often launched operations in Kabul against civilian targets. 

The year 2010, with a record 122 strikes in Pakistan, marked the most intense period of the Obama drone campaign in Pakistan. This, combined with the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad and the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air strike in November 2011, severely damaged the relationship between the United States and Pakistan and resulted in the eviction of CIA-controlled drones from Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan.3 At the same time, Cameron Munter, the then-U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, was urging that there be more judicious targeting of the drone strikes as well as increased consultation with the Pakistanis about them.
Some combination of U.S. Department of State pushback, increased congressional oversight, the closure of the CIA drone base in Pakistan (and, perhaps, a declining number of targets in the tribal regions), and a greater desire to heed Pakistani sensitivities about drone attacks led to a sharp fall in the number of strikes in 2011. The number of drone strikes in Pakistan in 2011 fell by 40 percent from the record number of strikes in 2010. 

5. The Impact of Drones on Militant Groups 
Osama bin Laden himself recognized the devastation that the drones were inflicting on his organization, writing a lengthy memo about the issue that was later recovered in the Abbottabad compound where he was killed. In the October 2010 memo to a lieutenant, bin Laden advised his men to leave the Pakistani tribal regions, where the drone strikes have been overwhelmingly concentrated, and head to a remote part of Afghanistan. He also suggested that his son Hamza decamp for the tiny, rich Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar.18 
Evidence of the drone strikes' impact can be found in the description provided by David Rohde, the former New York Times reporter held by the Taliban Haqqani Network for months in 2009, who called the drones "a terrifying presence" in South Waziristan. Key Taliban commanders reportedly started sleeping outside under trees to avoid being targeted and regularly executed suspected "spies" accused of providing information to the United States, suggesting they feared betrayal from within. 
The drone attacks in Pakistan have undoubtedly hindered some of the Taliban's operations and killed hundreds of their lower-level fighters and a number of their top commanders. Conversely, the CIA strikes may also be fueling terrorism. Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen of Pakistani descent trained by the Pakistani Taliban, tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010. The plot failed, but Shahzad subsequently claimed that the drone program had fueled his anger against the United States. 

The CIA inaugurated the lethal drone program in Yemen on November 3, 2002, with a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone at a vehicle in the province of Maarib, about 100 miles east of the capital city of Sana’a. The attack killed al-Qaeda's top operative in Yemen, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, who was also a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the Yemeni coast. In the car with al-Harethi were five other militants, all of whom were killed, including U.S. citizen Kamal Derwish. He was the first reported American casualty in the CIA's drone campaign. After the 2002 U.S. drone strike, there were no reported U.S. air or drone strikes in Yemen until December 2009, when a sustained campaign of attacks began. That change came when al-Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), attempted a number of terrorist attacks against the United States. 

As of mid-April 2013, U.S. air and drone strikes had killed an estimated 427 to 679 people in Yemen, 439 to 583 of whom were identified in media reports as militants, according to the New America Foundation's data.22 That data is derived from reports in the Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, and the Yemen Post. Of these deaths, all but six occurred during Obama's presidency. The non-militant casualty rate from these strikes is estimated to be between 7 percent and 14 percent, roughly comparable with the civilian and unknown casualty rate from the U.S. drone program in Pakistan, which averaged 11 percent in 2012, according to New America Foundation data. 

During the Obama administration, U.S. drones have killed at least 34 key al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, including the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Fahd al-Quso, who was suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.24 The death of AQAP’s senior leader Said al-Shihri from wounds sustained in a U.S. drone strike in October 2012 dealt the organization an important blow.25 (A list of the AQAP leaders who have been killed by drones can be found in Appendix C). AQAP hasn’t attempted a plot against a Western target since its attempt to bring down US-bound cargo planes in October 2010, and the group has lost control of the string of towns in southern Yemen it held in 2011. 

Unlike Pakistan, where political leaders have almost universally—at least in public—condemned the strikes, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said during an interview with the Washington Post in September 2012 that he personally signs off on all U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and that they hit their targets accurately, asserting, "The drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain." 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dan Klaidman Obama Use of Drones

CONAN: We're talking with Daniel Klaidman, author of "Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency." 

