The Whack-a-Mole Endgame Begins in Afghanistan

The Whack-a-Mole Endgame Begins in Afghanistan

TIME

A full moon illuminates the Tangi Valley, where 30 U.S. troops, including 22 SEALs, died earlier this week when enemy fire downed their helicopter / Army photo by Terry Wade

Cap Ferrat, France

President Obama’s surge and de-surge strategy in Afghanistan has landed the United States in a strategic cul-de-sac. As America withdraws troops from remote areas of Afghanistan like the Tangi, Korangar, and Pech Valleys, insurgents are flooding back in to wreak havoc, necessitating US retaliatory raids, redeployments, and stiffening operations to kill insurgents and to protect local Afghan units and villagers, even though some of these Afghan units and villagers may on occasion be in league with insurgents. As the American withdrawal continues, the noose around the cul de sac will tighten, because fewer and fewer forces will be available to cope with the menace posed by spreading hit and run attacks by small decentralized insurgent groups operating in quick time in distant places.

Inevitably, continued troop withdrawals imply the US military will find itself in an increasingly reactive operational posture, where it is responding to events rather than shaping them. Faced with this loss of initiative, military leaders will have to substitute even more reactive air strikes and nighttime airborne raids for boots on the ground as it gradually abandons more and more territory to the insurgents. You can think of this as a clear and hold process, only one that is now going into reverse, with the insurgents doing the clearing and holding. Moreover, the growing dependence on airpower will increase the unintended killings of civilians that are pouring gasoline on the fires of this insurgency.

Obama’s surge and de-surge has, therefore, created a reinforcing dynamic that is playing into the hands of the insurgents by seducing the United States into increasing its reliance on a pointless, reactive, “whack-a-mole” strategy. Like a judo specialist, the insurgents will use the expenditure of American energies to exhaust American forces and paralyze American political willpower by inducing our military to over and under react to an unfolding welter widely dispersed insurgent attacks. Moreover, this dynamic will be unfolding at the very time President Obama is struggling to extricate both our military forces and himself from the quagmire he so quickly plunged into with ill-considered escalation decisions made during his first year in office. Finally, the interplay of a ubiquitous guerrilla menace with the onerous psychology of retreat is a prescription for paralysis by a thousand cuts and eventual political defeat.

The probable result is that the US will not leave Afghanistan on its own terms but on its adversary’s terms, because as the Taliban propagandists quite correctly claim, “The Americans have a clock, but we have the time.”

Obama can truthfully say he inherited this mess from a strategically inept predecessor, but he is not blameless, because his actions of the last eighteen months have made the Afghan predicament much worse. Recent events have placed the dilemma created by Mr. Obama’s surge and de-surge strategy into sharp relief and illustrate how the dangerous reinforcing dynamic introduced above is now locking itself into place.

There were 32,000 troops in Afghanistan when Barack Obama became President in January 2009. However, another 11,000 troops had been approved by the Bush Administration in its final months and were in the pipeline to deploy to Afghanistan. Obama ordered his first escalation of 21,700 more troops in March 2009, and he added another 33,000 with his much ballyhooed surge decision finalized in December 2009.

So, by the end of this first year in office, Obama had more than doubled down on the American commitment to what was clearly a failing war in Afghanistan. While he bought off the hawks with these escalations, he sweetened the deal for the doves by promising he would begin reducing our deployed troop levels within eighteen months, beginning in July 2010, together with a vague albeit quickly forgotten promise to withdraw the rest by 2014.

But his promise to begin a withdrawal in July 2011 was predicated on a fatally flawed assumption: namely, that the US military could quickly build up and then hand over security responsibilities to the notoriously corrupt and ineffective Afghan military and police forces. I described the ramifications of these flawed assumptions in the 22 September 2009issue of CounterPunch and in the 29-31 January 2010 issue, showed how these ramifications were subsequently confirmed in the leaked Eikenberry Cables.

Of course, surging by one side in a conflict does not take place in isolation. As Clausewitz implied, war is a duel between animate beings who react unpredictably to changing conditions, according to the dictates of their own free will. And no one would deny the Afghans are, if nothing else, seasoned duelists.

It is now clear that the Afghan insurgents have made good on their promise to respond to Obama’s escalations with escalations of their own. To this end, in recent months, they have ratcheted up the size, frequency, and effectiveness of what appears to our orientation as a menacing welter of hit and run attacks. To name but a few of the more spectacular examples:

— In April 2010, the Taliban engineered the escape of 480 Taliban prisoners from the Kandahar Prison.

— On 28 May, the Taliban exploded a bomb in a government building in northern Takhar Province, killing the regional police commander in the North, a police chief and two NATO soldiers, as well as wounding the German commander of NATO’s northern command and the Takhar provincial governor.

— On 30 May, the Taliban launched an unusual attack on targets in the western Afghan city of Herat, including a NATO base.

— Less than a week after Obama announced his plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, insurgents launched a spectacular attack on the Intercontinental Hotel, supposedly one of the most secure building in Kabul, that resulted in a five-hour firefight requiring the intervention NATO troops and helicopters.

— On July 12, President Karzai’s half-brother was assassinated under mysterious circumstances.

