Anglo-Saxon Troops Should Leave Afghanistan

Anglo-Saxon Troops Should Leave Afghanistan

By ORIENTAL REVIEW

Anglo-Saxon Troops Should Leave AfghanistanNegotiations began last week in Kabul between Afghanistan and the USA on a security agreement regarding the terms for the presence of American troops in the country following the official withdraw of the foreign contingent in 2014. Evidently, the peacekeeper’s Nobel Laurels already played their role during the second presidential campaign and it is now a case of completely revising President Obama’s declarations in 2009 regarding “a new American strategy in Afghanistan“.

According to Alexander Knyazev, regional programmes coordinator for the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, who recently gave an interview to the Russian news agency IA REX, the continued presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan will become a destabilising factor for the security of  Eurasia.

Today, the ORIENTAL REVIEW republishes extracts from this interview:

IА REX: What is so special about Afghanistan that it has already “broken the teeth” of three empires: British, Soviet and American?

Saying that Afghanistan has never been defeated is in the realm of myth-making. The British won two wars until they were defeated in the Third Anglo-Afghan war in 1919.

The Soviet Union did not lose the war in Afghanistan, there was a political decision to withdraw the troops and so the troops were withdrawn. The decision was a betrayal to the Afghan government who, incidentally, remained in power for another three years without any support from the USSR. In 1988, with the consent of Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze (later the president of the newly-independent Georgia – OR) signed an agreement in Geneva, in accordance with which the USSR stopped all help to President Najibullah’s government. At the same time, the help being given to anti-government forces by the USA as well as European and Arabic countries immediately grew tenfold, if not a hundredfold.

I will refrain from saying anything about the Americans for the time being, since their goal is not to win on a purely military level, they have other objectives in mind.

IА REX: Why is America holding on to this region so resolutely, despite their military losses and the damage it has caused to their image? What have been the real achievements of the Afghan campaign?

Most importantly, American forces are in Afghanistan and a puppet government is sitting in Kabul, so whatever the outcome over the next few years, America’s military bases will remain in Afghanistan and a number of neighbouring countries.

That is really why the campaign was begun in the first place; the “struggle with international terrorism” in Afghanistan is yet more fruit of modern-day political myth-making. There is absolutely no link between the events that took place in New York on 11 September 2011, the Taliban and Afghanistan.

It is a grand spectacle far removed from the producers of Broadway musicals… There are a number of examples in modern and contemporary American history where hundreds and thousands of people are sacrificed, including their own people, for the purposes of America’s foreign policy. The reality is that the USA became a military power in the Middle East and Central Asia, in the sphere of Iran’s, China’s and Russia’s vital interests. That is the main thing. Losses are secondary, whether military or to America’s image.

IА REX: In your opinion, what is the best solution for Afghanistan?

Just the negotiation process with one universal condition: the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity, the inviolability of its borders. There is a danger that one of America’s scenario’s for the region is changing its political geography. Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country, but the country is not easily divided along ethnic lines. Any attempts would lead to the ethnic communities who live in neighbouring countries becoming involved in the redistribution conflict.

Considering the differences in regional development, Afghanistan would suit a government model in which a strong centre is combined with regions that are independent in many of their functions. Something like the American model, perhaps. But by no means along ethnic lines

For settlement in Afghanistan, it is extremely important to take the religious factor into account. It is possible to meet people in the larger cities who have a relatively secular outlook, but on the whole, the role of Islam in the country, along with its function bearers – the Ulama, remains just as great today as it was in previous phases of history. The social class of the traditional Muslim medieval intelligentsia played and still plays a much more important role in the life of the country than the secular intelligentsia. For many centuries, the Islamic clergy has occupied an important position in Afghan society and is essentially the major consolidating factor. The tradition of the clergy’s involvement in political life (and the obligatory presence of the religious component in political ideology as dominant) was established during the Anglo-Afghan wars and has gradually laid the foundations for the kind of fundamentalism where the bearers later turn into a powerful and wonderfully-organised political force extremely quickly and easily. The Sunni Islamic elite are the main factor conducive to real power potential.

