Rohit Kumar's Views

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘President Barack Obama

Obama signs law barring Gitmo trials in US

leave a comment »

* Bill includes sections blocking funding for transfer of suspects from Gitmo to US

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, in a setback to hopes for the quick closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, reluctantly signed a bill on Friday barring suspects held there from being brought to the United States for trial.

Making plain he would fight to repeal language in the law obstructing civilian US trials for Guantanamo terrorism suspects, Obama said he was left with no choice but to sign the defence authorisation act for fiscal 2011.

“Despite my strong objection to these provisions, which my administration has consistently opposed, I have signed this act because of the importance of authorising appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011,” Obama said in a statement. Obama has vowed to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has drawn international condemnation for the treatment of detainees, but has met stiff resistance at home.

The bill includes sections blocking funding for the transfer of suspects from the Guantanamo prison to the United States. It also restricts the use of funds to ship them to other countries, unless specified conditions are met.

“The prosecution of terrorists in federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the nation and must be among the options available to us,” Obama said. “Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our nation’s counter-terrorism efforts.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the legislation Obama signed into law showed there was overwhelming bipartisan opposition to bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial and detention. “When it comes to terrorism, we should err on the side of protecting the American people,” McConnell said in a statement.

The provisions expire on September 30, at the end of the current fiscal year.

Huge leak of secret files sows new Afghan war doubts

leave a comment »

WASHINGTON – The leak of 90,000 secret military files has emboldened critics of the war in Afghanistan, who raised fresh questions Tuesday about the viability of the increasingly unpopular US-led campaign.

The New York Times said in an editorial Tuesday the documents made public by the website WikiLeaks “confirm a picture of Pakistani double-dealing that has been building for years.”

The Times said President Barack Obama will have to deal firmly with Islamabad in response to the most controversial files, which indicate that key ally Pakistan allows its spies to meet directly with the Taliban.

“If Mr Obama cannot persuade Islamabad to cut its ties to, and then aggressively fight, the extremists in Pakistan, there is no hope of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan,” wrote the daily.

Americans are increasingly weary of this costly war,” wrote the Times, one of three media organizations, along with German magazine Der Spiegel and Britain’s Guardian, to have received the documents weeks ago from WikiLeaks.

Some members of Congress questioned Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, as well as an as-yet unpassed 37-billion dollar funding bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, following the leaks.

Democratic Senator Russell Feingold said the disclosures “make it clear that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Jane Harman, who chairs a Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee, said the documents “reinforce the view that the war in Afghanistan is not going well.”

The 92,000 documents released Sunday, dating from 2004 to 2009, triggered an outcry from nations fighting in Afghanistan as the Pentagon scrambled to uncover the source of the security breach and whether it would endanger lives.

US experts were working to see if the huge cache “could jeopardize force protection or operational security, or even worse still, the national security of this country,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told Fox News.

In addition to the Pakistan allegations, the leaked files maintain that the deaths of innocent civilians have been covered up, and that Iran is funding Taliban militants eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the radical Islamic regime from power.

The bombshell revelations triggered outrage, with a top NATO general calling for increased vigilance against such leaks as the White House slammed them as “irresponsible.”

The coalition needed to be aware that some “documents are pushed out into the open via leaks, but that obliges us even more to work with the greatest care,” said General Egon Ramms, who is in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs warned that the leaks had put the names of service personnel and military operations in the public domain, but played down the likely strategic and political impact.

“In terms of broad revelations, there aren’t any that we see in these documents,” Gibbs said, pointing out that most of the period covered by the leaks was during the previous Bush administration.

Britain, which has some 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, said Monday it regretted the leak while Pakistan has said the reports were “skewed” and not based on the reality on the ground.

In Berlin, a defense ministry spokesman said releasing the documents “could affect the national security of NATO allies and the whole NATO mission.”

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange defended the decision to publish the leaked files, saying they showed “thousands” of war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan.

‘McChrystal downbeat on Afghan war before sacking’

leave a comment »

LONDON – US General Stanley McChrystal issued a highly critical assessment of the war in Afghanistan just days before he was sacked by President Barack Obama, a British newspaper reported Sunday.


