President Obama is learning more as he settles into his new role as Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces. Determined to draw down our military presence in Iraq, and to do what he can to clean up the mess left behind, the President is working to develop decisions regarding the next phase in the Middle East. It will change the main focus to Afghanistan and Pakistan, keeping in mind the long-standing enmity between Pakistan and India. A very fragile cease-fire is holding in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and new Envoy, George Mitchell is in the region for a listening tour. The Army is stretched incredibly thin and not yet grown to the numbers eventually authorized last year. Secretary Gates has his arm in a sling. Add to all this the new diplomatic vigor and visibility and you have a very complicated shift within this fledgling administration.
Afghanistan is the Challenge -- CQ Politics reports that Secretary of Defense Robert "Gates Says Afghanistan Is Biggest Military Challenge" (1/27/09). To quote:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says a long-term strategy is being developed to prevent Afghanistan from relapsing into a safe haven for terrorists intent on attacking the United States and allies.
“There is little doubt our greatest military challenge right now is Afghanistan,” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing Tuesday on defense priorities. He was scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee later in the day.
Senate Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that to accomplish their mission, U.S. forces in Afghanistan would need to double to more than 60,000 troops. Levin asked Gates how soon a second, third and fourth brigade could be deployed.
Afghanistan detainees -- FromProPublica (1/28/09), comes the news that the "Pentagon Keeps Mum on Who's at Bagram." The question is where is the battlefield, and what are the limits of the habeas corpus decisions of the Supreme Court. To quote:
An untold portion of the 600 detainees at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan were captured outside the country while engaged in peaceful activities, lawyers and court documents say, and imprisoned alongside Afghan warriors. The U.S. government has argued that battlefield rules put the prisoners beyond the reach of civilian justice, even though they weren't captured in the Afghan war zone.
A lawsuit by four Bagram detainees has revealed striking similarities between the prison in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay facility. To determine the full measure of that resemblance, District Court Judge John D. Bates instructed government lawyers to turn over the total number of captives nabbed abroad. That crucial number was redacted from public court documents (PDF) filed in the case. Recently, Bates has turned to the Obama administration, which recently put the Gitmo military commissions on hold, for guidance.
CQ Politics: we learn about how "Advocacy Groups Play Out India-Pakistan Dispute on Capitol Hill" (1/26/09). To quote:
A coalition of Indian-American groups will come to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to make U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on cooperation with investigations of November’s terrorist attack in Mumbai. . .The visits come a day after leaders of the Pakistan-American National Alliance said that tying aid to a key U.S. ally in efforts to combat terrorism was tantamount to “coercive diplomacy.”. . .These lobbying efforts come at a sensitive time, with a new administration settling in, tensions between India and Pakistan increasing and U.S. relations with both countries in flux.Gaza: death and destruction -- The Miami Herald headlined (1/27/09): "Claims of Israeli 'white flag' killings under investigation*" The story says, "Witnesses say Israeli troops in Gaza killed Palestinian children carrying white flags, but Israel has rejected any suggestions that civilians were targeted." The blog,
BuzzFlash on (1/24/09), reported that "Alarm Spreads Over Use of Lethal New Weapons*" To quote: "International organizations are condemning Israel's use of unconventional weapons in civilian areas of Gaza BuzzFlash also reported that "Mystery weapons allegedly used in Gaza [were] developed at military bases in Va, Fla.*"
Army electrocution death -- "Army accuses contractors of 'negligent homicide' for electrocution#" (1/22/09).
United States Army investigation has accused former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, along with contractors the company used and two of the firm's supervisors, of 'negligent homicide' in the electrocution of a soldier, according to a published report.
[A]n Army criminal investigator says the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, has been changed from accidental to negligent homicide because the contractor failed to ensure that 'qualified electricians and plumbers' worked on the barracks where Maseth died," reports the Associated Press.
Army - suicides -- Army Times (1/28/09) headlined: "Recruiting stand-down ordered.*" It will be on Feb. 13. Texas Senator Cornyn had called for the investigation and probe of Houston suicides that prompted the wide-ranging action. To quote further:
Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a stand-down of the Army’s entire recruiting force and a review of almost every aspect of the job is underway in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in the Houston Recruiting Battalion.
Poor command climate, failing personal relationships and long, stressful work days were factors in the suicides, the investigation found. The investigating officer noted a “threatening” environment in the battalion and that leaders may have tried to influence statements from witnesses.
Reference -- CQ - Behind the Lines: from my newsletter of 1/28/09:
Presidents on parade: “Al Qaeda . . . seems bent on giving the new American president the back of the hand,” Michael Kraft posts on The Counterterrorism Blog. Jimmy Carter is a worse president than George W. Bush, because “jihadists began their reign of terror in earnest under his watch by the hostage crisis in Iran,” Lew Waters writes The San Francisco Chronicle. “If his softer approach toward terrorists leads to or allows another terrorist attack, Mr. Obama’s presidency will drown in the blood of dead and injured Americans,” The Bluefield (W.V.) Daily Telegraph’s James H. “Smokey” Shott warns. “When America is attacked under Clinton, it’s Clinton’s fault. When America is attacked under Bush, it’s Clinton’s fault. If America is attacked under Obama, it’s Obama’s, Clinton’s, and the Democrats’ fault,” the Washington Examiner’s writing.
Cyberia: “Al Qaeda has plenty of company online: Today most rebels and terrorists are masters of the online universe,” a Huffington Post op-ed observes. “Director of National Intelligence nominee Adm. Dennis Blair has his work cut out for him. But there may not be many higher priorities than cybersecurity,” Federal News Radio leads. Three Air Force bases vie to host a proposed “Undergraduate Cyber Warfare Training” curriculum involving 600-800 enrollees annually, The San Angelo (Texas) Standard Times tells. “People who buy fake Internet drugs could be risking their lives and supporting terrorism,” an International Journal of Clinical Practice editorial alleges. Under technical amendments passed in December by India’s parliament, acts of cyberterrorism merit a life term in prison, Sakaal Times tells.
Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.