KLAIDMAN: Yeah, that's exactly right. This was three days after Barack Obama took office, only hours before he had signed these executive orders that rolled back some of the - what he viewed as the excesses of the previous administration's counterterrorism policies, Guantanamo, torture, shutting down the CIA detention facilities. And then, on January 23, John Brennan, his chief counterterrorism advisor, came to him and had to give him the news that the very first drone strike of his presidency had gone very badly wrong and a Pakistani tribal elder and much of his family, a pro-peace person, had been wiped out in this drone strike.

And the president was quite troubled by it. He called in the holdover CIA chief, Michael Hayden and his deputy, and he asked him what had happened here. And this was a kind of an important moment for him. Ironically, he ended up embracing the program, and it's also kind of an inflection point in his presidency.

CONAN: And we learn in your article that there are different types of strikes defined by the quality, I guess, of the intelligence that's involved in deciding what's a target and what isn't.
KLAIDMAN: That's exactly right. And this is what the president was learning in that meeting with Michael Hayden. He was learning the difference between a signature strike and a personality strike. And this particular strike was a signature strike in which they know that the people that they're going after have certain signatures or characteristics associated with terrorism, but they don't know exactly who they are. And Steve Kappes, who is the deputy CIA director, said to the president, we know there are a lot of men down there, military-age men, who could be associated with terrorism. We don't know their identities exactly.
The president cut him off and said, well, that's just not good enough for me. But over time, he was persuaded that this was a policy that, in the end, was rather effective, and not only did he accept it, but he ramped up those strikes in Pakistan.
KLAIDMAN: Well, he was always uncomfortable with it. According to some of his closest advisers, he would squirm. And, in fact, you know, the - his evolution on drones, it's not just a straight line. He would go back and forth and, you know, at times, he would say, I'm just not sure about this. I'm not sure if we're getting people who are genuinely - who are genuine threats to the United States. He was kind of a supple decision-maker when it came to these drone strikes.
There's one sort of instructive anecdote, which you can see him going back and forth. This is in late 2009, and he authorizes strikes against a certain number of members of al-Qaida in Yemen, but then says no to a couple of others. I think because it wasn't clear that they were demonstrable threats against the United States. But then in mid-operation, David Petraeus, who was then the general-in-charge of that area, had a clear - they had a clear shot at one of the individuals that the president had not approved. So John Brennan, the president's chief counterterrorism advisor, and Hoss Cartwright, then the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a hurry-up meeting with the president and said, you know, there's an opportunity to go after this person.
Now, you did not approve of this strike, but General Petraeus would like to be able to do this. And the president says, well, is it clear that this is who it is? Do we have the legal authority to do it? And will we - can we ensure that we will not kill civilians, women and children? And the answers were all yes to those questions. And he said, again, this was in mid-execution, OK, we can do it. And so they did. But when these kinds of things happen, the president sometimes would then, in quiet conversations with Cartwright or Brennan, sometimes turn these issues again over in his mind and say, well, you know, God, did we really - was that really an appropriate strike?
The president goes around the room to solicit the opinions of members of his national security team. There is a consensus, for the most part, that they can do this. And then he asks Hoss Cartwright, who's sitting along the wall, what he thinks. And Cartwright says, well, Mr. President, you need to think very carefully about these kinds of actions.

And, remember, this was a president who has been elected in part to wind down the wars of 9/11. He was very loath to risk opening up new fronts.
KLAIDMAN: This is just another turn in that evolution. This was something that the president had resisted for a long time. In one meeting with his counterterrorism advisors, when a military - one of the - his military advisors said, refer to the campaign in Yemen. The president cut him off and said, no, no, no. There's no campaign in Yemen. We're going to remain AQ focused, al-Qaida focused. But recently, really in the last couple of months, as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen has been able to take advantage of the turmoil in that country with the Arab Spring, with the fall of President Saleh there, they've managed to take a lot more territory.
They've seized territory in the strategic south near the Gulf of Aden. And the more territory they have, the more training camps they have, the better they - better ability that they have to plot and train and perhaps attack the United States, which is something we know that they want to do. And so the president was finally persuaded by the military that it had become a core United States interest, security interest, to begin dealing with that issue and to start helping the Yemeni army deal with the al-Qaida threat, not just worrying about whether they're going to be attacking the United States. That those two issues overlapped.