File photo of former US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. McChrystal issued a highly …

The Independent on Sunday said leaked military documents showed McChrystal had briefed defence ministers from the countries involved in the war earlier this month and warned them to expect no progress in the next six months.

McChrystal was forced to step down as commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan due to disparaging remarks about administration officials, including Obama, in an explosive Rolling Stone magazine article.

But the newspaper suggested the article was only one reason why the general quit, saying his candour about the reality of the situation in Afghanistan was an obstacle to plans for an early US withdrawal.

“Stan argued for time, and would not compromise. Rolling Stone provided an excuse for Obama to fire the opposition to his plan without having to win an intellectual argument,” it quoted an unnamed senior military source as saying.

According to the paper, McChrystal had said corruption and security remained serious issues as foreign forces battled a “resilient and growing insurgency”.

He said the Afghan security forces were “critically short on trainers — the essential resource required for quality”, while the Afghan government had little control over the country.

Afghan war ‘harder’ than anticipated: CIA chief

leave a comment »

WASHINGTON – The Afghan war is tougher than anticipated, the head of the CIA admitted Sunday, insisting progress was being made despite rising Taliban attacks and the sacking of the top US commander.


A US soldier of the 97th MP Battalion stands in the mobile gun position of a Mine Resistant Armoured …

“There are some serious problems here,” Leon Panetta, installed last year as President Barack Obama’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, told the ABC network’s “This Week” program.

“We’re dealing with a tribal society. We’re dealing with a country that has problems with governance, problems with corruption, problems with narcotics trafficking, problems with a Taliban insurgency.

“We are making progress. It’s harder, it’s slower than I think anyone anticipated.”

Emboldened perhaps by divisions in the US war effort exposed by the sacking this week of Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal, Taliban attacks are on the rise — a fact Panetta did not attempt to hide.

“I think the Taliban obviously is engaged in greater violence right now. They’re doing more on IED’s (improvised explosive devices). They’re going after our troops. There’s no question about that.”

Obama says his strategy will be unaffected by the shock departure of McChrystal, whose remarks to a magazine about top Obama administration figures betrayed the toxic ties between the commander and his civilian counterparts.

Panetta insisted Obama’s surge strategy — to put 150,000 pairs of boots on the ground by the end of August — is the right one.

“That’s a pretty significant force, combined with the Afghans,” he said.

“I think the fundamental key, the key to success or failure is whether the Afghans accept responsibility, are able to deploy an effective army and police force to maintain stability.

“If they can do that, then I think we’re going to be able to achieve the kind of progress and the kind of stability that the president is after.”

Asked for signs of progress, Panetta pointed to Marjah — a southern town long under the control of Taliban which 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan troops stormed in February, driving out the insurgents and local drug traffickers.

“I think that what we’re seeing even in a place like Marjah, where there’s been a lot of attention… agriculture, commerce is moving back to some degree of normality. The violence is down from a year ago.”

There are 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the number set to peak at 150,000 by August in the hope of forcing an end to the insurgency by ramping up efforts in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s heartland.

Panetta said the “fundamental goal” of the US mission in Afghanistan was to rid the country of Al-Qaeda.

“Winning in Afghanistan is having a country that is stable enough to ensure that there is no safe haven for Al-Qaeda or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al-Qaeda,” he said.

“That’s really the measure of success for the United States. Our purpose, our whole mission there is to make sure that Al-Qaeda never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country.”

Israeli defence minister says occupation must end

leave a comment »

JERUSALEM: Israel must recognize that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people, the country’s defence minister said in unusually frank remarks Monday.

Ehud Barak’s comments came against the backdrop of severe friction between the US and Israel’s hawkish government over an impasse in peacemaking.

“The world isn’t willing to accept – and we won’t change that in 2010 – the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Palestinians aspire to a state of their own, he said, and “there is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them rule themselves.”

Barak spoke to Israel Radio on the occasion of Israel’s Memorial Day, dedicated to the nearly 23,000 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terror attacks. The day is observed with a two-minute nationwide siren when people stand at attention, traffic is halted and everyday activities come briefly to a standstill.