Religious leaders are the force capable of mobilising successful resistance to any central government. This became apparent, in fact, during attempts to introduce into Afghan society both socialist ideas in the 1980s and the democratic experiments of the last decade. A dialogue is needed with the clergy, and only with the condition mentioned above will the dialogue be a successful and nationwide one.

IА REX:  What should the international community do to reduce the risk of terrorist and drug threats coming out of Afghanistan today?

The “international community” is a fiction. There are powers or centres of power that are interested in the presence of these kinds of threats; there are countries whose national security is being threatened. I would include the Anglo-Saxon community in the former, the Establishment of which has already publicly declared an interest in reducing the planet’s population. For the USA, for instance, drugs from Afghanistan are not a systemic problem, their export to the USA is of a one-off nature, they are isolated incidents. For Russia, countries of the region and Europe, however, it is actually one of the most serious threats to their security and existence.

In Europe, the main centres for the distribution of Afghan opiates are American air bases in Germany, Italy, Kosovo and Spain. Of these, the main centre is the Bondsteel base in Kosovo. Kosovo was only created in order to create problems for Europe, but the Europeans have deteriorated so much mentally that they apparently do not want to see this or understand it.

External help for settlement in Afghanistan can only be provided by those with an unbiased interest: Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and possibly India, onto which many of the threats from Afghanistan are projected.

It is only possible to guarantee stability in Afghanistan by negotiating and finding the necessary compromises. Painstaking negotiation work with the leaders of every community is needed without exception. It needs to be understood that the Taliban is a conglomeration of many different groups.

A full withdrawal of Anglo-Saxon troops from the country needs to be achieved, ways to block external intervention need to be found and an inter-Afghan negotiation mechanism based on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, for example, needs to be created.

IА REX:  Afghanistan is rich in minerals. It has enormous reserves of copper, for example. Is there any chance of refocusing the economy from the production of opiates, for example, to mining?

The answer to that question follows directly from what I have just said. Yes, there are a great number of minerals, including one of the largest copper deposits in the world at Aynak in Afghanistan’s Logar province, which is what you are referring to. In 2007, the Chinese state company China Metallurgical Corporation won a bid to mine the copper deposit. The economy needs to stabilise, however. In the meantime, the Chinese are able to spend a minuscule amount of time on the development of this project.

At present, Chinese companies are working on oil and gas fields in the north, particularly in the Jowzjan province.  But I do not think that any of the most important projects will be carried out without at least some degree of stability having been achieved first. If companies from China, Russia and Iran are going to be working in Afghanistan, they will face direct opposition from the Anglo-Saxons by way of the separate Taliban groups they are in control of…

As for the drugs, one should not start with Afghanistan, but with its transit. The price of heroin, starting from the plantation where the raw opium is cultivated and ending with the consumers in Europe, increases a hundredfold.

The Afghan farmer makes a matter of pennies from this production process, but those further along the chain earn millions and billions and simply do not allow the farmers to give up production. Opium is a guaranteed sale – the buyers go to the fields themselves. For the farmers, there is a credit system.

By way of example, for the harvesting of wheat or sesame from a hectare of land, the farmer would not receive the same as he would earn from that same hectare if it was opium, although neither is very much. So what should be done with the harvest? Who, in a country at war, is going to travel through the fields and gather in that kind of produce? When it comes to opium, however, they travel and they gather it in.

It is an enormous international corporation which involves not only the law-enforcement agencies of whole countries, but also the heads of a number of states. So far, the greatest chances of dealing with at least its transit have been demonstrated by Iran. This has even been recognised by the UN, where the Iranian government has few friends. For any activities associated with drugs there is the death penalty. I am convinced that this is more than humane when you think of the results of these activities for a great number of other people…

Bahrain’s push for rights hailed–Except for the 31 Who Officially, Have No Rights

[SEE: Bahrain wins UN praise… for facilitating anti-Syrian aggression by Jordan.]

Bahrain’s push for rights hailed

CAIRO: Bahrain was yesterday hailed for its human rights initiatives and its keenness to honour its national and international commitments.This came as Arab League Secretary-General Dr Nabil Al Arabi received Minister of State for Human Rights Affairs Dr Salah Ali at the league headquarters in Cairo.

