Saturday, January 13, 2007

NATO’s Afghan Struggle: Build, and Fight Taliban

Villagers from around Panjwai, where NATO troops direct the pursuit of the Taliban, gathered in December to protest a lack of rebuilding projects.

Published: January 13, 2007
The New York Times

SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan — The road that cuts through the heart of Panjwai district here tells all that is going wrong with NATO’s war in Afghanistan.

To fight their way into this area and clear it of Taliban insurgents, NATO troops bulldozed through orchards, smashed down walls and even houses, and churned vineyards and melon fields to dust.

Reconstruction projects were planned, but never materialized. Now NATO countries are championing the thoroughfare as a $5 million gift to local people.

Displaced and buffeted by fighting since May, the Afghans are homeless, fearful and far from being won over. They say the road was built for the troops’ benefit and forced on them, at the cost of their land and livelihoods.

“We are compelled to be happy about the road,” said Hajji Baran, 48, a farmer from Panjwai. “They are building the road and they are not going to stop, but in fact we are not happy about it. We have been displaced for nine months and no one has asked us how are we managing. This is a kind of cruelty.

“In fact, we are selling our wives’ jewelry to support our families.”

The conflict over the road is just the most apparent of the many things that Afghans, diplomats and aid workers cite in explaining why NATO’s war looks uncertain in southern Afghanistan. Others include what local people see as the indiscriminate killing of civilians by NATO forces, and corruption and incompetence among local officials.

Panjwai and an adjoining district, Zhare, just west of Kandahar, the provincial capital, are considered vital because the Taliban presence there has directly threatened Kandahar, and thus all of southern Afghanistan.

Yet so far not much has gone according to plan.

There has been little coordination between the military operations and reconstruction projects, which has frustrated aid workers and diplomats almost as much as local people.

After NATO troops and United States Special Forces mounted their operation to clear the area of insurgents in September, the assistance programs were not ready. Then the troops pulled back, and the Taliban were active again within days.

“We are all scratching our heads as to why the aid has not rolled out faster,” said a Western diplomat familiar with Panjwai. “It’s not for a lack of resources. We are meeting basic needs, but when it comes to sustainable livelihoods and jobs, it’s not happening.”

NATO’s struggle to secure the area inevitably hampered reconstruction and deterred the thousands of displaced villagers from returning home. Aid workers who started to venture into the area to kick-start assistance programs complained of continued insecurity and even of coming under fire from NATO forces. The result was that very little assistance arrived.

“There was a lull, and for three weeks they did nothing,” said Andrew Douglas, operations manager of an agricultural development group in Afghanistan. “They were going round talking and handing out candy.” He did not want his organization named because his comments were personal remarks.

It took a second military operation at the end of the year finally to expel the Taliban. Already on everyone’s mind — in the government, the military, the police and among villagers — is how to stop the Taliban from infiltrating back for a new offensive in the spring, which in this southern region will come in February.

Without the support of the local people, that task will be virtually impossible, military and government officials and local elders said.

Now finally villagers are trickling home. Yet the mood is at best resigned.

“They bombed our orchards and fields and we have nothing now,” said Hajji Abdul Wahab Kutaisi, 65, a farmer from Pashmul. “They made a road through my land.”

His house was destroyed in the fighting and he and his extended family now live in two rented rooms in Kandahar. He said he had not received any compensation.

He was sitting with several other men on the stony ground in the Panjwai district police station waiting for permission from the military to work in his fields, close to a Canadian military checkpoint. “When we don’t inform them, they shoot at us,” he said. Minutes after he spoke a Canadian tank fired a round from the nearby base, shattering the calm, sunny morning.

“They did not come to bring peace for us, they came to destroy us,” said Hajji Abdul Ghafar, 60, an elder on the Sperwan village council, who was waiting for permission to pass through a checkpoint to reach his house. “There are 3,000 families hoping to go back to their houses. If they lose hope, this would be very bad for the government,” he warned.

“We are angry with both sides, the foreigners and the Taliban,” he added. “It is impossible to talk to the Taliban,” he said, shaking his head. “And the foreigners don’t listen to anyone.”

Sperwan Ghar, the district center of Panjwai, is a quiet, country one-street town, with small shops, two schools and a police station. For the NATO forces here, which are led by Canada, the town, at least, is a success story. By December it was peaceful, commerce had returned, the school was repaired and children were back in class.