Last week, President Barack Obama issued a surprisingly pessimistic assessment of peacemaking prospects, saying the US could not force its will on Israelis and Palestinians if they were not interested in making the compromises necessary to end the decades-old conflict.

At sundown Monday, the somber Memorial Day switches into Israel’s 62nd Independence Day celebrations.

Both dates are traditionally a time for introspection. This year, Israelis are dwelling on issues such as the country’s growing isolation over its policies toward the Palestinians, the growing rift with the US and the failure to relaunch peace talks.

Barak told Israel Radio that “the growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel.”

Barak heads the Labor Party, the most moderate member of Netanyahu’s government. But as defence minister in the country’s past two governments, Barak has not taken down the two dozen settlement satellites that Israel promised the US to dismantle in 2003. Dovish critics have accused him of making Labor a fig leaf for the Netanyahu government’s hawkish policies.

The War on Afghan Civilians

leave a comment »

By DAVE LINDORFF

Three months after it initially lied about the murder by US forces of eight high school students and a 12-year-old shepherd boy in Afghanistan, and a month after it lied about the slaughter by US forces of an Afghan police commander, a government prosecutor, two of their pregnant wives and a teenage daughter, the US military has been forced to admit (thanks in no small part to the excellent investigative reporting of Jerome Starkey of the London Times), that these and other atrocities were the work of American Special Forces, working in conjunction with “specially trained” (by the US) units of the Afghan Army.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the US war effort in Afghanistan, is he is taking over “direct charge” of Special Forces operations because of “concern” that they were not following his orders to make limiting civilian casualties a “paramount” objective. McChrystal is quoted as saying the US military “carries the burden of the guilt” for the “mistakes” made by those Special Forces.

This has to be a sick joke. These incidents were not mistakes; they were planned actions. It’s all the sicker because we know that the US is busy training the Afghan Army to take over this kind of dirty work. And besides, even if McChrystal does assume direct command over Special Forces, that would leave unaccounted for the tens of thousands of private mercenary units hired by the US who are working completely in the shadows for the CIA or other organizations. (One such group hired buy the Defense Department, which posed as an intelligence-gathering operation, was recently exposed as actually being a privately run death squad.)

McChrystal, recall, was in charge of a huge and brutal death squad operation in Iraq before he was given his new assignment in Afghanistan, and at the time he was put in charge of the Afghanistan War, it was reported that he was planning to put in place a similar operation in Afghanistan, designed to take out the Taliban leadership in the country.

What we have been seeing in Afghanistan–and this goes way back to before the appointment of McChrystal, or even the election of President Barack Obama, and his subsequent escalation of the war–has been a vicious campaign of terror against the Afghan people.

It should be no surprise that this is so. It is the way the US has always done counterinsurgency. In a war in which the insurgents (or patriots, if you will–the people fighting against foreign occupiers, or in out case, the US) are a part of the people, and American forces are the invaders, the goal is to drive a wedge between those fighters and the rest of the population.

In Pentagon propaganda, this is referred to as “winning the hearts and minds” of the people, but in reality, the US military doesn’t give a damn about hearts and minds. It simply wants the people to become unwilling to hide or support the enemy fighters it is facing. If it can accomplish that by making people afraid, then that is what it will do, and making people afraid is much easier than “winning hearts and minds.”

How do you make people afraid of supporting or hiding and protecting enemy fighters like the Taliban? You terrorize them. You bomb their homes. You conduct night raids on their homes. You bomb their weddings and their excursions to neighboring towns or markets. You shoot them when they get too close to your vehicles.

Statistics show that the US has, in both Iraq and now Afghanistan, routinely killed more civilians than actual enemy fighters. That tells us all we need to know about what is really going on. America is fighting a war of terror against the people of Afghanistan.

No amount of feigned public hand-wringing by the blood-stained Gen. McChrystal, or of assertions that he is going to assume direct control (from whom? are we to assume that they were operating without direction before?) of the Special Operations troops in the country, will alter that fact. Civilians–including especially women and children–in Afghanistan will continue to die in prodigious numbers because that is how the US fights its wars these days.