He stressed the League’s support and highlighted efforts of His Majesty King Hamad and the government to fast-track reform and implement initiatives to bolster unity.

Both sides also discussed the King’s proposal to set up an Arab human rights tribunal, included in his speech on November 24 last year.

Dr Al Arabi praised the proposal and said the court would be civilisational milestone to contribute to Arab countries’ efforts to support and encourage respect for human rights.

Technical aspects related to the setting up of the court will be discussed on December 18.

Dr Ali said the initiative would contribute to supporting human rights issues in the Arab world and confirmed Bahrain’s keenness to back all efforts to promote human rights.

Progress in implementation of Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations and the outcome of the kingdom’s Universal Periodic Review during the UN Human Rights Council’s 21st session in Geneva were also reviewed. They also discussed Bahrain’s first report to the League on implementation of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Discussion on a report by Arab Human Rights Committee will be held next January.

Bahrain’s Ambassador to Egypt and Permanent Representative to the League Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa attended.

Amnesty International Makes Saudi Denial of Bahraini Human Rights Possible

[Another “masterpiece” by another “defender of human rights,” which leads readers away from the truth—Bahrain would have NO human rights problems were it not for the foreign forces (Saudi, Jordanian, possibly even Pakistani) currently helping the Al-Khalifa family abuse them.  The word “Saudi” is not even found in the entire article. 

Neo-liberal NGO facades like Amnesty and a hundred other pretend defenders of human rights are the keys to denying those very same rights.  If it weren’t for these Zionist-dominated organizations, feeding lies and half-truths to other Zionist-dominated Western news media, then it might be possible to effectively crusade for those rights for every member of the human family, NOT JUST for our fat cousins. 

As it is, the Crusader forces are content to entertain the masses with pretend (“simulated”) wars, while deceiving them about those wars, in order to overwhelm their ability to reason.  The Bahrain revolution would already be over, if there were no acceptable double-standard in international relations, which accepts one aberrant behavior as the norm within the Zionist/+Saudi realm, and another for the rest of the human race.  Eliminate this double-standard and freedom of expression would be blossoming in Bahrain, freeing all minds from their Zionist chains all over the Middle East (SEE:  Zionism is murder and lies).  Until everyone, everywhere, recognizes that we live in a liars’ world, dominated by pathological liars, then there will be no Freedom for anyone.]

Bahrain: Litmus test for EU human rights

bahrain freedom movement

Nicolas Beger

Over the past couple of years, Bahrain’s international image has been transformed from that of a small, quiet Gulf kingdom into a very different kind of country. Today it suffers from deepening human rights abuses. State-sponsored violence oppresses people who express views which conflict with those of the Al-Khalifa family.

But while several other Arab states became international pariahs for their egregious human rights violations, Bahrain appears largely to have dodged international, including European Union, censure. Why is this?

Perhaps it has something to do with the island kingdom’s relatively small size. However, having a modest population in no way negates the damage to human rights caused by the Bahraini authorities’ increasingly brutal approach to popular demands. It’s important that we don’t apply different standards to different countries. Amnesty International regards all human rights abuse equally, wherever it occurs. Are torture or the deaths of unarmed protestors at the hands of Bahraini troops any less abhorrent than the killing of civilians in other, more populous, countries? Early last month, the Bahraini authorities, citing security concerns, revoked the citizenship of 31 people for causing ”damage to state security”. With the recent first anniversary of the report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), it’s becoming clear that the authorities have no intention of listening seriously to the protesters. Whatever promise the Commission may have represented last November, when it accused the authorities of gross human rights violations, has now faded, despite the King’s personal assurance of accountability.

The Government of Bahrain expressed its intention to honour BICI’s findings at Universal Periodic Review (UPR) sessions in May and September this year, ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. But this now appears to be a shallow promise. Little of substance has since been achieved on either human rights or democracy in Bahrain. It may now seem obvious that undertakings like those made at the UPR were a ploy to reassure an increasingly uncomfortable international community, but one can only wonder why the global audience has allowed itself to be appeased so easily.