— On July 17, Jan Mohammed Khan, who was a key ally and adviser to the Afghan president Karzai was assassinated. Etc…

These attacks demonstrate the enormous reach of the insurgency and appear to have been orchestrated by a variety of groups of insurgents. The US military believes many of them can be blamed on the notorious Haqqani Network, a belief no doubt inspired in part by the military’s predilection to find the critical nodes and hi-value targets governing its adversary’s behavior. (The American military’s obsession with identifying critical nodes derives from the strategic bombing theories developed by the Army Air Corps in the 1930s and, together with the promises of precision warfare, have fostered a silver-bullet mentality that assumes military strategies can be reduced to mechanical plans for finding and killing such hi-value targets.) On July 31, the New York Times carried a revealing report saying that NATO forces are responding to the rising number of insurgent attacks by “strengthening a layered defense” long the Afghan border with Pakistan to capture militants from the Haqqani Network as they try to make their way to the Kabul area to carry out their attacks. What was most revealing in the Times’ report relates to what it did not say.

One curiosity in this report was that it did not explain what “strengthening a layered defense” means. A conventional interpretation of the term suggests it means building some kind of escheloned defense in depth along the border.

But as Conn Hallinan pointed out in the 5-7 August edition of CounterPunch, the geography of the AFPAK border is too mountainous, too porous, too hostile, and far too long for NATO to maintain even a thin barrier defense of this border — let alone an in depth layered defense, especially given the limited, and decreasing, number of combat troops NATO has at its disposal. Indeed, one of the unchanging strategic features of the Soviet and US wars in Afghanistan has been an inability to seal that border, particularly in the wild region between Afghanistan and Pakistan from the northeast to the southeast of Kabul. So, at the same time we are reducing forces, we are shifting to a layered defense, implying some sort of reinforcement. What gives?

There is more: A second curiosity of the July 31 New York Times report is that it did not say that the layering mission included, inter alia, a return of US forces to dangerous Pech Valley in a remote region of Kunar Province. US forces had been forced to abandon the Pech less than six months earlier. The omission by the Times is made doubly odd by the fact that the Times carried a very informative contemporaneous report of the Pech evacuation on 24 February 2011.

The recent loss of a Chinook helicopter and 30 US troops (including 22 members of Seal Team 6) may have occurred in a “layering mission” — in this case, a night raid — to stiffen Afghan forces in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province. The US abandoned and transferred its combat outpost in the Tangi to the Afghan forces last April.

Moreover, by omitting to say we were returning to areas we had abandoned and turned over to the Afghan security forces, the Times neatly dodged the need to explain what the expected a strategy of strengthening the so-called layered defense was supposed to accomplish. However, Martin Kuz wrote an excellent 4 August report in the Stars and Stripes describing the return to the Pech Valley. In it, he quoted US Army leaders as justifying their reentry into the Pech with the same reason they used when they went into Pech the first time, in 2003, namely the goal is to set conditions for a transition that will enable the Afghan army and Afghan Police to provide the local population with security. In other words, Army forces are returning to areas they handed over to the Afghan security forces, because the transition did not work. This brings us back to the fatally-flawed assumption underpinning the entire escalation decision mentioned above — namely, the 2009 military analysis justifying the surge strategy did not realistically account for how the limitations of the Afghan security forces would upset its plans for transferring security responsibility to those forces.

If you have read this far, it ought to be becoming clear that, other than reversing the troop withdrawal and escalating with yet another troop surge, the only way out of the trap is to negotiate a political settlement with the insurgents. There is no dishonor in this; in fact, a negotiated settlement is the way most guerrilla wars end.

To be effective, such a settlement must involve and account for the legitimate interests of the regional players, including Iran, Pakistan, and China, as well as the interests of all the Afghan people, but also the United States and Russia, and the probably the Central Asian Republics to boot.

The goal should be one of establishing conditions for the emergence of a neutral and prosperous Afghanistan. In view of the trauma and destruction suffered by Afghanistan, initially, perhaps, those conditions should be enforced and stabilized with some kind of multinational Islamic peacekeeping/economic development task force, lead by an major Islamic country without a dog in the hunt, like, Indonesia or Turkey. In most circumstances, Turkey would be my choice: it is now the world’s leading Islamic country and a major regional power; it has a secular government and a rapidly developing booming economy and an educated population; and its reformist leadership has exhibited an ability to shape an exceptionally gifted foreign policy. Some Afghans might object by saying Turkey has a dog in the hunt — specifically, Turkey is a member of NATO and NATO is fighting in Afghanistan. Moreover, Pashtuns might take exception to Turkey’s connections to the Turkic ethnic groups in the north of Afghanistan and the bordering regions, which used to be known a Turkestan. The key point is that it is absolutely essential that the Afghan people view the leading peacekeeping country as an honest broker.

According to news reports, the Taliban have indicated a willingness to talk about a peace deal, but they have set one unbendable, typically Afghan precondition to any negotiation: all outsiders must promise to leave; specifically the US and NATO must agree to a complete withdrawal of all of their forces before sitting down to the negotiating table.