Yet the place looks like a fortified camp, with soldiers and sandbags blocking the street, an armored vehicle parked outside the school, and guard posts on all the hills looking down into everyone’s yard. The local police admit the guard posts are not popular because they violate one of the most important codes of behavior for the Pashtun: privacy and respect for their women.

Maj. Stephen Murray, the acting military commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, a NATO unit, defended its efforts, saying the team had spent $100,000 in just a few weeks providing jobs for people in the cleanup.

The team members were assessing the battle damage and compensation claims with government officials, and consulting with village councils, he said. Rushing things would leave people out and only aggravate local tensions, he said.

“There are lots of challenges,” Major Murray said. “We have to go step by step.”

As for the new road, he said the military needed a straight road that was more easily secured. Over the past few months, Canadian troops were repeatedly ambushed on the old road, which twisted and turned through the hamlets and walled farmsteads. He is having intensive discussions with the local people to work out a fair deal for those whose land it crosses, he said.

Yet Pashmul, the village most affected by the road, remains one of the most unsettled areas of the two districts, partly because the population remains divided over whom to support, the Taliban or the foreigners.

The Afghan people will withhold their support until they can see some material assistance, said the development manager, Mr. Douglas. “The Afghans don’t trust anyone,” he added. “They have seen military coming in all colors before.”

Corrupt and ineffective local leaders have done as much to turn people against the government and its foreign backers as have any failings in reconstruction, said Joanna Nathan of the International Crisis Group, a research group.

At the same time it is becoming clear that development assistance to an area does not lead to security in a community or district, she said. NATO has mapped where the international assistance has gone, and found that there is little connection between the amount of aid spent on an area and the level of security, she said.

Regarding the Taliban, “they are not very popular, even in the south, but they have spread,” said Tom Koenigs, the head of the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan. “We have to be prepared to have these levels of conflict for some time.”

But that conflict increasingly threatens to alienate NATO’s local supporters. As suicide bombings have taken their toll on the troops, who took over command in southern Afghanistan from the Americans last year, the soldiers have frequently resorted to lethal force, calling in airstrikes and firing on approaching cars, often killing and wounding civilians and further worsening the public mood.

“They said we came to bring peace to this country,” said Abdur Rahim, 35, an auto mechanic, as he lay in a hospital bed. He was shot in the back by British soldiers after their convoy had been hit by a suicide bomber. The soldiers shot at least eight civilians as they drove through the town.

“Why are they shooting the people?” he asked. “Is this peace?”

After suffering 13 suicide bombings in 14 days in Kandahar, some Canadian soldiers had to be repatriated because they were reacting badly to the stress, according to one diplomat in Kabul.

“The people are saying, ‘If the British are scared, why did they come to our country?’ ” said Mullah Naqibullah, leader of one of Kandahar’s largest tribes. “They should not view the people as the same as the Taliban.”

Then there is the nagging feeling behind every conversation in southern Afghanistan that the Taliban cannot be beaten and that the government will have to find a way to accommodate them.

Several important elders like Mullah Naqibullah and a former Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, advocate talking to the Taliban.

At the very least, there should be stronger protection for those Taliban commanders who want to come over to the government, said Mullah Rocketi, a member of Parliament, because at the moment few trust the government and the foreign forces not to imprison them.

The biggest test for NATO forces, together with their Afghan military and police counterparts, is to prevent the Taliban from returning. With the ordinary people still ambivalent, that job is going to be much harder.

“We need a huge effort,” said the United Nations official, Mr. Koenigs. “We cannot believe it will resolve itself at the pace we have now.”

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Rice Says Bush Authorized Iranians’ Arrest in Iraq

Published: January 13, 2007
The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 — A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

“There has been a decision to go after these networks,” Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East.

Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted “after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity” among Iranians in Iraq, “and increasing lethality in what they were producing.” She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, being used against American troops were made in Iran.

Ms. Rice was vague on the question of when Mr. Bush issued the order, but said his decision grew out of questions that the president and members of his National Security Council raised in the fall.