KLAIDMAN: Yeah. It's quite extraordinary. You know, there is a vigorous, to use the Washington term, interagency process, where individual targets will be nominated. That's the term that the military uses. And then it's subjected to some scrutiny and vetting by various agencies; the Pentagon, the state department, the CIA. The National Security Council's involved. They have these secure videoconferences where these things get debated. Individual cases can be debated for weeks before there's a decision. Do they have the legal justification? Is it the right policy?
But then ultimately, it goes to John Brennan and to Hoss Cartwright, and they would sometimes disappear into the Oval Office with the president, and the three of them would make the decision. Sometimes the president would scale back the list. And as I said before, occasionally he would widen the aperture, as the military likes to say, and increase the list. But the president also would sometimes have to be pulled out of black tie dinners or John Brennan sometimes would have to interrupt family time with the first lady and his children so that the president could come out and make these grim calls.
CONAN: There are two other main characters in this, and they are the legal advisers, the top lawyers at the State Department and the Pentagon, Harold Koh and Jeh Johnson, and very different people who sometimes allies, but more often adversaries.
KLAIDMAN: That's right. This is a fascinating part of the story, I think. Harold Koh is the former dean of the Yale Law School. He was the assistant secretary of state for human rights during the Clinton administration, probably one of the more revered human rights lawyers of his generation. And he would find himself in these killing meetings. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Afghans on Afghanistan


Fariba Nawa - Afghani Perspective on US Intervention

Published on Apr 07, 2009 in Politics

"Most Afghans support US presence.   Main fear, is to go back to civil war after Soviets and US pulled out, worst than soviet invasion.     They want the US to stay and help rebuild.   If soldiers leave, back to civil war, or Taliban.   Some do like Taliban, but in desperation, Taliban brought them back to medieval times, no opportunities, especially for women.   Afghans depend on this effort.   Very different that Iraq.  Afghans don't consider US an occupation. not like Iraq."
2011 interview

NAWA: It is in line with the culture and history. Thirty years ago, women were going to school and working and had many rights that they do not have now. Even if we can go back in time during the monarchy in Afghanistan, it would be better than what is going on now.
However, after the Taliban, great gains have been made for women. Two point seven million girls are in school right now, and during the Taliban, as we all know, they weren't allowed to go to school. Women are working. There are 69 members in parliament.
What I would like to see is that progress continuing, not going backwards.
MARTIN: I wanted to ask about that. Do you think that there has been progress? You've traveled around Afghanistan for more than a decade now. Do you think that women's rights have improved since the Taliban lost power?
NAWA: Absolutely. But the problem has been the continuing war and violence, and therefore the level of domestic violence and violence against women has apparently gone up. Oxfam just came out with a report saying that there are more cases reported and the reason I think there's more violence reported is partly because of that progress. Women feel that they can report these things.
There are more self-immolations now and this is a very strange way to look at it, but that's one way of struggling, of speaking up for women. Under the Taliban, women were muffled in every single way and I was there under the Taliban, as well as after, to see the problems they were having.