Like the Soviets and the British before them, the American clock in Afghanistan is running out while the insurgent adversary has the time. It is too late for American leaders to be adhering to the primitive idea that one can only negotiate from a position of military strength abroad and economic strength at home — both those bases of power have been blown, thanks mostly to the madness exhibited by Obama’s predecessor. And like the Soviets and the British, the United States is not going to establish a permanent military presence in Afghanistan; to do so would enrage the Afghan people and fuel the insurrection.

Wiser heads also would do well to recall that an earlier American president faced a similar mismatch between his clock and his adversary’s time before. President Nixon tried to duck its implications by selling a slow withdrawal from Viet Nam to a war-weary nation by promising of “peace with honor.” If the North Vietnamese had responded to his overtures with an unbendable precondition, like that of the Taliban, namely a complete military withdrawal from Viet Nam, negotiations would have been as unthinkable to State Department and Pentagon planners in 1970 as the Taliban’s demand for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is today. But in the end, it did not matter. In 1975, we ended our involvement in Viet Nam, with an unconditional withdrawal being imposed on the US for all the world to see.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

Reprinted with permission of the editors of CounterPunch

India Emerging As the Voice of Sanity

[A lot of news about India today, all of it sounding positive.  Not only is the Indian leadership charting a new course in Afghanistan and throughout the region, it has joined with the other “BRIC” nations to challenge US perpetual war initiatives in the UN (SEE:  Russia Introduces Competing U.N. Draft on Syria {The Russian draft is backed by China, Brazil, India and South Africa}), as well as taking on corruption at the national level (SEE:India parliament begins debate to end corruption). 

Let us hope that all of this is sincere and India emerges as a world leader, to challenge all the anti-leaders who have created so much trouble between them.]

Getting the regional act together

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

AP”In sum, the new thinking in the government on the Afghan situation, as was manifest during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul in May (and presently over Hajigak), has come not a day too soon.” In this photo, Manmohan with Karzai during his Afghanistan visit

By deciding to work with Russia, China and the Central Asian countries within a regional framework, India has made a significant policy decision.

An appreciable level of seriousness underscores the government’s thinking on pressing ahead with the bid for iron ore blocks in the fabulous Hajigak mines in Afghanistan as well as to sponsor the Steel Authority of India proposal to set up a steel plant in that country. The Hajigak mines hold an estimated reserve of 1.8 billion tonnes of iron ore. The “hands-on” interest shown by the new Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai, in the progress in the bidding process testifies to the new thinking. From the Indian policy perspective, the Hajigak project has three dimensions.

The project, quite obviously, stands at a junction where foreign policy intersects national policies. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said in New Delhi recently: “Our primary task now and for the foreseeable future is to transform and improve the life of the unacceptably large number of our compatriots who live in poverty, with disease, hunger and illiteracy as their companions in life. This is our overriding priority, and must be the goal of our internal and external security policies. Our quest is the transformation of India, nothing less and nothing more.”

Looking back, an esoteric Afghan policy conceived in the ivory tower in the classical mould of the “great game” in the Hindu Kush never really made sense for India. Things, after all, need to add up in life. When Russia supplies helicopters to the Afghan government, it makes the United States buy them at market price from Russian stocks, and servicing and repairs will be met from a trust fund set up by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to that end.

NATO’s war is related to Russia’s own security as well as its “near abroad.” Yet, when the western alliance (or the U.S.) uses the Northern Distribution Network to transport supplies for the troops in Afghanistan, Russia levies a transit fee, estimated to be in excess of $1 billion. Such realism makes sense. Again, the Pentagon, although neck-deep in the uncertain war, did undertake an exhaustive study of Afghanistan’s multitrillion-dollar mineral wealth. Indeed, has there ever been a “pure war” in history since Alexander? Hopefully, the Hajigak project will be a “leap of faith” also for the Indian strategic pundits. It is senseless to pursue politics without economics. This realism has long been in coming in our regional policies — be it toward Sri Lanka, Nepal or Bangladesh.

Second, New Delhi is beginning to look beyond the din of the war into a future that seems misty. The Hajigak project is located in the central Bamyan province, which is relatively stable, but it can be optimally realised only if peace arrives in Afghanistan. So what lies ahead in Afghanistan? The U.S. is finding itself in a strategic cul-de-sac and the Taliban pushing the NATO commanders into an “increasingly reactive operational posture,” as a former Pentagon analyst, ‘Chuck’ Spinney, blogged recently, where they are reacting to events rather than moulding them. Indeed, the Taliban has switched gear and is focussing on exhausting the NATO forces and paralysing American willpower “by inducing our [U.S.] military to over and underreact to an unfolding welter of widely dispersed insurgent attacks.” In a brilliant analysis, Spinney added: “The probable result is that the U.S. will not leave Afghanistan on its own terms but on its adversary’s terms … other than reversing the troop withdrawal and escalating the conflict with yet another troop surge, the only way out of the trap is to negotiate a political settlement with the insurgents … The goal should be one of establishing conditions for the emergence of a neutral and prosperous Afghanistan … It is too late for American leaders to be adhering to the primitive idea that one can only negotiate from a position of strength abroad and economic strength at home — both those bases of power have been blown.”