The administration has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, providing weapons and training to Shiite forces with the idea of keeping the United States bogged down in the war. Ms. Rice’s willingness to discuss the issue seemed to reflect a new hostility to Iran that was first evident in Mr. Bush’s speech to the nation on Wednesday night, in which he accused Tehran of providing material support for attacks on American troops and vowed to respond.

Until now, despite a series of raids in which Iranians have been seized by American forces in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, administration officials have declined to say whether Mr. Bush ordered such actions.

The White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran’s ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war. Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

In adopting a more confrontational approach toward Iran, Mr. Bush has decisively rejected recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that he explore negotiations with Tehran as part of a new strategy to help quell the sectarian violence in Iraq.

In the interview on Friday, Ms. Rice described the military effort against Iranians in Iraq as a defensive “force protection mission,” but said it was also motivated by concerns that Iran was trying to further destabilize the country.

Mr. Bush’s public warning to Iran was accompanied by the deployment of an additional aircraft carrier off Iran’s coast and advanced Patriot antimissile defense systems in Persian Gulf countries near Iran’s borders. Both the White House and the secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, insisted Friday that the United States was not seeking to goad Iran into conflict, and that it had no intention of taking the battle into Iranian territory. The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, warned reporters away from “an urban legend that’s going around” that Mr. Bush was “trying to prepare the way for war” with Iran or Syria.

Mr. Gates said that the United States did not intend to engage in hot pursuit of the operatives into Iran.

“We believe that we can interrupt these networks that are providing support, through actions inside the territory of Iraq, that there is no need to attack targets in Iran itself,” Mr. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I continue to believe what I told you at the confirmation hearing,” he added, referring to last month’s hearings on his nomination, “that any kind of military action inside Iran itself would be a very last resort.”

Ms. Rice’s comments came just a day after the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, issued a sharp warning to the administration about the recent raids against Iranians in Iraq, including one in Erbil early Thursday.

He said the vote to authorize the president to order the use of force to topple Saddam Hussein was not a vehicle for mounting attacks in Iran, even to pursue cells or networks assisting insurgents or sectarian militias. “I just want the record to show — and I would like to have a legal response from the State Department if they think they have authority to pursue networks or anything else across the border into Iran and Iraq — that will generate a constitutional confrontation here in the Senate, I predict to you,” Mr. Biden said.

In the view of American officials, Iran is engaged in a policy of “managed chaos” in Iraq. Its presumed goal, both policymakers and intelligence officials say, is to raise the cost to the United States for its intervention in Iraq, in hopes of teaching Washington a painful lesson about the perils of engaging in regime change.

Toward this end, American officials charge, Iran has provided components, including explosives and infrared triggering devices, for sophisticated roadside bombs that are designed to penetrate armor. They have also provided training for several thousand Shiite militia fighters, mostly in Iran. Officials say the training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

In the interview on Friday, Ms. Rice said, “We think they are providing help to the militias as well, and maybe even the more violent element of these militias.”

In addition, American officials say the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force is active in Iraq. A senior military official said last week that one of the Iranians seized in Baghdad late last month was the No. 3 Quds official. He said American forces uncovered maps of neighborhoods in Baghdad in which Sunnis could be evicted, and evidence of involvement in the war during the summer in Lebanon.

That Iranian official was ordered released, by Ms. Rice among others, after Iran claimed he had diplomatic status.

This week, American forces in Iraq conducted at least two raids against suspected Iranian operatives, including the raid in Erbil. The United States is currently detaining several individuals with Iranian passports who were picked up in those raids. The Iranians have said that they were in the process of establishing a consulate, but American officials said that the Erbil operation was a liaison office and that the workers there did not have diplomatic passports.

A defense official said Friday that such raids would continue. “We are going to be more aggressive,” he said, referring to the suspected Iranian operatives. “We are going to look for them and to try to do what we can to get them into custody.”

Thom Shanker contributed reporting.

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Staff sgt. relieved of duty after Playboy spread

By Erik Holmes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jan 12, 2007 10:23:40 EST
The Air Force Times

Steamy nude photos of an Air Force military training instructor have landed her in hot water, and might just send her trainees running for the newsstands.

Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart has been relieved of duty as a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for appearing both in and out of uniform in the February issue of Playboy magazine.

Manhart, 30, said she hopes to pursue a career in entertainment, so the shoot was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Like most people,” she said, “it’s been a dream since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to do it. It was incredible.”