 Dr. Huma Ahmed-Ghosh

Afghanistan has always had elite and middle-class women who asserted their rights and marched towards modernization. But despite these examples, the lot of most Afghan women in rural areas has been one of oppression through tribal customs and dictates. Those women who were publicly visible throughout the history of Afghanistan belonged to the royalty or elite and represented a very tiny population of the country. They do act as role models and provide a window into the possibility that social change can occur and illustrate the potential that women from different strata of society can 
Journal of International Women’s Studies Vol 4 #3 May 2003 11 
attempt change in their lives. Magnus and Naby (1998:13) claim that, “The internalization of democracy based on western individualism rather than traditional Afghan Islamic communalism, gender-blind social interaction, and the elevation of the individual above society, does not appear to be part of the emerging regional or Afghan worldview.” I agree, especially in light of the non-deliverance of rights and promised goods by western democracies to their own populations. In Afghanistan, democracy and an assertion of women’s rights can occur when the state is in an economically and politically stable condition, assisted by men and women inside and outside of Afghanistan. Democracy will occur as a process of social change that the whole nation needs to undergo. When this happens, a society built on democratic-oriented ideology will regard women as equal partners in the social, political, and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan. 
Today Afghanistan is in such a desperate state that without external help and financial aid its future will be further jeopardized. It is against this political backdrop that one has to understand women’s situation in Afghanistan. Major dilemmas will always exist as to the most appropriate path to follow. There will always be debates about a so-called western model, urban elite model, Islamic model, and fundamentalist model. The basic (may I say fundamental) need is to ensure that women, like men, have access to resources for survival like education, jobs, mobility and public visibility. They too, like men, need to be ascribed status and respect for their decisions. 
At the crossroads of Islamic fundamentalism and westernization, especially in terms of women’s status, Afghanistan provides the testing grounds for the future of hybridization. The current socio-political situation provides a basis for new insights into theoretical constructions of modernity, secularism and gender equality. The situation of women in the future of Afghanistan might challenge the dominant discourse on citizenship and feminism as defined by the West and provide to non-western nations and minorities in western nations an alternative that can bring social justice and economic equality to all. For women in Afghanistan participation in the economic reconstruction of the country is essential to realize their dreams of a cohesive and peaceful nation; becoming “victims” of Islamic burqas and Western “liberation” is the least of their concern. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

peter bergen and afghan success

As a result of the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan and the enterprising spirit of the Afghans themselves, Kabul is now rebuilt, the villagers are back, and the once-ubiquitous de-miners have all but disappeared. Furthermore, millions of Afghans have voted with their feet: Since the fall of the Taliban, more than 5 million have returned home. By way of contrast, some 2 million Iraqis left their country during the recent war there. Only a tiny fraction of those refugees has gone back.

The country to which those millions of Afghans have returned is in fundamental respects very different from the one it was before the 9/11 attacks. Let's start with the most obvious point: The Taliban are removed from power. This was a movement that gave sanctuary not only to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, but also to pretty much every jihadi militant group from around the Muslim world.

Thanks to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda ("the base" in Arabic) lost the best base it ever had: a country in which it ran something of a parallel state, with training camps churning out thousands of recruits and from which bin Laden and his henchmen conducted their own foreign policy, attacking U.S. embassies and warships, and planned the deadliest mass murder in American history.

 -- the chances of the Taliban coming back to run Afghanistan are now vanishingly small. Favorable views of the Taliban in polling across Afghanistan over the past several years are consistently no more than 10 percent. There is nothing like experiencing life under the Taliban to convince Afghans that the group cannot deliver on its promises of an Islamist utopia here on Earth. And if the Taliban have scant chance of returning to power, their al Qaeda buddies have even less chance of returning to Afghanistan in any meaningful way. Few Muslim countries harbor a more hostile view of al Qaeda and its Arab leaders than Afghanistan.