It’s hard to ignore the distinctly muted EU response to events in Bahrain. As recently as August, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron met the King of Bahrain in Downing Street to discuss opportunities for British business in the kingdom. Only in passing did he mention the need to implement the BICI recommendations. Catherine Ashton, head of EU external affairs, has merely urged “all sections of Bahraini society to contribute to dialogue and national reconciliation in a peaceful and constructive manner.” Should we be surprised when such mealy-mouthed representations fail to galvanise the authorities into delivering convincing reforms?  Indeed, far from showing any improvement, we see systematic violations of basic human rights in Bahrain, including a ban on all protests and the imprisonment of anyone who tweets messages of opposition to the King. For the most part these have met with resounding silence from the EU.

There’s scant evidence that the EU is taking Bahrain’s human rights crisis seriously. Not only has Brussels so far failed to put any real pressure on the Bahraini Government, it seems determined to turn a blind eye, especially when trade deals are in prospect. But human rights abuses in small desert kingdoms deserve a full-size EU response. The EU’s new human rights strategy adopted in June committed the Union to defending human rights around the world more consistently and proactively. The people of Europe have every right to expect the EU to honour this policy. Bahrain is a litmus test.

Nicolas Beger, Director, Amnesty International European Institutions Office

Zionism is murder and lies

Zionism is murder and lies

Israel’s recurrent massacres of Palestinians are largely made possible because no one in power has the courage to challenge Zionist lies

Khalid Amayreh

In addition to plain murder, Israel has been indulging in outright propaganda based on lies in the attempt to justify its genocidal killing spree in the Gaza Strip. In the final analysis, killing and lying go hand-in-hand.

A few years ago I spoke with an Israeli army spokeswoman, asking her how Israel could claim that it didn’t deliberately target Palestinian civilians when thousands of them were being killed, maimed and mutilated, often beyond recognition. With characteristic prevarication, the young woman answered: “We kill them knowingly but not deliberately.”

I asked what the difference was since killing knowingly is killing deliberately. Facing my persistent questions, the army spokeswoman eventually told me she was not an expert on linguistic sophistry, and that as far as she was concerned, the Israeli occupation army didn’t have an established policy of targeting innocent Palestinians.

The truth of the matter is that Israel does have a long established policy of targeting innocent civilians, whether in Gaza or the West Bank or South Lebanon.

License to kill

Israeli spokespersons claim that civilians are killed inadvertently or by mistake, while others fall as “collateral damage.”

But mistakes happen once, twice or 10 times. When “mistakes” occur numerous times and on every day and in every round of war, it means “mistakes” are an established policy pursued consciously.

In 2006, the Israeli air force reportedly dropped 2-3 million cluster bomblets on southern Lebanon. This huge number of deadly time bombs is enough, at least theoretically, to kill 2-3 million Lebanese children. This is half a holocaust by Zionist standards. Does Israel expect humanity to be so naïve to believe that this intended genocide of Lebanese civilians was planned and executed by mistake?

In reality, Zionists consider the rest of humanity too sheepish or gullible to discover their lies. This is why the bulk of Zionist rabbis believe in Jewish supremacy. Take, for example, Ovadia Yosef, the religious mentor of the Haredi Shas Party.

Two years ago, Yosef was quoted as saying during a Sabbath homily that Gentiles (non-Jews) are effectively donkeys that God created solely in order to serve Jews.

Yosef is not a demented or marginal rabbi. He is a former chief rabbi of Israel and has hundreds of thousands of loyal followers. Moreover, his party is a kingmaker within the Israeli political arena.

Reversing the truth

If murderous criminality is the modus operandi of Israel ‘s treatment of its Palestinian victims, lying is Israel’s shield against international condemnation.

Israel benefits from a huge network of Zionist-owned or Zionist-influenced media, extending from Sydney to California. These  mouthpieces of Zionist lies have a premier function to perform as far as Israel is concerned: to turn big lies into virtual truths glorified by thousands.

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a habitual and pathological liar, asked a German official the following: What would Germany do if its capital was hit with wave after wave of rockets?

Of course, the German minister didn’t have the courage to tell Netanyahu that Israel is founded on a pre-existing country, that its founders, including Zionist terrorists, destroyed Palestinian homes, obliterated Palestinian villages, murdered Palestinian children and expelled hundreds of thousands with no chance of return. This is the reason Palestinians fire rockets on Israeli towns and settlements.