Without doubt, the Taliban is demonstrating great skill in adapting itself to the changing conditions. Its recent operations testify to the impressive reach of the insurgency and a loss of initiative for the U.S. From this point, small decentralised insurgent groups can be expected to create havoc when the American troop withdrawal continues. Fewer and fewer forces will be available to counter them. There is also the great danger that somewhere along the line the Taliban might do a “Khobar” on the NATO. It took just a single team of suicide bombers belonging to Hezbollah Al-Hejaz in October 1983 to attack the famous Khobar Towers in Beirut, where the U.S. Marines were based, and kill 241 of them. This, in turn, compelled President Ronald Reagan to order the troops home post-haste.

In sum, the new thinking in the government on the Afghan situation, as was manifest during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul in May (and presently over Hajigak), has come not a day too soon. Delinking the Indian policy from U.S. strategies in Afghanistan was long overdue. As indeed the need to keep communication lines open with all Afghan groups while dealing principally with the Kabul government; scrupulously avoiding taking sides in that country’s fratricidal strife; not even remotely contemplating a military deployment; and, most important, doing all we can to ensure that Afghanistan does not become an arena of conflict with Pakistan. The indications are that much ground has been covered in this direction. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s reference to Islamabad’s “outreach to Afghanistan and India” in the same breath, in her recent speech at the National Assembly, conveyed a positive signal. This brings us to a third point. How do the Indian regional policies adapt to the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan?

In a nutshell, the U.S. retreat should encourage India to be more active in its regional policies. If one thing is absolutely certain about the Hajigak project, it is that India’s involvement in it — or, for that matter, in any Afghan or Central Asian project of large scale — is one hundred per cent predicated on the climate of relations with Pakistan and Iran. Pressing ahead with the Hajigak project would seem to convey a degree of optimism that the improving relationship with Pakistan is sustainable and could possibly be taken to a qualitatively new level of cooperation. Similarly, it also presupposes, perhaps, that new life can be breathed into the insipid ties with Iran. These are hopeful signs.

What has been lacking at the policymaking level is a conceptual framework of regional cooperation. This is evident from the predicament inherited by Mr. Mathai as regards a possible mechanism to evacuate iron ore from Hajigak. The options being considered are through a Pakistani land route and/or through the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran. Evidently, for this to happen, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran ought to form a hub of regional cooperation. Clearly, such a hub has immense potential, be it in terms of energy, market, mineral resources or manpower. But the ground reality is that we have a long way to reach that goal.

Most certainly, Mr. Mathai asked a pertinent question: how do we evacuate iron ore from Afghanistan? A land route via Pakistan is theoretically possible but it will mainly have to be through the Iranian port of Chabahar. That being the case, do we factor in adequately the importance of India’s ties with Iran, which are in great disrepair? The fact remains that India hurt Iran’s core interests and thereafter subjected the relationship to benign neglect. It could afford this misadventure because it had no economic ties worth mentioning with Afghanistan or the Central Asian countries. Alas, India failed to evolve coordinated policies toward Central Asia in the post-Soviet period. And the appalling failure to exploit our enormous soft power to build the sinews of an economic relationship is all-too evident. Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers fly back and forth every now and then, but no one regards India as a serious player in the region.

However, things can change when India gets full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The American rhetoric often spoke of a Great Central Asia strategy aimed at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in that region by bringing it closer to the Indian market. By deciding instead to work with Russia and China and the Central Asian countries within a regional framework, India has made a significant policy decision. The diplomatic challenge now will be to put in place the underpinning to galvanise India’s economic ties with Central Asia once the SCO membership gains traction. This underpinning principally involves robust ties with Iran and pressing ahead imaginatively with the normalisation process with Pakistan. In sum, India’s Hajigak challenge is to get the act together in its regional policies by evolving a strategy of mutually beneficial cooperation with Afghanistan and Central Asia, built on predictable ties with Pakistan and Iran.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

What is Jan Lokpal bill?

[SEE Original bill: DraftLokpalBill2011.pdf ]

What is Jan Lokpal bill?

jan lokpal,Citizens’ Ombudsman Bill or Jan Lokpal Vidheyak (in Hindi) is a proposed anti-corruption law designed to effectively nail out corruption, redress complaints and protect whistleblowers. According to designed bill made by some members of ‘India Against Corruption (IAC)’, a movement against corruption in the government’s bodies, “Jan Lokpal Bill” would work as an independent powerful institution like Election Commission of India and Supreme Court that would prevent corruption in government machinery, redress corruption grievances within a year and penalise the guilty no matter what he/she/they is/are without the interfering of the government.

According to the proposed Jan Lokpal Bill, the Jan Lokpal (Citizens’ Ombudsman) would be an anti-corruption institution on Central level that would control the corruption in the central government machineries and redress the complaints of central government’s offices, departments and institutions. Similar anti-corruption institutions “Lokayukta” would be set up in the states.

what is lokpal,

The Lokpal and Lokayukta would investigate corruption cases and complete the process within a year while the trial would complete in the next one year, means the whole process would complete in maximum two years in order to deterring the corruption on mass scale.

The first Jan Lokpal bill was introduced in the parliament in 1969, 42 years ago in the 4th Lok Sabha, which was passed but it failed in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament. Since then the bill were introduced in the Parliament nine times – 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008, but every times it was failed to pass out.