The Air Force’s reaction hasn’t been quite as enthusiastic. David Smith, a spokesman for Air Education and Training Command, said Manhart has been relieved of duty “pending an investigation of the circumstances.”

Along with Playboy’s signature nude shots, the six-page pictorial includes staged photos of Manhart, a 12-year veteran, in uniform, yelling at recruits.

“I’ve never mixed my work and home life,” she said. “When I’m not in uniform, I’m myself. When I’m in uniform, I consider myself the Air Force.”

Manhart said she doesn’t think she did anything wrong by appearing in the magazine.

“The military always supports pursuing what you want to do with your life,” she said. “Our new motto is ‘Do something amazing,’ and I consider this something amazing.”

The issue hits newsstands today, so readers will have to judge the photos for themselves. Of course, everyone knows people who buy Playboy do so purely for the articles.

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Lackland battle lab may close by fall

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jan 12, 2007 8:44:01 EST
The Air Force Times

SAN ANTONIO — A Lackland Air Force Base lab that works to improve the safety of troops may close by fall.

Air Force budget plans outline closing the Force Protection Battlelab at Lackland and doing away with its 23 jobs in fiscal 2008. It’s one of seven similar labs targeted by the Air Force as it tries to reduce costs.

The lab at Lackland and its staff were still awaiting a final decision Thursday, said Force Protection Battlelab commander, Col. Bob Tirevold.

“It is a proposal to close battle labs, but until the budget’s approved, it’s not final,” he added.

The former commander of the Air Force Security Forces Center at Lackland, retired Brig. Gen. Ronald Coleman, said the lab is needed more than ever and called the possible closure “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

“I will tell you it is inconceivable to me that the Air Force would shut the Force Protection Battlelab at this point in our history when we’re trying to do everything we can in the world to make our deployed forces safer,” Coleman said.

The Force Protection Battlelab opened after the 1996 Khobar Towers blast in Saudi Arabia and has been touted as helping “the Air Force stay one step ahead of the terrorist threat.”

Since its creation, the lab has studied nearly 200 products. Later this month, the lab plans to test “Arctic Fire,” a flame-retardant gel that appears promising in preventing burns.

It’s also working to improve a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Neutralizer that uses a long, metal arm to sweep the ground for roadside bombs, squeezing the high-voltage impulses that detonate them. So far, the device has been too slow to keep up with convoys, but Tirevold said he hopes it can be improved.

Andrew Krepinevich Jr., a former aide to three defense secretaries, said he wonders if the lab has outlived its usefulness.

“I guess the question becomes, what role does this Air Force lab play?” said Krepinevich. “Is it a success story, or is it one of those places that is full of promise but never provides the results just around the corner?”

Battle labs have been considered for cuts “to pay some bills” for “higher-priority” missions in the Air Force, Tirevold said.

Former Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters and analyst Loren Thompson said Air Force leaders don’t have much choice because neither President Bush nor Congress has provided money to fund manpower needs and recapitalize equipment. Air Force’s chief of staff Gen. T. Michael “Buzz” Moseley has said his service funding is falling short by $20 billion a year through 2013.

“Their air fleet is the oldest it’s ever been and they haven’t found the money needed to modernize it,” said Thompson, an expert with the Lexington Institute. “Their tankers are over 40 years old, their fighters are under flight restriction and they can’t even afford to buy new cargo planes.”

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Rangel pushes second military draft bill

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jan 13, 2007 6:53:12 EST
The Air Force Times

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., introduced a new military draft bill Wednesday and a resolution calling on the Defense Department to drop all restrictions on families, the public and the media being present when the remains of service members arrive and depart from military bases.

Neither of his proposals have much chance of passing.

His draft bill is HR 393. The resolution on watching the arrival and departure of remains from bases in the U.S. and overseas is HConRes 29. Both measures were referred to the House Armed Services Committee for consideration.

Rangel said HR 393 “requires that, during wartime, all legal residents of the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 42 would be subject to a military draft.” The number of people drafted would be left to the president.

“No deferments would be allowed beyond the completion of high school, up to age 20, except for conscientious objectors or those with health problems,” he said.