Indeed, even if the German minister had the rectitude to challenge Netanyahu, he probably wouldn’t dare say what should be said lest he lose his job and be ejected from his party, or worse.

In truth, Zionist lies have a beginning but have no end. Zionists claim they didn’t expel the bulk of the Palestinian people from their ancestral homeland when Israel was established in 1948.

Listening to these obscene lies, a stranger who knows nothing about the conflict would probably think that the Palestinians left their homes because they got so bored that they needed an opportunity for recreational activities outside Palestine.

The Zionists also claim that they are only responding to Palestinian provocations, namely the firing of projectiles on Israeli towns and settlements.

Israeli spokespersons even dramatise these lies by asking Westerners how would they feel and react if their citizens were showered with thousands of rockets.

The truth, which much of the international media, including agenda setters such as CNN, the BBC, CBS along with The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and even Le Monde, ignore is that these inaccurate projectiles are nearly innocuous and are absolutely no match for Israel’s state-of-the-art technology of death, such as F-15 and F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, unmanned predator drones, and laser-guided missiles fired from high altitudes on poor people’s homes, causing massacres and widespread destruction.

The world needs to know

The world needs to know the truth and stop being at the mercy of Zionist lies. So-called Palestinian missiles are the poor man’s weapon in the face of America and Israel’s most advanced arsenal.

Indeed, were these Palestinian rockets “real weapons,” they would enable Palestinians to protect their children who are slaughtered by the dozen per day. Indeed, a single bombing raid by an Israeli war plane, such as an F-15 or F-16, has more firepower and can inflict more damage and death than a thousand projectiles of the type fired from Gaza on Israel.

This is not propaganda. This is truth that is evident from the latest round of violence in Gaza. The Palestinians fired as many as 1100 “rockets” on Israel, leaving five Israelis dead and a few others injured.

In comparison, as many as 150 Palestinians were killed in little over a week, 90 per cent of them innocent civilians, including more than 30 babies and toddlers, with 1200 others — also mostly civilians — injured, many of them seriously. This is not to mention the destruction inflicted on the already bombed-out Gaza.

The Palestinians fire these projectiles because this is all they have to defend themselves and their children against a fascist enemy that is armed to the teeth and has the US government and Congress tightly under control.

The use of these so-called “missiles” is an expression of desperation and weakness on the Palestinians’ part. But it is also an expression of Palestinian determination to gain liberty from an evil entity that only understands the language of force.

Finally, the world should understand and internalise the historical fact that it was these terrorist thugs from Eastern Europe, such as Netanyahu and Barak, who invaded Palestine, terrorising and banishing its native people to the four winds. It is paramount to remember this fact everytime Israel claims it is only responding to Palestinian violence.

Besides, we should also understand what the American-English poet Auden said.

“I and the public know,

What all school children learn,

Those to whom evil is done,

Do evil in return”

The writer is a US-educated journalist living in the Israeli occupied West Bank.

“Fiscal Cliff” Not Really A Cliff, More of A Steep Slope

Fear not the fiscal cliff!

The so-called “fiscal cliff” is the confluence of three separate legal events on January 1, 2013: expiration of a temporary payroll tax cut, expiration of the so-called “Bush” income and estate tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, and mandatory spending cuts also known as “sequestration”.

Many commentators are expressing concern that unless Congress intervenes by January 1, the economy will suffer a serious setback. But I don’t think that’s the worst thing that could happen.

First, the expiration of the payroll tax cut is going to happen in any event. The payroll tax was lowered in 2011 and 2012 as a temporary economic stimulus. But there is bi-partisan agreement that the payroll tax should be restored to pre-2011 levels to adequately fund Social Security. No controversy here. Payroll taxes will increase in 2013.

The so-called “Bush tax cuts” of 2001 and 2003 were enacted as temporary responses to the economic recession triggered first by the collapse of the internet bubble and then the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Republican sponsors of those tax cuts agreed that they would expire at the end of 2010. As that deadline approached, and President Obama and congressional Republicans continued to argue over whose taxes should be allowed to go up, the President and his political adversaries agreed to extend the tax cuts for two more years, until the end of 2012.