The version of proposed Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by IAC is version 2.2 while the government’s drafted Lokpal bill 2010′s version is 2.3, according to government’s website.

about lokpal bill,

The Lokpal Bill version 2.2 was drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Shanti Bhushan, Former Minister of Law and Justice, Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist). Social Activist Anna Hazare and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi are also the members of IAC.

There are several differences in both versions claimed by IAC movement members.

Here are the Salient features of Jan Lokpal bill version 2.2:

1. An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up.

2. A complete independent powerful institutions like Supreme Court and Election Commission; No minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations.

3. Members will be appointed by judges, Indian Administrative Service officers with a clean record, private citizens and constitutional authorities through a transparent and participatory process.

4. A selection committee will invite short listed candidates for interviews, video recordings of which will thereafter be made public.

5. Lokpal and Lokayukta will publish a list of cases dealt with, brief details of each, their outcome and any action taken or proposed on their website every months. Moreover, the lists of all cases received, dealt and pending during the previous month will also be published.

6. Investigations of each case must be completed in one year. The trials for that case would be concluded in the following year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.

7. Losses caused to the government by a corrupt individual will be recovered at the time of conviction.

8. Lokpal will have the authority to penalise the concerned person responsible for delay in work, carelessness and other reasons that hurt any citizen’s work. The institution (Lokpal and Lokayukta) will slap financial penalties that will be given as compensation to the complainant.

9. Complaints against any officer of Lokpal will be investigated and completed within a month and, if found to be substantive, will result in the officer being dismissed within two months.

10. The existing anti-corruption agencies (CVC, departmental vigilance and the anti-corruption branch of the CBI) will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.

11. Whistleblowers who alert the agency to potential corruption cases will also be provided with protection by it.

India parliament begins debate to end corruption

India parliament begins debate to end corruption

Veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare gestures to his supporters on the 11th day of his fast as it rains at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma

By Arup Roychoudhury and Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI | Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:27am EDT

(Reuters) – India’s parliament began a fractious debate on an anti-corruption bill on Saturday as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s besieged government struggles to appease a social activist who is increasingly frail nearly two weeks into a hunger strike.

The campaign to get the legislation passed by 74-year-old Anna Hazare has struck a chord with millions of Indians tired of endemic corruption, sparking nationwide protests and exposing the ruling Congress party as out-of-touch with voters.

Political parties have pleaded with Hazare to end his fast, but lawmakers have squabbled over the content of a bill that would create a umbrella agency to probe government corruption, as thousands of supporters gathered at Hazare’s fairground protest site and across India’s capital.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee began a proposed seven-hour debate on the four-decades old legislation. But a vote on a final bill, which the activist has demanded to end his fast, looks unlikely as worries over his health grow.

“The largest functional democracy of the world is at a very crucial stage,” said Mukherjee in a cautious statement that fell short of fixing a time-frame to reach a resolution.

“(We must) try to find a solution within the constitutional framework without compromising the parliamentary supremacy in the matter of legislation, and at the same time to ensure that we can resolve this impasse.”

Around 6,000 supporters chanted and waved Indian flags at the sprawling dirt field protest site Hazare has taken over in New Delhi that has become the epicenter of a months-long anti-graft movement.

Several scandals linked to the government, including a bribery scam involving the sale of telecom spectrum that may have cost the state up to $39 billion in lost revenues, led to Hazare’s latest protest.

“It’s the twelfth day of my fast but I am alright since I’m getting energy from all of my supporters. I can fast for another three or four days, nothing will happen to me,” Hazare, visibly weak, told his supporters on Saturday morning.

“Until the Janlokpal bill gets passed I won’t die.”

A decision to hospitalise the activist, whose blood pressure has fallen and pulse rate has increased, would be taken this afternoon, his doctor told reporters on Saturday. Hazare hospitalizehas lost over 7 kg (15.4 lbs) and appears increasingly frail.

Hazare’s diminishing health could force authorities to force-feed him, a move that would make them appear even more disconnected from public opinion.

WOES FOR CONGRESS PARTY

Hazare has demanded that the bill includes bringing civil servants under the proposed agency’s authority, ensures similar agencies at a state level and creates a citizen’s charter. The government has asked for a promise from Hazare that he will end his fast should they meet his demands.

Congress, seen by many in an increasingly youthful India as an aged party either incapable of or indifferent to tackling graft, faces a bellwether election in India’s biggest state of Uttar Pradesh this year and a general election in 2014, and is keen to get the issue off the headlines.

Singh and other senior ministers, taken by surprise by the scale of the public unrest, have abandoned a hardline approach to Hazare.

The initial poor handling of the issue led the party to Rahul Gandhi, turn to the youngest elected official in the Gandhi family political dynasty to try and reach out to Hazare in a speech to parliament this week.

“We are all aware that corruption is pervasive. It operates at every level,” Gandhi told parliament on Friday. “In the last few months, Anna has helped the people to articulate this same sentiment (against corruption). I thank him for that.”

But Hazare, who has stressed his intent to die in order to create an umbrella agency to investigate graft throughout politics, has come under growing criticism from some quarters that he is holding an elected parliament hostage.

