The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan has told Pentagon officials that the war in Afghanistan will likely result in failure unless more troops are sent to fight. In a confidential assessment of the war, Gen. Stanley McChrystal writes, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term…risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” The Washington Post reports McChrystal’s assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on August 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team. On Sunday, President Obama said he remains skeptical about the need for more US troops in Afghanistan.
President Obama: “Until I’m satisfied that we’ve got the right strategy, I’m not going to be sending some young man or woman over there, beyond what we already have. I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way, you know, sending a message that America is here for the duration.”
President Obama speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press in one of five network interviews that aired on Sunday.
While the Pentagon is considering a further escalation of the war, the Los Angeles Times reports the CIA is deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan as part of a broad intelligence “surge.” When complete, the CIA’s presence in Afghanistan is expected to rival the size of its massive stations in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of those wars.
President Obama said Sunday he will not interfere with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to launch a Justice Department probe into the torture of prisoners during the Bush administration. Obama’s comments came in response to a letter from seven former CIA chiefs calling for the probe to be dropped. They claimed the investigation would inhibit intelligence operations in the future and demoralize agency employees. President Obama addressed the controversy during an interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation.
President Obama: “Well, first of all, I have the utmost respect for the CIA. I have said consistently that I want to look forward and not backward, when it comes to some of the problems that occurred under the previous administration or when it came to interrogations. I don’t want witch hunts taking place. I’ve also said, though, that the Attorney General has a job to uphold the law.”
Bob Schieffer: “So you intend to let him go forward?”
Obama: “He’s got to make a judgment in terms of what has occurred.”
The White House has announced President Obama will hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York on Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled after US special envoy George Mitchell left Israel with no deal on a resumption of peace talks in the region. Talks have been stalled since Israel invaded the Gaza Strip last December. Abbas has repeatedly said that talks will not restart until Israel commits to a complete freeze of settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In Gaza, two Palestinians died after being shot by an Israeli tank Sunday. Israel claimed the men were planting explosives near the Israeli-Gaza border.
Overriding Western objections, a United Nations nuclear conference passed a resolution Friday directly criticizing Israel and its secret nuclear weapons arsenal. The UN body voted to urge Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and place all Israeli nuclear sites under UN inspections. The resolution cited “concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East.” Israeli delegate David Danieli denounced the vote as “openly hostile to the state of Israel” and accused Iran and Syria of “creating a diplomatic smoke screen” to cover up their “pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
David Danieli: “The delegation of Israel deplores this resolution, which serves no purpose of the IAEA and its general conference. The state of Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution, which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and division lines in the Middle East region.”
Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh praised the UN vote.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh: “This is a very good news and a triumph of the oppressed nation of Palestine, that their voice was heard in the international community, in the IAEA, and action was made to let them know that they are not left alone, homeless, bombarded by Israelis, and being deprived from any basic rights.”
The UN meeting also adopted a resolution last week calling for a Mideast free of nuclear weapons in a near-consensus vote. Israel was the only nation to vote against the measure.
A top militant leader in Somalia has called for more suicide attacks against African Union peacekeepers in the country. On Thursday, twenty-one people, including seventeen African Union troops, died in Mogadishu in a twin car bomb attack. It was the deadliest strike on AU forces since their deployment in Somalia in 2007.
Two Colorado men and a New York imam are due in court today after being arrested for making false statements to federal agents in an ongoing terror probe. On Saturday, federal agents arrested twenty-four-year-old Najibullah Zazi and his father in Colorado. Authorities claim Zazi had been trained in weapons and explosives in Pakistan and had made nine pages of handwritten notes on how to make and handle bombs. But authorities have not uncovered any evidence Zazi was planning to stage an attack. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the government’s handling of the case. Hooper said, “It heightens our concerns about the case because you would expect that if the government’s allegations were based on strong evidence, that there would be charges brought based on terror-related evidence, not making false statements.”
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to propose rules today that would bar internet service providers from blocking or hobbling online services in any fashion. FCC Chair Julius Genachowski will lay out his plan for net neutrality in a speech today at the Brookings Institution. The proposal would prohibit AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other broadband providers from slowing or blocking services or content, such as TV shows, over the internet.
In California, the state’s unemployment rate has reached 12.2 percent — the highest it’s been in seventy years. California now has the fourth highest unemployment rate, behind Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island.
A new report about Louisiana has revealed the average life span for African Americans living in New Orleans is now just over sixty-nine years, nearly as low as average life expectancy in North Korea. The life expectancy for white residents in New Orleans is seventy-nine years.
New York Governor David Paterson is insisting that he will continue his campaign for governor despite calls from the White House to step aside. The New York Times reported on Sunday that President Obama had sent a request to Paterson that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race because of fears he cannot win a general election.
The website Huffington Post has revealed a producer for Fox News helped rally the crowd during last weekend’s anti-Obama protest in Washington. Video from the rally shows Fox News producer Heidi Noonan raising her arms to urge protesters to cheer louder. Fox News acknowledged Noonan had made a mistake and said she was disciplined. The protest had been heavily promoted by Fox News, especially by anchor Glenn Beck.
A top United Nations official says human rights defenders are still the subject of widespread abuses in Colombia. UN special rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya said human rights defenders are arbitrarily arrested and detained, sometimes on a massive scale, while high-level government officials often stigmatize them, saying they are colluding with “terrorists” or “guerrillas.”
Margaret Sekaggya: “Journalists, trade unions, magistrates, lawyers, students and youth activists, women defenders, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, the LGBT activists have been killed, tortured, ill-treated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained.”
In news from Africa, the oil trading firm Trafigura Beheer has agreed to pay nearly $49 million compensation to people in Ivory Coast for illegally dumping 500 tons of petrochemical waste and caustic soda in open landfills in 2006. The chemicals killed fifteen people, and more than 100,000 were made nauseous and vomited from the fumes.
In Ghana, celebrations are being held to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence from colonial rule. Nkrumah was a leader of the worldwide anti-colonial movement and one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the twentieth century. In 1966, he was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup.
And Irving Kristol has died at the age of eighty-nine. He was considered to be the godfather of the neoconservative movement.