President Obama campaigned on allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for households earning $250,000 or more, but extending the tax cuts for households earning less than that amount. Republicans advocate making the tax cuts permanent for all taxpayers regardless of income, and also making permanent the elimination of the federal estate tax on decedent millionaires, which they call the “death tax”. Unless Congress acts, all the Bush tax cuts will expire on December 31, and both income and estate tax rates will be restored to the levels that applied before 2001.

As part of the 2011 agreement to increase the debt ceiling, Congress pledged to cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years, with specific cuts to be determined by a joint select deficit-reduction “super committee”. To insure that the cuts would happen, Congress specified that if by the super committee failed to designate sufficient spending cuts, and Congress failed to take any superseding action by December 31, 2012, those $1.2 trillion cuts would happen automatically, spread equally between defense and non-defense spending. These automatic, across-the-board spending cuts have been labeled “sequestration”.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke coined the worrisome phrase “fiscal cliff” to describe the consequences if Congress fails to act by December 31, and the Bush tax cuts all expire, and sequestration spending cuts begin. But that’s not the worst scenario.

The worst scenario would be for Congress to extend all the Bush tax cuts and repeal its commitment to cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That worst case scenario would mean growth of the federal government’s $1 trillion annual budget deficit would continue to accelerate, and the now $16 trillion national debt would continue to expand in excess of gross domestic product, the total value of all goods and services produced in the U.S.

The political reality is that it’s very difficult for elected officials who want to be re-elected to either cut spending or raise taxes. But cutting spending and raising taxes are both needed to reduce the deficit and slow the growth of the national debt. It is both irresponsible and dangerous for us to burden future generations of Americans with the obligation to pay for our accelerating current spending.

It would be nice if Democrats and Republicans could get together and reach agreement on exactly how to reduce spending and raise taxes. But in the current gridlocked political environment, that seems to be a fantasy.

Anyone who recognizes that should understand that the so-called fiscal cliff is not so bad. Allowing all the Bush tax cuts to expire will raise everyone’s taxes, but only to the levels that applied during President Clinton’s administration when the economy was strong and expanding. Sequestration is a blunt instrument to reduce federal spending, but there does not appear to be a better way. Does anyone seriously doubt that there is tremendous unnecessary spending and waste which can and should be cut from the federal budget?

There’s nothing irrevocable about the fiscal cliff. Congress could act any time before or after January 1, 2013, to fine tune the already mandated spending cuts and tax increases.

Republicans deserve both the credit and the blame for making the Bush tax cuts expire and requiring spending cuts as a condition for increasing the debt ceiling. President Obama should be willing to allow those events to happen if that’s the only way to address our growing deficit and national debt. He will be in a stronger position after January 1, to make a better and fairer deal than he could negotiate this year.

And if he can’t? Bring on the fiscal cliff!

Obama Wants To Keep Enough Troops To Serve the Empire, But Not Enough To Help Afghanistan

US aims to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: The administration of President Barack Obama aims to keep around 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan after formal combat operations in that country end in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the plan was in line with recommendations presented by General John Allen, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, who has proposed a force between 6,000 and 15,000 US troops.

This force will conduct training and counterterrorism operations after the NATO mission in Afghanistan formally concludes at the end of 2014, the report said.

About 67,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan alongside 37,000 coalition troops and 337,000 local soldiers and police that make up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

The United States and Afghanistan launched crucial talks on November 15 on the status of US forces remaining in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

The US has stressed that it is not seeking permanent bases in Afghanistan. It is also considered likely to shy away from a security guarantee, which would require it to come to the nation’s assistance against aggressors.

That, however, is seen as one of the targets of Afghan negotiators.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to be willing to accept a US troop presence post-2014 as long as his key demands are met.

According to the Journal, his main request is that American forces come under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts.

However, the paper said, some defense analysts outside of the US government believe that the training and counterterrorism mission would require a much larger US presence — perhaps as many as 30,000 troops.

The Fate of Our Internet Is Being Determined In Dubai

World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)


ITU will convene the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 3-14 December 2012. This landmark conference will review the current International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability.