“I have a fervent hope that he does (cease his fast today). We have scheduled discussions today as a special day,” parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal told CNN-IBN.

“The concerns are being addressed … (but) every law to be made has to be made in the parliament.”

(Writing by Henry Foy; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Ed Lane)

African Union declines to recognise Libyan rebels

[SEE:  South African Government Position On the Unfreezing of Libyan Assets]

African Union declines to recognise Libyan rebels

African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping addresses an emergency summit of the AU Peace and Security Council in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa August 26, 2011. — Photo by Reuters

ADDIS ABABA: The African Union declined Friday to recognise Libya’s rebel authority as Muammar Qadhafi’s regime is collapsing, and instead called for forming an all-inclusive transitional government.

With rebels still battling diehard forces loyal to Qadhafi, South African President Jacob Zuma said at the end of an AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa that the rebels were not yet legitimate.

“There is a process in Libya wherein the NTC (National Transitional Council) forces are in the process of taking over Tripoli…but there is still that fighting going on.

“So we can’t therefore stand and say this is the legitimate one now,” Zuma told reporters.

However, AU Commission spokesman Noureddine Mezni said Libya’s seat at the bloc was vacant.

“If a consensual and inclusive government is set up tomorrow and it sends an ambassador to the AU, he will be welcome,” Mezni told AFP.

The pan-African body called on Libyan parties to set up a transitional government that would be welcome by the 54-member organisation.

The AU “encourages the Libyan stakeholders to accelerate the process leading to the formation of an all-inclusive transitional government that would be welcome to occupy a seat in the African Union”, the bloc’s Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters.

In addition, the AU also called for an end to the fighting as well as talks to establish democratic government.

The bloc “strongly reaffirms that the AU stands with the people of Libya and encourages all the parties in Libya to come together and negotiate a peaceful process that would lead to democracy,” Lamamra added.

The AU has repeatedly sought a peaceful settlement to the crisis, but its ceasefire proposals and plans for talks between the rebels and Qadhafi were largely ignored, with the rebels rejecting any negotiations.

Since the start of the rebel onslaught against Qadhafi’s 42-year-old regime, several African countries have individually recognised the rebels’ NTC, with Ethiopia and Rwanda this week calling on the AU to the same.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the AU “should offer support to the National Transitional Council,” in remarks to state-run Radio Rwanda Friday.

“We support the National Transitional Council…we think that Colonel Kadhafi has run out of time as a leader,” Mushikiwabo added.

The Libyan rebels have also been recognised by their north African neighbours Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

But Algeria on Friday reiterated its “strict neutrality” on the Libyan crisis and declined to recognise the NTC.

“Since the start of the crisis in Libya, Algeria has declared… that it is an internal matter in Libya, which primarily concerns the Libyan people,” foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said.

Qadhafi played a key role in the formation of the AU and was a key financier, in addition to funding many African causes. Analysts said that his economic clout partly explained the AU’s soft stand on the Libyan leader.

Several Western countries have also recognised the NTC and on Thursday the UN Security Council released $1.5 billion of seized Libyan assets to be used for emergency aid.

Ali Awdian, once Qadhafi’s ambassador to Ethiopia before switching support to the NTC, told AFP it was only a matter of time before the AU recognises the rebels.

“We are respecting the rules and procedures of the African Union. It’s only a matter of time. It’s not a frustration,” said Awdian.

“We know African countries are supporting the people of Libya,” he added.

The NTC announced Friday it would move its leadership from the eastern city of Benghazi to Tripoli, where they still face resistance from pockets of hardline regime loyalists.

Qadhafi’s whereabouts however remain unknown despite an intensive search by rebel forces, and on Thursday he broadcast a new audio message calling on the populace to take up arms.

There was speculation Friday that Qadhafi might have found refuge in his hometown of Sirte to the east of Tripoli, near where Nato said it had hit 29 armed vehicles and a “command and control node.”

Russia Introduces Competing U.N. Draft on Syria

Russia Introduces Competing U.N. Draft on Syria

By JOE LAURIA And NOUR MALAS

UNITED NATIONS—Russia surprised Western diplomats at the United Nations on Friday, introducing a draft Security Council resolution on Syria that opposes a text brought by Western nations earlier this week that would impose an arms embargo and financial sanctions on the Syrian leadership.

The dueling draft resolutions could both come to a vote by Saturday; diplomats said both were likely to be vetoed by the opposing camps.

The drawn-out struggle at the U.N. to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who remains defiant despite tightened Western sanctions and calls for him to step down, has tested the patience of Syria’s opposition, with some activists now calling for military intervention to stop the crackdown on protesters.

The Russian text put forward Friday proposes no sanctions, but rather calls on the Syrian government to institute promised reforms and on the Syrian opposition to enter into a dialogue with the government. The opposition has largely rejected calls for talks; a three-day national dialogue conference in July was boycotted by most prominent opposition figures.

The European and U.S. draft, introduced on Wednesday, calls for a total embargo on Syrian imports and exports of all classes of weapons and would freeze the assets of Syrian leaders, including President Assad. It would also impose travel restrictions on a number of top officials.

The Western resolution also condemns Syria for its violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators and says Syrian officials may be committing crimes against humanity. The U.N. says authorities have killed more than 2,200 people since the uprising against Mr. Assad erupted in March.