The bill also would mandate that anyone not needed in the military would have to serve two years of civilian service, working in hospitals or in homeland security jobs.

“President Bush warned the nation that we are in for further sacrifices in Iraq. But the truth is, the sacrifice is being borne exclusively by the 1 million-plus troops who have served, and their families. Three thousand have made the ultimate sacrifice and 22,000 have been wounded and maimed,” Rangel said.

The Pentagon strongly opposes a return to the draft, last used during the Vietnam War. In 2004, the House of Representatives voted against a similar Rangel bill by an overwhelming 402-2 margin.

But Rangel says things have changed.

“I don’t see how anyone who supports the war in Iraq would not support reinstatement of the draft,” he said.

The 21,000 additional troops President Bush wants to send into Iraq “will not be fresh troops,” he said. “Many of them are already on the ground in Iraq and will have their deployments extended. Almost 250,000 of the troops currently deployed in Iraq have served more than one tour, and some have been deployed as many as six times.

“Since the start of the war, more than 14,000 discharged Army veterans — members of the Individual Ready Reserve — have been called back from their jobs and families to serve in Iraq.”

The resolution on viewing the transfer of flag-draped coffins, aimed at overturning a Defense Department that military officials have said is designed to protect family privacy, would be nonbinding. It simply asks for, but would not require, a policy change that would open such transfers to the public and the press. The resolution would allow for individual families to request and receive privacy so that they or the coffin containing the remains of their family member are not seen by members of the public or media.

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Severely injured get new rehab facility

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jan 13, 2007 10:35:24 EST
The Air Force Times

The Center for the Intrepid, a 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility for severely injured service members, will be dedicated at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 29. At the same time, officials will dedicate two new 21-room Fisher Houses built next door to the center.

The center will serve amputees, burn patients requiring rehabilitation and service members undergoing limb salvage techniques.

Those who have been catastrophically disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as military personnel and veterans severely injured in other operations and in the performance of their duties, whether related to combat or not, will be eligible for treatment.

The Fisher Houses — the third and fourth to be built at Brooke — will be available for families who want to stay near their service members during the rehabilitation.

The facility was designed and built by the nonprofit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. In April 2006, within nine months after the project was announced, the fund had reached its goal of raising $35 million for construction. The center now will be turned over to the Army Medical Command for operation.

Among other things, the facility will offer the latest prosthetic technology and a “gait lab” with technology that allows physicians, therapists and prosthetists to make fine adjustments to help patients improve their gait pattern. It will provide a realistic atmosphere for troops to practice daily activities and self-care skills. A children’s support space will help children understand and manage the difficulties of their parent’s condition and treatment.

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Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees

Published: January 13, 2007
The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 — The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.

“This is prejudicial to the administration of justice,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an authority on legal ethics. “It’s possible that lawyers willing to undertake what has been long viewed as an admirable chore will decline to do so for fear of antagonizing important clients.

“We have a senior government official suggesting that representing these people somehow compromises American interests, and he even names the firms, giving a target to corporate America.”

Mr. Stimson made his remarks in an interview on Thursday with Federal News Radio, a local Washington-based station that is aimed at an audience of government employees.

The same point appeared Friday on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, where Robert L. Pollock, a member of the newspaper’s editorial board, cited the list of law firms and quoted an unnamed “senior U.S. official” as saying, “Corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

In his radio interview, Mr. Stimson said: “I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there?’ and you know what, it’s shocking.” The F.O.I.A. reference was to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Monica Crowley, a conservative syndicated talk show host, asking for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing Guantánamo detainees in federal court cases.

Mr. Stimson, who is himself a lawyer, then went on to name more than a dozen of the firms listed on the 14-page report provided to Ms. Crowley, describing them as “the major law firms in this country.” He said, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.”

Karen J. Mathis, a Denver lawyer who is president of the American Bar Association, said: “Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work — and doing it on a volunteer basis — is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans.”

In an interview on Friday, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said he had no problem with the current system of representation. “Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases,” he said.

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon had any official comment, but officials sought to distance themselves from Mr. Stimson’s view. His comments “do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership,” a senior Pentagon official said. He would not allow his name to be used, seemingly to lessen the force of his rebuke. Mr. Stimson did not return a call on Friday seeking comment.