More about WCIT-12

Web access battles brew before U.N. conference

dubai

An upcoming U.N. gathering in Dubai, shown above, on Internet oversight is raising alarms from a broad coalition of critics including the U.S. government, tech giants such as Google and rights groups.(Photo: Kamran Jebreili, AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An upcoming U.N. gathering about Internet oversight is raising alarms from a broad coalition of critics, including the U.S., tech giants such as Google and rights groups, concerned that changes could lead to greater efforts to censor Web content and stifle innovation in cyberspace.

Among the issues on the agenda at next month’s meeting in Dubai are ideas to battle Internet spam and fraud. But also tucked into more than 1,300 proposals are potential hot-button items that opponents believe could be used by in places such as Iran and China to justify their crackdowns on bloggers and other Web restrictions.

Another likely battle when the meeting begins Dec. 3 is over European-backed suggestions to change the pay structure of the Web to force content providers — such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and others — to kick in an extra fee to reach users across borders.

It’s unclear what proposals will emerge from the 11-day meeting of the U.N.’s 193-nation International Telecommunications Union, or ITU. The preliminary jockeying highlights the tensions of the Internet age between what to regulate and what to leave alone. The outcome could affect billions of Internet users.

Some are unhappy with the structure of the conference itself.

“Engineers, companies and people that build and use the Web have no vote,” said Google in an online statement. “The billions of people around the globe that use the Internet, the experts that build and maintain it, should be included” in the decision-making process.

Others warn of dangers.

Simply opening the door to greater controls by the ITU raises concern among activists and others. They worry that countries with tightly controlled cyberspace such as China, Iran and Gulf Arab states will push for additions to the ITU’s treaty — such as national security monitoring — that could be used to give legitimacy both to their current efforts to monitor and restrict the Web and to possible future clampdowns.

“We can expect an Internet totally different to today’s open and global system,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, representing 175 million workers worldwide.

“Repressive governments will have a U.N. treaty which allows them to control freedom of expression, to monitor everything any targeted individual is saying on the Net, and to stop social movements and human rights defenders demanding respect for basic rights,” she cautioned.

The host United Arab Emirates, for example, sharply tightened Internet laws this month to give authorities wide powers to bring charges for offenses such as insulting the rulers or trying to organize street protests.

The ITU’s secretary-general, Hamadoun Toure, said in a May speech in Canada that he expected “a light-touch regulatory approach to emerge.”

The ITU says it has no interest in governing the Internet or restricting expression, but notes that it must update its communications treaty to incorporate the dramatic technological changes that have occurred since the last revisions in 1988. That was before the Internet in the public domain.

Among the topics to be discussed in Dubai: Internet security, combating fraud, preventing mobile phone “bill shock” with roaming charges and efforts to expand broadband infrastructures in developing countries.

“For every proposal, there is a counterproposal,” said ITU spokeswoman Sarah Parkes.

She noted that U.N. treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights take precedence over any regulations ITU may adopt that could relate to freedom of expression.

“We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs (International Telecommunications Regulations) to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas,” said Terry Kramer, a former technology industry executive who was given ambassador status to lead a powerhouse 123-member U.S. delegation to the World Conference on International Telecommunications.

The groups include representatives from Facebook, Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Google — which has been leading an aggressive online campaign to warn about the risks of increased Internet regulations from the meeting.

The international Internet Society, a group headquartered in Virginia and Switzerland that maintains the Internet core protocols, also claims any tighter U.N. controls could “interfere with the continued innovation and evolution of the telecommunications networks and the Internet.”

The American technology company envoys in Dubai also are expected to push back strongly against any sweeping revision in Internet charges. The proposal, led by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association, would do away with the current system — called “net neutrality” — that now treats all Internet traffic equally, regardless of who is sending or receiving.

In its place, the European plan seeks to have content providers pay when their service is accessed across borders. The money raised, theoretically, could pay to expand broadband infrastructures in developing countries. Opponents, however, say companies such as Facebook could cut off access to countries where the extra charges are too burdensome.

Even the U.N.’s cultural agency, UNESCO, has raised concerns about proposals that are so broadly worded that they could be used to restrict freedom of expression under the guise of national security or fighting spam and Internet fraud.