On Thursday, Russia and China boycotted a discussion of the Western text. On Friday, Russia unexpectedly interrupted a Security Council meeting on peacekeeping to call a closed-door session at which it surprised Western diplomats by presenting its alternative draft.

The Russian draft is backed by China, Brazil, India and South Africa, a Western diplomat said.

Russia is a major weapons supplier to Syria and would be hurt by an arms embargo.

Separately, a U.N. humanitarian assessment team that visited Syria last week reported that witnesses it interviewed were intimidated by government minders who accompanied the team, a U.N. official said.

As wrangling over the Syrian crisis continued at the U.N., Syria’s opposition—disparate groups ranging from secular academics to the exiled Muslim Brotherhood—struggled to unite. A meeting in Istanbul earlier this week to announce a transitional council extended its work for a few weeks, while activists deliberated on a structure that would be inclusive enough so as not to alienate any of Syria’s myriad religious and ethnic groups.

Syrian activists also watched Libyan rebels close in on Tripoli with frustration, saying the international response to Syria’s crisis has been much slower and less effective in quelling the regime’s violence against protesters.

Four people were killed during demonstrations on Friday in Syria, according to activist network the Local Coordination Committees, as security forces appeared to cool their violence. At least 22 people died in protests across Syria a week earlier on Friday, a day of large protests across the Middle East, but even then, activists said security forces appeared to be turning more to targeted arrests and detentions than to shootings.

With the death toll slowing, Middle Eastern countries and Syria’s neighbors, such as Turkey, could continue to coax Mr. Assad to adopt reforms, despite hopes by the U.S. and its European allies that they would follow in asking him to step down.

If the Russian-backed resolution were to succeed, it could give those countries more leverage to extend Syria’s regime more time to stop the violence and push through long-promised political reforms.

Write to Joe Lauria at newseditor@wsj.com

UN bid ‘endangers Palestinian rights’


Australians for Palestine logoAustralians for Palestine

Editor’s note:  As the push for the Palestinian UN Statehood bid rolls forward with more and more people putting their weight behind it, a legal opinion has surfaced that should have every Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activist shouting “NO” from the rooftops. It is not that there haven’t been eminent people saying the same thing – Saree Makdisi,  Salman Abu Sitta, Ilan Pappe,  Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ramzy Baroud, Ghada Karmi, Oren Ben-Dor, Nur Masalha, George Bisharat, Naseer Aruri, Haidar Eid, Ali Abunimah, Eitan Bronstein, Sami Jadallah and many others – but either people have not wanted to listen or are convinced that this push has to be for the best – best for the Palestinian people, best for Israel’s ‘soul’, best for peace.  And there are millions of good and honourable people who genuinely believe this.  It has also put activists in an impossible position.  If anyone said in this current climate what the legal opinion has revealed, one would be seen either as obstructionist or extremist, and there are some who would even say, a traitor to the cause.  How do you convince people that a “yes” vote is very likely to disenfranchise millions of Palestinian refugees and all those in the Diaspora from their right to return home,  when there is so much good will and enthusiasm being whipped up by petitions, envoys, heads of organisations, and people who have never before come out publicly to support the Palestinians?


The legal opinion lays out all the dangers for the Palestinians – not theoretical  dangers but real ones.  Statehood will terminate the legal status of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the United Nations which since 1975 has been the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.  The current Palestinian Authority (PA) which is making the statehood bid “is a subsidiary body, competent only to exercise those powers conferred on it by the Palestinian National Council. By definition, it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers.”  If the PLO loses its status with this statehood bid, the Palestinian refugees and those in the Diaspora will no longer be entitled to equal representation, have a say in matters of national governance, or be able to ever exercise their inalienable right of return.  And that would suit Israel down to the ground.  With the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza still under Israeli military occupation and no state likely to be created in September, the replacement of the PLO with the State of Palestine, even as one that only has “observer” status in the United Nations, will effectively rid Israel of any responsibility for the millions of Palestinians who have a legitimate claim to their land and properties stripped from them when Israel was created.  That means no right of return and no compensation for their catastrophic losses that Israel has managed to ignore for 63 years.

Dr Salman Abu Sitta warns us that “what’s more dangerous, and probable, is for this to open the way  for ‘peace negotiations’, backed by Europe and America to accept a  Palestinian mini-state. We can see it now: after “hard negotiations” and  “painful concessions” an agreement will be reached and celebrations  will be held on the White House lawn with handshakes and smiles all  round. This mini-state will be a nonentity, with no ability to defend  itself; no control over its borders, airspace or land; no control over  its water resources; and its final borders will be “agreed” through  “land swap” and possibly the forced “transfer” of people. This is  precisely the mini-state which Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert longed for  and believed it is absolutely necessary, because, otherwise, “Israel  will be finished”.”

One cannot help thinking that the whole statehood bid has been a clever, but devious game played by Israel to lure people into thinking that they are against the Statehood bid, so more people will vote for it because it seems to be just and seems to be the best solution for peace.  The Palestinian struggle is not just about ending the occupation, but about ensuring that the inalienable rights of the Palestinian refugees can be realised as demanded by international law and a number of UN resolutions.  It is to liberate not to legalise partition.