The people of Afghanistan know this. That’s why the majority of them want the US out of their country.

It’s Americans who don’t know the truth, and it’s Americans who are really the target of statements from the Pentagon and from Gen. McChrystal claiming that the US is taking steps, nine years into this war, to “reduce civilian casualties” in Afghanistan. It doesn’t help that news organizations like the New York Times propagate that propaganda, as the paper did today in a lead headline that said: “US is Reining in Special Forces in Afghanistan. General Takes Control. McChrystal has Raised Civilian Casualties as a Concern.” It simply wouldn’t do to tell Americans that their country is conducting a war of terror. We are supposed to be the good guys who are bringing peace and democracy to a benighted land.

So let’s just face the facts squarely. The US is not the good guy in Afghanistan. It is an agent of death and destruction. Just check out the town of Marjah, largely destroyed over the last few months in order to “save” it from a handful of Taliban fighters. Over 30 civilians died in that American show of force, and the message of those deaths was clear: allow the Taliban to operate in your town, and we’ll kill you–not just your men, but your wives and your children, too.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

Obama’s Asia trip more about influence than policy

leave a comment »

By Julie Pace

President Barack Obama’s second trip to Asia since taking office is unlikely to result in tangible accomplishments, but the two-country sojourn could be an important step in restoring US influence in the region.

President Barack Obama’s second trip to Asia since taking office is unlikely to result in tangible accomplishments, but the two-country sojourn could be an important step in restoring US influence in the region.

The economy, terrorism and climate change all figure to play prominently in Obama’s stops in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and Australia, a key US ally and supporter of American military efforts in Afghanistan. Obama is the first US

president in at least a decade to travel to Southeast Asia for anything other than a regional summit, a move administration officials say reflects his efforts to strengthen relationships with smaller, emerging nations. “There are a number of important middle powers, countries like Australia and Indonesia who are significant players,” said Jeff Bader, the president’s senior adviser for Asia. As the president prepares to undertake his first international trip of the year, scheduled for Sunday, domestic politics have threatened to overshadow his foreign policy goals. The ongoing debate on health care reform forced Obama to push back his original

Thursday departure by three days so he could stay in Washington and help Democrats in Congress rally last-minute votes for his overhaul plan. The change in itinerary also meant first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha would no longer accompany the president abroad, despite the fact that the trip had been scheduled to coincide with the girls’ spring break from school. Obama had hoped to show his family his boyhood haunts in Indonesia, where he spent four years after his mother married an Indonesian man. A bronze statue of a 10-year-old Obama was recently erected at the elementary school he attended.

During his two-day stop in Jakarta, Obama will meet with Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhuyono. In a separate appearance, he’ll deliver his first address to the Muslim world since his historic speech in Cairo last year. Obama will also spend a day in Bali, a well-known tourist destination that has been struck by deadly terrorist attacks. There he will meet with civil society leaders and hold an event promoting the role civil society has played in Indonesia’s emerging democracy.

The president’s itinerary in Australia has been scaled back due to the delay in his departure. He’ll no longer visit Sydney, where his family was expected to do some sightseeing, and instead stop only in Australia’s capital, Canberra. He will meet with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, with whom he shares a close relationship on the issues of climate change and the war in Afghanistan. Obama will address Australia’s parliament and mark the 70th anniversary of relations between the US and Australia. In some parts of Asia, the most carefully watched stop of Obama’s trip will be the first, and the shortest – a speech he’ll make to US servicemembers stationed in Guam while his plane refuels before heading to Indonesia.

The tiny US Pacific territory is at the center of a growing rift between Washington and Japan. Under a post-World War II pact, the US has about 50,000 troops in Japan, most of whom are on the island of Okinawa. Both countries had agreed to close the sprawling Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and relocate 8,000 Marines to Guam. While Tokyo’s previous administration agreed to build a replacement for Futenma farther north on a less-populated part of Okinawa, Japan’s new coalition government is divided over whether a base should remain in Japan at all. The US says the transfer of Marines to Guam cannot move forward until the new site on Okinawa is finalised.