US, Pakistan Fail to Agree on Afghanistan Supply Routes

Carlo Munoz reports for The Hill:

"American negotiators working with Pakistan to reopen critical supply routes into Afghanistan have been called back to the United States, casting further doubt on whether the lines will ever be reopened to U.S. and coalition forces. Defense Department spokesman George Little told reporters on Monday that several members of the U.S. negotiation team had already left Islamabad, with the remaining members scheduled to depart the country within days."

Read the full story here

DRONE WATCH: Death From Above

Drone Watch. Image by Kurt Lightner for Sojourners.

Drone Watch. Image by Kurt Lightner for Sojourners.

Last month, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan acknowledged in a public speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center that the United States was using armed unmanned drones to kill alleged militants.

Brennan’s acknowledgement was the only “new” news. 

Beginning in earnest under President George W. Bush and dramatically escalating under President Barack Obama, the United States is now using drones in four countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia), and has used them in two others (Iraq and Libya). Going by the names Reaper and Predator, firing missiles named Hellfire, the drones are responsible for thousands of deaths, including hundreds of women and children.

Why drones?

There are three major reasons opponents of the unmanned death planes usually give. First, in fighting against terrorist and insurgent organizations, the United States has adopted a kill — not capture — strategy. With a “kill list” of targets, the attacks aim at known or suspected leaders.

Second, the attacks can be carried out with no danger to American troops. Remotely guided from distant locations, drones are a way of carrying out risk-free military operations. Third, with the attacks increasingly under the control of the CIA rather than the military, they can be conducted with a high degree of secrecy. Whom the drones targeted and killed, and how many civilians may have also been killed, is free of scrutiny.

We Are Unstoppable! Another World Is Possible!

Earlier this month, I boarded a train with my brother-in-law and headed to Chicago to protest the 2012 NATO Summit. If you are asking "why protest?" you can find a substantial list here

Security had been ramped up and no food or liquids were allowed on the train. We met some fellow protesters during the trip and when we arrived at Union Station we hustled to make it to Grant Park on time. In transit to the park the sun was already warming our necks and I found myself reaching for the small tube of sunblock that I had stashed in my pocket. 

We arrived in plenty of time to catch the pre-march rally at Petrillo Bandshell. Many stories were shared by fellow activists from around the world. The air was humid, yet vibrating with the passion of thousands as we prepared to march together for peace.

Amidst a swirl of percussion the crowd was chanting: "We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!"

War at What Cost? A Veteran Perspective

Protestors march in Chicago on Sunday during the NATO summit there. Photo by Spe

Protestors march in Chicago on Sunday during the NATO summit there. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This coming fiscal year, the United States is set to spend more than $640 billion dollars on the Pentagon and war, accounting for more than 60 percent of federal domestic spending. In excess of $85 billion of that will be spent on the war in Afghanistan alone.

This unfathomable amount of money was approved by the House of Representatives in the National Defense Authorization Act. These funds will serve to bring suffering and pain to innocent people, further militarize the world and undermine peace and stability for generations to come—all on the backs of those who struggle at home.

In the backdrop of such spending, we’re told that we’re in a financial crisis. Elected officials tell us it is time to make tough choices. There isn’t enough money for programs like “Meals on Wheels” and for ensuring everyone has access to adequate healthcare. Our schools and bridges must wait to be repaired.  New roads and schools must remain unconstructed.

Yet some of us know better.

CLICK HERE TO HELP PROTECT POVERTY PROGRAMS FROM FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS (and get an "End Poverty" or "Wage Peace" bumper sticker.)

Out of Order

The House of Representatives has been debating the defense authorization bill for the past two days, including more than 140 amendments. But this year’s version of the McGovern-Jones amendment calling for a faster withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan was not among them. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have offered similar amendments for several years, steadily gaining votes. Last year, there 204 votes in favor, including 26 Republicans. Activists believed this year might see an even higher total, perhaps enough to pass. Rather than face that result, the Rules Committee simply ensured that it would not come to the floor for a vote. 

CNN reported this morning two GOP congressional sources confirming that Republicans were concerned the amendment could pass. The only Afghanistan withdrawal amendment made in order was by Barbara Lee (D-CA), which would have essentially ended the war by limiting funding to the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors from Afghanistan. It predictably failed on a 303-113 vote.

Both McGovern and Jones denounced the action. McGovern asking, "What is the Republican leadership afraid of? Are they afraid a bipartisan majority of this House will vote to follow the will of the American people and change our Afghanistan policy?" Jones added, "This is supposed to be the people's House - that means we listen to the people. How about listening to the 72% of those who say get out of Afghanistan?” The next opportunity will likely be the defense appropriations bill sometime this summer.

Troop Withdrawal: Easier Said Than Done

In his successful run for president of France, one of Francois Hollande’s campaign promises was to withdraw all French troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Now that he’s taken office, he’s discovering that was easier to promise than it will be to accomplish.

Military specialists are advising him that it is “next to impossible to transport all combat troops and their equipment back to France by the end of the year.” A number of other countries, faced with opposition at home to their war involvement, are also interested in speeding up withdrawals. It should make for interesting discussions at this weekends' NATO Summit.   

Coming Home: The New Afghan Mission

Gen. John Allen, the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, is reorienting the military mission in Afghanistan. As U.S. troops leave, Afghan troops must take the lead.

Faced with an order from President Obama to withdraw 23,000 troops by the end of the summer, and the prospect of further reductions next year, Allen is hastily transforming the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. Instead of trying to continue large U.S. counterinsurgency operations for as long as he can, he is accelerating a handover of responsibility to Afghan security forces. He plans to order American and NATO troops to push Afghans into the lead across much of the country this summer, even in insurgent-ridden places that had not been candidates for an early transfer.

Support For War In Afghanistan At All Time Low

From The Associated Press' Anne Gearan:

"Support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort and about half of those who oppose the war saying the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good, according to an AP-GfK poll.

In results released Wednesday, 66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were "strongly" opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in the spring of 2010, support was at 46 percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll."
Read more about this new poll here

'Mistaken' Deaths

How many more times do we have to read a story like this one?

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.  The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday.

If it is the U.S. intention to win over the Afghan people, this is exactly how not to do it.

National Day of Prayer Marked with Prayer... and Protest

As reported by Cathy Lynn Grossman for USA Today

The annual National Day of Prayer, mandated by Congress in 1952, is upon us and the usual folks are out with proclamations, prayers -- and protests. President Obama issued his annual proclamation on Monday, making special mention of prayers for the military as befitted his surprise visit to Afghanistan.

Read the full article here