Where does that leave people wondering how to vote or who have already voted “yes” as many people have?    This should be seen as a warning to everyone so that the matter can be debated openly, and as the legal opinion advised,  to ensure that a proper legal framework safeguarding the PLO is established, so that the Palestinian representatives taking the statehood bid to the UN will protect and advance the legal rights of ALL Palestinians.


Sonja Karkar
Editor
http://australiansforpalestine.com

UN bid ‘endangers Palestinian rights’

Ma’an News Agency
24 August 2011

The Palestinian team responsible for preparing the United Nations initiative
in September has been given an independent legal opinion that reveals a high
risk involved with its plan to join the UN.

An initiative to transfer the Palestinians’ representation from the PLO to a
state will terminate the legal status held by the PLO in the UN since 1975
that it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,
according to the document.

Crucially, there will no longer be an institution that can represent the
inalienable rights of the entire Palestinian people in the UN and related
international institutions, according to the brief.

Representation for the right to self-determination will be gravely affected,
as it is a right of all Palestinians, both inside and outside the homeland,
the legal opinion says. This change in status will severely disenfranchise
the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties from which
they were displaced.

The seven-page legal opinion, obtained by Ma’an, was submitted to the
Palestinian side by Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of public international
law at Oxford University and a member of the team that won the 2004
non-binding judgement by the International Court of Justice that the route
of Israel’s wall was illegal.

The Palestinian team, headed by Saeb Erekat, has been preparing an
initiative that involves the replacement of the PLO at the UN, substituting
it with the State of Palestine as the representative of the Palestinian
people.

As an actual state will not be created in September, as Israel’s occupation
continues, the debate is focused on whether membership should be requested
from the Security Council or if the General Assembly should be asked to
grant recognition of the state as “observer,” a status that conveys less
than full UN membership.

Yet, no consideration of the dramatic legal implications for Palestinian
rights have been discussed, which this legal brief says will occur if the
PLO loses its status.

The brief is to “flag the matters requiring attention” so that a substantial
amount of people who have interests in the right of return, for example, are
not “accidentally disenfranchised.”

The prospect of substituting the PLO with the State of Palestine raises
“constitutional” problems in that they engage the Palestinian National
Charter and the organization and entities which make up the PLO, he writes.
Secondly, “the question of the ‘capacity’ of the State of Palestine
effectively to take on the role and responsibilities of the PLO in the UN;
and thirdly, the question of popular representation,” the opinion says.

Due to the constitutional structure of the PLO and the history of the
Palestinian Authority, which was established by the PLO as a short-term,
administrative entity, the PA “has limited legislative and executive
competence, limited territorial jurisdiction, and limited personal
jurisdiction over Palestinians not present in the areas for which it has
been accorded responsibility,” it says.

The brief says the PA “is a subsidiary body, competent only to exercise
those powers conferred on it by the Palestinian National Council. By
definition, it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers.”

It cannot “‘dissolve’ its parent body, or otherwise to establish itself
independently of the Palestinian National Council and the PLO. Moreover, it
is the PLO and the Palestinian National Council which derive their
legitimacy from the fact that they represent all sectors of the displaced
Palestinian people, no matter where they presently live or have refuge.”

Particularly crucial are the potential implications for Palestinians in the
Diaspora. The majority of Palestinians are refugees, and all of them are
represented by the PLO through the PNC.

“They constitute more than half of the people of Palestine, and if they are
‘disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only
prejudice their entitlement to equal representation … but also their
ability to vocalise their views, to participate in matters of national
governance, including the formation and political identity of the State, and
to exercise the right of return,” the legal briefing says.

Karma Nabulsi, a former PLO representative and now a professor at Oxford
University, says she is familiar with the document. Palestinian officials
have also seen the legal opinion, she says.

“Without question, no Palestinian will accept losing such core rights for
such a limited diplomatic initiative in September,” she says. “First, we
will not have liberated territory upon which to establish a State. But in
losing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative at the UN, our people
immediately lose our claims as refugees to be part of our official
representation, recognized by the world.

“This is an urgent and critical issue for our whole people. We must ensure
our representatives advance our rights in international forum, not weaken or
endanger them. Of course now that the legal dangers have been raised so
fully, I am confident the initiative will protect the status of the PLO as
sole legitimate representative in the UN in order to advance the rights” of
the Palestinian people.

She says Goodwin-Gill has defined and clarified the “red lines” in legal
terms.

“The PLO is the representative of the people, not just a part of the people;
the PLO is the architect and creator of the Palestinian Authority; that any
change in who represents the people or a part of the people requires an
expression of the popular will and international recognition,” she
explained.

“Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the PLO can alter the role and
structure of the PLO without the agreement of the entire Palestinian people.
In any case, the PLO and the Palestinian people were not aware that by
losing the PLO as representative at the UN, it would create such legal
dangers. Now they are.”

She concluded: “Obviously, we need clarity from the PLO on this critical
issue, and it is important that the Palestinian public everywhere,
especially the refugees in the shatat, are given concrete reassurances that
representation of their core rights — on both representation and right of
return — will remain untouched in September.”