Lone girl in Afghanistan, photo: Papyrrari/flickr
As the world anticipates Obama’s long-awaited strategy review for Afghanistan, the debate around the war intensifies with politicians, experts and laymen weighing in on the desired course of Afghan policy.
A war that has lasted eight years, and that costs the US $3.6 billion a month, has become a source of intense historical and strategic debates about the nature of conflict in South Asia, the region’s geopolitical significance, and the role of US power in the modern era. With America’s Vietnam legacy in mind the pressure to deliver something positive is immense.
But in these debates about strategy- how to quell the Taliban insurgency; how to address the region as a whole, particularly with Pakistan’s shortcomings in mind, and how to strengthen the Afghan government without giving Karzai carte blanche, etc – the humanitarian focus is exactly what seems to be missing.
Obama and Mao T-shirts, photo: Shea Hazarian/flickr
Obama’s three day visit to China is expected to breathe new life into the US-China partnership. With deep economic and financial links, as well as responsibility for 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, the US and China are under immense pressure to deliver on the promise of great power cooperation and progress on a daunting set of challenges.
Bruce Riedel chaired the task force who reviewed the US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan last winter.
The Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), an ISN partner, has published a podcast of his talk at the Ottawa Roundtable on Security and Intelligence.
After a long career at the CIA and advising three US presidents to the US presidency, Riedel is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
In his talk, he presents the key conclusions of the Af-Pak strategic review released in March 2009. By the way, here is the US white paper summarizing the recommendations which came out of the review.
Riedel also outlines developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last six months and looks at the direction US policy is likely to, or should, take.
Further ISN resources on the topic:
Zurich, Switzerland, courtesy of Zug55/Flickr
Roman Polanski went missing in Zurich upon his arrival for the Zurich Film Festival.
The festival’s welcome comittee waited in vain at the airport for the director of such brilliant films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and The Pianist (2003). He received an Oscar in absentia for the latter; in absentia because he has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he pleaded guilty to having drugged a 13-year-old girl and forced himself upon her.
Instead of facing jail time, Polanski escaped to France, where he was safe from extradition to the US. Since then Polanski has been very careful not to travel to countries where the long arm of US justice might reach him.
However, this finally happened on Saturday when Zurich police arrested the 76-year-old on an international arrest warrant. It didn’t take long for the Swiss art and film scene to decry and condemn the move as “a slap in the face for the entire cultural community in Switzerland.”
Conspiracy theorists quickly pointed out the fact that Polanski had traveled to Switzerland before and even owns a house in the fancy mountain village of Gstaad. They believe that Switzerland wanted to suck up to the US authorities after the legal troubles of UBS and the attack on the country’s banking secrecy laws.
These theories however are probably complete nonsense.
The CIA has disclosed a long-awaited report on its controversial interrogation methods as part of President Obama’s transparency promise. On his second day in office, he signed an executive order strengthening the Freedom of Information Act.
So now is the time for the public to read that █████ ███ ██ █████████ █ █████████ █████. And even more is revealed, e. g. ██████████ ██ ████ ███████ █ ███ █ ███████. If you have no idea by now, better ████████████████ ████ ████████ █ ██████ ██ ████████, because ████████████████████████ ██████ ██ ██ ██████████████.
The CIA's report on interrogation methods
In the future, the newly created “High Value Detainee Interrogation Group” will handle the questioning of high-level prisoners. It is led by the FBI and will act in strict accordance with the the US Army field manual on interrogations, the █████████. I’m sorry, this one, the FM 2-22.3, is of course “approved for public release; distribution is unlimited”.
If it is approved for public release, it cannot be bad, right? And if CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano notes that “The CIA in no way endorsed behavior – no matter how infrequent – that went beyond formal guidance. This has all been looked at. […] That’s how the system was supposed to work, and that’s how it did work,” then I wonder whether that formal guidance was blacked out in the first place, too?