Afghans have good reasons to fear the Taliban. The group imprisoned half the population inside their homes, preventing women from having jobs and girls from attending school. Although Afghanistan today remains a deeply conservative Muslim society, proportionately more women are now serving in the Afghan parliament than in the U.S. Congress. And while only fewer than 1 million children, almost entirely boys, were in school under the Taliban, now more than 8 million children are in school, more than a third of whom are girls.
One of the most common questions pollsters ask is, "Is your country going in the right direction?" A poll by Rasmussen at the end of December found that 33 percent of American voters believed their country was going in the right direction. By contrast, a poll of some 6,000 Afghans conducted by the well-regarded Asia Foundation found that in 2012, 52 percent of Afghans thought their country was on the right track.
This finding isn't so surprising when you consider what remained of the Afghan economy under the Taliban. There were just six commercial banks in the entire country, and, according to the IMF, they were "largely inactive." There was virtually no phone system. Once-bustling Kabul was a city of ghosts, its population down to half a million. Businesses were shuttered, just a few cars drove on the streets, and the 9 p.m. curfew was rigorously enforced by young Taliban foot soldiers wearing distinctive black turbans, their eyes rimmed with black kohl eyeliner, which gave them a look that was both feline and fierce. Radio Voice of Sharia was one of the only sources of Afghan news, and it blared Taliban propaganda. Taliban cabinet ministers huddled around stoves in their offices during the bitter Afghan winters, lecturing visitors like myself about that great Muslim leader, Osama bin Laden.
When I visited Kabul in the winter of 1999, I was the sole guest at the Inter-Continental, the only hotel where the Taliban would allow foreigners to stay. What once passed for a glamorous hotel in 1970s Kabul was now not much more than a bombed-out shell. As the sole guest, I was lucky to get one of the few rooms with still-intact windows to ward off the frigid Afghan winter. The staff at the hotel besieged me with requests for money, which was understandable as the economy was then so bad that even doctors were earning only $6 a month.
Afghanistan's GDP in 2001 was some $2 billion -- about the size of Burkina Faso's. In a decade, GDP has gone up to $20 billion (though much of it is attributable to foreign aid). Today, one in two Afghans has a cell phone, which they use for everything from getting their salaries wired to them to making utility payments. There are also now dozens of newspapers and TV channels. Where once Kabul's streets were largely silent, they are now a bedlam of traffic and thriving small businesses.
much more,1

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Glen Greenwald Lies Again: John Brennan and Jane Mayer

" p. 55: Mayer gives the benefit of the doubt to John Brennan, formerly chief of staff to CIA director George Tenet and President Obama’s first choice as his CIA director.  She cites Anthony Lake, who calls Brennan a “really good guy,” and reports that Brennan had no operational control over the interrogation program. Finally, she reports the canard that Brennan had to withdraw his name from consideration because of a “few Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs” objecting to Brennan as CIA director.  "

From a 2009 New Yorker acricle

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Obama's foreign policy going down the drain?

They might also be asking questions about why the protests so quickly fizzled and why so many Arab governments and political activists denounced the attacks and their perpetrators.
 I have heard almost nobody arguing the opposite -- certainly not the White House, which consistently has warned that "We’re under no illusions -- Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead."
But for all those concerns, the intervention in Libya should be recognized as a success and real accomplishment for the international community.  

The NATO intervention did save Libya's protestors from a near-certain bloodbath in Benghazi.

 It did help Libyans free themselves from what was an extremely nasty, violent, and repressive regime.  

 It was fought under a real, if contestable, international legal mandate which enjoyed widespread Arab support.

Libya's success didinspire Arab democracy protestors across the region. 
Marc Lynch

Reuel Marc Gerecht. 

a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. You are a former media specialist at the CIA's Directorate of Operations, now the National Clandestine Service. 

Remember when he repressed and killed thousands of his own citizens, when he actually used the veil of Islamism at different times and passed laws in the name of Islam to try to establish his credibility? Remember Muammar Gaddafi used terrorists who actually bombed airlines and killed hundreds of Americans around the world, setting off the sorts of things that I think we're debating here tonight. Remember that?

Brian Katulis: 

 I want to stress this. The transition in the Middle East is in the very early stages, sorts of violence that we saw and we've been talking about, that killed our ambassador in Libya, those extremists that killed him and murdered him, those sorts of things -- we need to recognize that those threats have not been completely eradicated. We also need to recognize that the large protests against those extremists in Libya would never have actually happened under Muammar Gaddafi. We need to recognize that there's a space there, that I'm not in favor of elected Islamists or liberals or anything. I'm in favor of systemic change that has legitimacy. And I think this is a key distinction between what Reuel and I are saying and what the other team is saying. We can't implant this. 
We need to recognize the reality that because of the dysfunction caused by dictatorships for decades, you're going to have this first early result. And, yes, there's still going to be violence and risks, but I actually think it's less than what we saw in terms of the hundreds of thousands killed by the dictators in these countries. And I actually think the more that you have popular reaction of the sort that we saw in the streets Benghazi 
against those murderers, you have I think a possibility then to push them and further marginalize them in that debate. 