The role of major law firms agreeing to take on the cases of Guantánamo prisoners challenging their detentions in federal courts has hardly been a secret and has been the subject of many news articles that have generally cast their efforts in a favorable light. Michael Ratner, who heads the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based human rights group that is coordinating the legal representation for the Guantánamo detainees, said about 500 lawyers from about 120 law firms had volunteered their services to represent Guantánamo prisoners.

When asked in the radio interview who was paying for the legal representation, Mr. Stimson replied: “It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Lawyers expressed outrage at that, asserting that they are not being paid and that Mr. Stimson had tried to suggest they were by innuendo. Of the approximately 500 lawyers coordinated by the Center for Constitutional Rights, no one is being paid, Mr. Ratner said. One Washington law firm, Shearman & Sterling, which has represented Kuwaiti detainees, has received money from the families of the prisoners, but Thomas Wilner, a lawyer there, said they had donated all of it to charities related to the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Mr. Ratner said that there were two other defense lawyers not under his group’s umbrella and that he did not know whether they were paid.

Christopher Moore, a lawyer at the New York firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton who represented an Uzbeki detainee who has since been released, said: “We believe in the concept of justice and that every person is entitled to counsel. Any suggestion that our representation was anything other than a pro bono basis is untrue and unprofessional.” Mr. Moore said he had made four trips to Guantánamo and one to Albania at the firm’s expense, to see his client freed.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote to President Bush on Friday asking him to disavow Mr. Stimson’s remarks.

Mr. Stimson, who was a Navy lawyer, graduated from George Mason University Law School. In a 2006 interview with the magazine of Kenyon College, his alma mater, Mr. Stimson said that he was learning “to choose my words carefully because I am a public figure on a very, very controversial topic.”

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Military Eases Its Rules for Mobilizing Reserves

Published: January 12, 2007
The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 — The Pentagon announced steps Thursday to make more reservists available for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan by changing the policies that govern how often members of the Army National Guard and Reserve can be mobilized.

The new rules mean that individual Guard members and entire units that have already been deployed in the last five years may be called up again for as long as 24 consecutive months, officials said. In practice, the Pentagon intends to try to limit future mobilizations to no more than a year, once every five years, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

The policy change was brought on by the prolonged American troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military officials said it would have been necessary even if President Bush had not decided to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq.

The change, announced by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a White House news conference, will enable the Bush administration to call up tens of thousands of Guard members who were off limits under the previous rules, without having to issue another politically delicate mobilization order.

The decision to send five active-duty combat brigades to Iraq in the next few months means the Army will need to call up National Guard combat brigades that have already done one-year tours in Iraq, and to do so sooner, officials said.

A senior military official said that by "this time next year," the Pentagon "probably will be calling again on Guard units that have previously done combat tours."

General Pace told reporters that some of the Guard units “that will be mobilized in the coming period will not have had five years since their last mobilization.” Some, he said, will have been home for four years and some for only three.

Until now, the Defense Department’s policy on employing Guard and Reserve units was that soldiers’ time on active duty could not exceed a cumulative total of 24 months in any five-year period. Under the new rules, the cumulative limit is removed.

The result, officials said, is that soldiers who have already done a tour in Iraq in the last five years can now be sent back to Iraq if their entire unit is remobilized. The goal of limiting deployments to a year is meant to offset the burden on Guard members, who must leave civilian jobs to serve.

Until now, many members of the Army National Guard, which has an authorized total strength of 350,000 soldiers, have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan as individuals, sometimes for 18 months or longer. Mr. Gates said the Pentagon would now mobilize units, not individuals. Any soldiers who have already done tours will again be eligible, regardless of previous deployments, if their units are called into service.

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Senior leaders offer mixed reviews on surge

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jan 13, 2007 6:52:35 EST
The Air Force Times

Active and retired officers with Iraq experience are divided as to whether President Bush’s “surge” stands any chance of success.

A senior U.S. officer in Baghdad said the plan is what’s needed.

“We support the surge,” the officer said. “It will be enough. ... We have no choice — the capital must be secure.”

But a field-grade officer who has spent a year in Iraq derided the new strategy as “too little, too late.”

President Bush announced Jan. 10 that he intends to deploy an additional 21,500 soldiers and Marines to Iraq over the next five months, with most of them concentrated in Baghdad.

