Foreign Policy Briefing 3/29/10


This summary briefing comes to us through the courtesy of Just Foreign Policy.

U.S./Top News
1) US and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, the New York Times reports. “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. McChrystal. Such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from McChrystal intended to reduce them. The persistence of the shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans angry at the impunity with which the troops operate – a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation, the Times says.

2) The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, AP reports. Injuries have more than tripled.

3) US officials acknowledge that US aid to Afghanistan is part of Afghanistan’s corruption problems and that some Department of Defense money is flowing to Afghan insurgents through security subcontracting, the Washington Post reports. The problem extends beyond military supply transport to Afghan-provided security for reconstruction and other U.S.-funded projects, according to the audit chief for the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. “If you go to the U.S. Embassy, to USAID, to the Army Corps [of Engineers] and ask if they can assure that their money is not going to the Taliban, they’d be hard-pressed to say,” he said. Congressional investigators alleged “willful blindness” on the part of the U.S. military which “likes having its trucks showing up and doesn’t want to get into the details of how they got there.”

4) The current fight between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government over Israeli building in Jerusalem is really over the role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as over differing perceptions of the Palestinians’ capacity for self-rule, writes Ethan Bronner in a news analysis for the New York Times. The Obama administration considers establishing a Palestinian state central to other regional goals; it also believes that the Palestinians are ready to run a country. The longer the dispute goes on, the more isolated Israel becomes, because much of the world disagrees with it, Bronner writes.

5) Mexican law enforcement officials said that former soldiers who formed the Zetas, a criminal organization that works as assassins for one of the drug cartels fighting in Juárez, were trained by the U.S., including at the School of the Americas, the El Paso Times reports. Given that history, some question whether more U.S. training for Mexican soldiers and police will be helpful. U.S. say this time the U.S. would vet the Mexican soldiers to be trained.

6) The Haitian government and international aid officials have given up on the idea of relocating Haitians to new camps ahead of floods, Jonathan Katz reports for AP. Instead, they will be sent back “home” or otherwise dispersed, with US-funded teams removing debris. Only a small number, as a last resort, may be moved to relocation camps.

7) Danny Glover, chair of TransAfrica Forum, says it doesn’t make sense that two and half months after the earthquake, Haitians still haven’t received tents, writes Mark Weisbrot in a column distributed by McClatchy-Tribune. 400,000 tents would cost $40 million, less than 2% of the aid flow into Haiti, Weisbrot notes.

8) Japan’s foreign minister presented the US with alternatives for the relocation of the Futenma base, AFP reports. The Pentagon said it was reviewing the ideas. The Social Democratic Party, a member of the government coalition, has denounced the alternatives as it seeks a complete removal of Futenma from Okinawa.

9) No-one at the CIA has been held responsible, legally or administratively, for the death of Gul Rahman at a CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was left overnight, half-naked in near-freezing temperatures, AP reports. Several former senior CIA officials have questioned the Kabul station chief’s career advancement after Rahman died, noting that the CIA’s Baghdad station chief was demoted after the death of an Iraqi at Abu Ghraib in 2003.

10) Israeli troops and tanks left Gaza Saturday after the bloodiest clash in Gaza in 14 months killed two soldiers and a Palestinian, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, the Arab League signaled a major review in strategy. “We have to study the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Secretary-General Amr Moussa said. “It’s time to face Israel. We have to have alternative plans because the situation has reached a turning point.”

11) Palestinian officials said Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians in Gaza for the first time in its three-year blockade, Reuters reports. They said the first 10 truckloads would be arriving via the Israeli-controlled Gaza border point on Thursday. Gaza merchants said 10 truckloads would not fill their stocks and demanded Israel release goods long held in its sea ports.

12) President Calderon told CNN that powerful groups in the US appear to be blocking efforts to stem the flow of assault weapons fueling Mexico’s drug war, Reuters reports. Mexico says 90 percent of the weapons used by drug gangs are bought in the US, often legally. Mexican officials want to see Congress reinstate a ban on the sale of assault weapons that expired in 2004. The US has started to increase searches of southbound vehicles on its border with Mexico for guns and money heading to Mexican cartels.

13) U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Brownfield told the Colombian newspaper El Espectador he sees “great opportunities for the FTA in the coming months” now that health care reform is passed. Colombia Reports published an English transcript of the interview. Brownfield also said the US had reduced the budget and size of personnel focused on drug eradication programs, and is increasing our support for alternative development programs. “I must say to the critics that they were right, and because of that we, are changing our strategy,” Brownfield said.


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