The fact that al-Qaida and its affiliates had virtually nothing with the removal of leaders in places like Egypt and Tunisia and the widespread calls for political reform and the battles that are still going, I think, is telling. The fact that Ayman Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaida, wrote a book attacking the Muslim Brotherhood for actually participating in democratic politics is telling. Looking ahead, it seems that al-Qaida's popular appeal, I think, will remain low, given that many of the protesters are out there supporting democratic reforms. People are going to the ballot box, the very thing that radical jihadists are opposed to.
In Egypt, the Nour party of the Salafis is absolutely morally repugnant, all right? No doubt about it. But they are actually in the process of collapse right now because they haven't figured out how to handle the pressure of democracy yet. The Muslim Brotherhood is having serious internal debates because they haven't figured out how to handle -- this is all new terrain for them. That's what we want. We want them to fight it out. It's not going to produce something pretty in the short term. But what they're suggesting, having dictatorship and somehow having the United States, oh, I'm going to create a liberal here and a liberal there and a liberal here, it makes no sense. 


.....Mohammed Morsi, who is proving rapidly to be one of the more pleasant surprises in world politics.  
 He has a doctorate in materials science from USC, earned during the 70s, and is able to say “Go Trojans” with the best of them. According to an interview with the New York Times, he dislikes the libertine aspects of American culture, including “naked restaurants” like Hooters–an attitude which may distinguish him from about half the American population.
Dr. Morsi was widely considered a political neophyte at the outset of the election campaign. But since being elected, he has shrewdly maneuvered to put to rest dangers of a military coup (and has disappointed many American neoconservatives) by appointing a new army chief of staff, General Sedki Sobhi, to replace the generals who toadied to Mubarak for a generation. Sobhi is likewise a product of American universities, in this case the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.
Both Morsi and his new army chief of staff (the latter, in an essay written seven years ago) stress the issue of Palestine. It is a neoconservative talking point that Arabs either do not have, or should not have, any real emotion about the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians–though of course Americans on the eastern seaboard managed to get worked up over the Alamo well before the age of modern communications.
Their perspective on Israel-Palestine is hardly radical: Morsi regularly mentions that the 1978 Camp David Accords also called for Palestinian autonomy (as well as securing peace between Egypt and Israel)–to which Israel has replied by moving a half million settlers into the West Bank. Egypt’s treaty obligations toward Israel are often taken as the beginning and end point of America’s interest in Egypt, but Israel had West Bank obligations under the treaty too–less clearly spelled out, which it evaded from the very beginning.
D Larison
Was Friedman similarly apoplectic when Morsi traveled to Saudi Arabia last month? I don’t believe he was. Saudi Arabia is even more repressive and its government is even less representative than Iran’s, but Friedman wasn’t saying that Morsi’s visit meant that he was siding with despotic monarchy against the Saudi people, was he? If Morsi were on the side of “democracies” against dictatorships, he would have to be at odds with most of America’s client states in the region.
Friedman’s makes two mistaken assumptions. He assumes that attendance at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement is an endorsement of Iran’s government and Iranian policies, which isn’t the case. Traditionally non-aligned governments are probably not interested in taking clear sides in the midst of the growing tensions between the U.S. and Israel and Iran, and why would they be? If they aren’t endorsing Iranian policies, it doesn’t follow that most of the NAM members are interested in taking orders from Washington on how to conduct their foreign affairs, either. If Morsi is going to Iran, he is probably doing so with the knowledge that it demonstrates a break with the old Egyptian leadership and shows that Morsi can act independently of the U.S. Morsi is likely much more concerned with his domestic audience and exercising the power of his office than he is worried about the plight of the Iranian opposition, and it would be very unusual if it were otherwise. The impulse to see all other countries’ dealings with Iran, no matter how minimal, through the distorting lens of our hostility towards Iran leads many Americans to jump to badly flawed conclusions about those other countries and their governments’ intentions.