The numbers game

“It’s wacky — 20,000 is nowhere near enough,” the field-grade officer said.

He pointed to a Jan. 10 statement from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., that the Bush initiative is “a dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp.”

Kalev Sepp, a retired Special Forces lieutenant colonel who served two years as a counterinsurgency expert on the “strategy team” of Gen. George Casey, the outgoing senior U.S. commander in Iraq, also said it does not appear the additional forces will be enough to quell the insurgency and interethnic violence in Baghdad.

“The force as described can cover about 2 million of the population, in a city of 5 to 7 million,” Sepp said.

But retired Gen. John Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff who has made repeated trips to Iraq, said the surge could turn the tide in Baghdad — precisely because Bush’s plan included enough forces to secure about 2 million of Baghdad’s residents.

“The force levels are right to deal with the problem,” said Keane, a major influence on “Choosing Victory,” a paper by American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan that bears a striking similarity to the Bush plan.

“You can’t look at Baghdad as a six-million population city and [say] that’s what we’re going to protect,” he said.

Keane described Baghdad as a city divided roughly into thirds: Sunni enclaves in the west, vast Shiite slums in the east and mixed neighborhoods in between. These neighborhoods, where most of the sectarian violence occurs, have a combined population of about 1.8 million and represent Baghdad’s “key terrain.”

Securing that terrain should be the coalition’s initial priority, Keane said.

The five Army brigades the Bush administration proposes to deploy to Baghdad, combined with the U.S. and Iraqi forces already there and additional Iraqi security forces promised by the Iraqi government, will be enough to secure the populations of the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods for the first time since the insurgency flared, Keane said.

A matter of culture

But Sepp questioned whether force ratios that appear favorable on paper would translate into success in the sprawling metropolis of Baghdad. Though the raw numbers suggest that the allies would have enough forces to control the mixed neighborhoods, Sepp doubted that those troops would have the requisite cultural and linguistic skills to cope with the challenge.

“The American troops don’t speak Arabic,” Sepp said. “Most of the [Iraqi] troops that are supposed to be brought in are going to be Kurdish. While they’re reasonably well-trained, they also have a language barrier, not to mention cultural and ethnic issues with putting them inside Baghdad.”

For the new strategy to work, U.S. forces would have to demonstrate “evenhandedness” between the Sunni and Shiite communities, Keane said.

That means offering an equal level of protection to each group, while retaining “shoot-to-kill orders for al-Qaida, for the insurgency and also for the Shi’a death squads, and if they try to contest us, so be it,” he added.

After securing and investing significant reconstruction funds in the mixed neighborhoods, Keane would put “the bare minimum” of forces into western Baghdad’s Sunni enclaves, together with an economic package aimed at revitalizing those neighborhoods.

“There’s not a lot of violence there,” he said.

Addressing the militias

That would leave the Shiite neighborhoods, particularly Sadr City, the vast slum that is the power base of Shiite politician Moqtada al-Sadr and his 60,000-man militia, the Mahdi army.

Despite mounting pressure from the U.S., the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has seemed unwilling or unable to bring Sadr and his militia to heel. Instead, the Mahdi army and the Badr Corps, another Shiite militia, have extended their influence throughout the Iraqi government.

“The issue becomes Sadr City,” Keane said. “Do we go in there or not? After we’ve secured the Shi’a population in the mixed neighborhoods for ‘X’ number of weeks and months, I think Maliki, for the first time, truly has some leverage with the militia leaders.”

While U.S. politicians have criticized Maliki for not reining in Shiite militias, Keane said these criticisms failed to take account of realities on the ground.

“What does Maliki do to stop them?” he said. “What is the leverage he has?”

Keane sympathizes with the Shiite militias’ attitude, which he articulated as: “Look, I waited 2½ years for the United States and the coalition to protect the Shi’a people. That has not happened.”

That failure “is why they unleashed horrific violence,” he said. “If we protect the Shi’a population to the degree that I think we can, along with the Sunnis, it gives Maliki the opportunity to leverage those leaders and to say to them for the first time, ‘Look, I am protecting your people, you can tell that we’re serious about this — stop offensive operations, get behind your barricades.’ ”

At the same time, it will be essential for the coalition to use the coming surge to force the Sunni insurgents to the bargaining table by convincing them they cannot win militarily, Keane said.

“Since the end of ’04, they have believed they’re winning, and that only has been enhanced by the erosion of American will that took place in ’05 and the complete loss of patience with this in ’06,” he said. “They’ve been successful, obviously, in provoking the Shi’as to raise the level of violence.”

The coalition cannot “lose sight of how critical it is to take away the thought that ... armed conflict will get them their objectives, which is to return to [a position] of control and influence in Iraq,” he said.

“This operation in Baghdad and eventually in Anbar and the other provinces will take away that military option as being viable for them,” Keane said.

“You’re forcing them to reconsider their objectives, and then, for the first time, seek political accommodation.”

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"Senior leaders offer mixed reviews on surge" >>

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First surge to go to Iraq by month’s end

Associated Press

WASHINGTON— The first of up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops will move into Iraq by month’s end under President Bush’s new war plan, a senior defense official said Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, opposed by many Democrats.

Details of a gradual military buildup emerged a day before Bush’s planned speech to the nation, in which he also will propose a bit over $1 billion to shore up the country’s battered economy and create jobs, said a second U.S. official.

Bush is expected to urge friendly Mideast countries to increase their aid to Iraq but will ignore the recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study group that he include Syria and Iran in an effort to staunch Iraqi bloodshed nearly four years after the U.S. invasion, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been announced.

Bush is expected to link the troop increase to promised steps by the Iraqi government to build up its own military, ease the country’s murderous sectarian tensions, increase reconstruction and enact a plan to distribute oil revenues among the country’s religious sects.

Moving first into Iraq would be the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, which is in Kuwait and poised to move quickly into the country, the defense official said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expects Bush to announce that up to 20,000 additional troops will be sent to Iraq but not to say how long the extra forces will be there.

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Skelton: Don’t expect too much from Bush announcement

By Rick Maze
Staff writer

The new House Armed Services Committee chairman said Monday he fears too much is being made of the expected Wednesday announcement by President Bush of a new strategy for Iraq, a plan expected to include a surge of U.S. troops in hopes to getting sectarian violence under control.

Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, who assumed the armed services committee chairmanship last week when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, said the U.S. tried to increase troop levels last year to provide stability so that Iraqi forces could replace U.S. combat units. That didn’t work, he said, and his expectations for this new plan working are also dim. The last surge, he said, “did no good whatsoever.”

He made the remarks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion on U.S. policy in Iraq.

Skelton said this isn’t the first major decision facing the administration and Congress, and it won’t be the last.

“Let’s not put any more spotlight on this decision than on those in the past,” he said, talking about what he views as serious mistakes — such as not having enough troops after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled, firing all Saddam supporters from the government, and releasing the entire Iraqi military.

Instead of increasing troop levels, Skelton said he would like the administration to try something new, like beginning to withdraw small numbers of U.S. combat troops just to show the Iraqi government that someday it will have to get by without them.

Skelton said he does not want to be a defeatist, and is not advocating a withdrawal of U.S. forces under any circumstances. “We don’t know when and if this could end in the Middle East, and that is why I am concerned we have a positive outcome in Iraq,” Skelton said.

Options for Congress if Bush orders a troop increase are few, Skelton said. Congress could cut off funding for the war, but he said that was unlikely because it would be “injurious” to deployed troops. Congress could order a cap on funding, such as on how much could be spent or on what money could be spent. This has been done in the past to cap the number of troops in Latin America involved in the war on drugs, but Skelton said he was unaware of anyone seriously proposing such a limit. Lastly, he said, Congress could have hearings to ask questions about the policy and its expected outcome. Hearings are already planned, he said.

There is some concern about how Democrats will respond the Bush’s speech on Iraq.

“Congress cannot win the struggle on its own, but Congress can lose the struggle,” said Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, who said he is worried about how Democratic criticism of Iraq strategy is emboldening terrorists and insurgents who may believe political disagreement increases the chance that the U.S. will give up.

That does not mean everything the Bush administration has done and will do is right, Thornberry said. He is disappointed, for example, with the U.S. government’s effort to rebuild Iraq, and worries this is another mission that will end up falling to the military.

“In a political and ideological struggle, we are not fielding a full team,” he said.

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