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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Update: And so, 12/13/10, he is gone. As reported in the NYT HERE:

[But his boss and old friend, Mrs. Clinton, expressed absolute confidence in him. “Richard represents the kind of robust, persistent, determined diplomacy the president intends to pursue,” she said. “I admire deeply his ability to shoulder the most vexing and difficult challenges.”]

Even as the State Department rushes to fill the void, the knowledge is that the face and force of American diplomacy in the Middle East will be different. It appears that for the interim, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will be the “essentially alone in conducting US Diplomacy with Karzai’s Government”. RIP Ambassador Holbrooke, your job is done.

While I don’t know if this is what happened yesterday, I think President Obama’s sudden departure from his own conference on H.R. 4853, the “Middle Class Relief Act of 2010″, leaving ex-President Clinton to run a dog and pony show, had more to do with Richard, than it did Michelle.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s personally appointed Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan is in critical condition, after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta Saturday morning.

As you may know, according to Bloomberg;

[Holbrooke has been preparing a report for President Barack Obama on the current state of governance and development in Afghanistan. The U.S. and allies have a combined force of about 150,000 troops to turn back Taliban advances and train Afghan soldiers and police.]

SOS Clinton was reported scurrying back and forth from the hospital, and you have to imagine that concern for Holbrooke’s state over reports of a heart attack, stroke and/or possible blot clot was great. A repaired torn aorta sounds almost benign compared to the possibilities that something like a stroke could inflict. Even so, if things go well for him, he will be out of commission for a while. That means someone else has to pick up the ball and keep it rolling. Considering our situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, I’m sure the WH was in a tizzy, especially with the other news that Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner was in surgery for kidney stones. Having watched my husband experience the pain of those things, I know they can turn you into a profound pile of mush in a hurry.

Our thoughts are with Ambassador Holbrook and his family. We hope for a speedy and complete recovery. Same goes for SoT Geithner, and his family.

As to his perfunctory duties with the First Lady, imagine Diplomats and DC partygoers of all sorts would have been awaiting his entrance. We all know those things are necessary in Washington DC. Is he such a flutterby that his date with Michelle is the real reason he had bad timing, and left his conference? That would make him just vapid- something I find hard to believe.

 

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama descend the Grand Staircase as they make their way to a holiday reception on the State Floor of the White House, Dec. 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Do read the link of the transcript Lynne Sweet provided on the conference. I’m with Riverdaughter on this one, Clinton displayed heroic aerial acrobatics, but Bernie Sanders is the hero of the day.

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I don’t know how you feel about the US/Afghani war, but I want you to ponder this. Today, Dennis Kucinich presented his bill in the House to end the war in 30 days, or, by no later the December 31st, 2010, if conditions on the ground warrant it.  Another 33 billion dollars is about to be budgeted for the military and war effort. That does not include the money being spent from other venues, like the Small Business Administration grant monies to fund mercenaries.

The Bill is labeled: H.Con. Res.248, Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan., HERE.

Against this backdrop, Republicans have held up small bills, like the 45 million dollar one that would have been allocated money to support Afghani women, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2007.

Enter the new administration.

An Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy was issued on January 1st of this year. Senator Boxer wrote President Obama, over her concerns that women were only mentioned once. In February, a revised strategy was issued. Boxer purports that it includes women throughout the strategy. The full strategy can be found HERE. I Found 115 instances of the word “women” on 23 of the 50 pages in the pdf document. Surely, this alone is an improvement, and though women are not specially mentioned in the list of proposed milestones for either country, they are in the Afghani Key Initiatives for agriculture.

Yet, It’s not clear to me at this point exactly how women are to be counted in this document, because I couldn’t find any line items in the report that elucidated direct expenditures to women or women’s groups. It is clear, however, that the State Dept. administration considers women vulnerable; so, some portion of that line item will assuredly go to them. The question is how much, or, is this a sop, designed to placate women?  What kind of movement toward adjudication of half the population of two countries is satisfactory?

In February, Senator Boxer and Senator Casey convened a joint hearing of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. The hearing was entitled “Afghan Women and Girls: Building the Future of Afghanistan.” Four people were invited to testify.

In her testimony, the Honorable Melanne Verveer, discussed the various ways in which the US is helping to women to change their lives. Then she mentioned that the State Dept was currently supporting four programs, for a total of 2 million dollars, which: “support women’s rights at the local level by engaging religious leaders and local officials to engage in the electoral process and develop women’s participation in local governance.” Another 26.3 million was engaged for small flexible grants to empower Afghan led NGO’s. No other monetary figures are mentioned.

In his testimony, James A. Bever, Director of the USAID Afghani-Pakistan task force, states that they have spent, in Afghanistan, an assistance estimate of 500 million on women and children since 2004, or 50 million a year.

Dr. Sima Samar had much to say on the distance yet to go in order to stabilize Afghanistan, citing lack of health care for women, lack of fundamental rights, and institutions that will train women on human rights democracy and advocacy. However, funding was not mentioned.

Finally, MS, Rachel Reid, for Human right Watch in Afghanistan recognized that 150 million was allocated this year, by the US. At the same time, her statement was the most disturbing, in regards to her views on the Taliban, and President Karzai’s recent moves to reduce women’s rights. While all the testimony was interesting, Reid’s made riveting reading. She also, however, failed to mention funding.

There may be other funding directed to women and children in the State Department’s budget for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but if it really so much more than the 78.3 million this year, mentioned in all that reporting and talking, that I found, you would have thought they would have crowed a heck of a lot louder. The sum of monies in the State Dept spread sheets in their report add up to 22,849.2 million or 22 billion for the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011, of which 3,252.5 million or 3.3 billion is defense related expenditures not counted by the Defense Dept. it’s really a hefty sum, that spreads out pretty equitably over the three years, averaging 8.43 billion.

Of course it’s true that the money is intended for the good of all the Afghani and Pakistani people. Energy projects are a prime example. Still, even though this is an improvement over what came before, it looks like a line item mentality to me, rather than real 51% participation for women.

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Politico is reporting:

Charlie Wilson dies

[Former Rep. Charlie Wilson, a colorful 12-term congressman who pushed the covert action that helped Afghanistan rebels defeat the mighty Soviet Union, died Wednesday afternoon at a hospital in Lufkin, Texas….]

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32794.html

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What the USA is NOT doing to eliminate Violence against Women in Afghanistan.

Not to be blasé about it, but there was never any doubt we were going to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan and maybe even Somalia for quite a while. All three of the remaining presidential contenders supported last year the possibility of increased action.

In front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, SOS Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) laid the groundwork for the civilian, NGO and diplomatic core that will follow the military to Afghanistan and Pakistan this year. I saw grousing on the Internet about lack of Alliance support. In fact, the SOS was, after her meeting, to fly to Belgium to attempt just that. I saw grumbling about why we were in the war, and whether Obama had let the Obats down. I read about people like Moore and Hayden tearing off the blinders and refusing to drink the Kool-aid. I continue to be stunned that some of us were so much smarter then they. Then, I heard one soul, over at KDIC, decry this statement, where remarkably, SOS HRC said:

“We are on track to triple the number of civilian positions in Afghanistan to 974 by early next year”.

This is a pitiful number. Truly, the speaker at KDIC is right to be upset that an additional 600 or fewer civilians will be called upon to help the Afghani effort next year. However, the remarkable part of the sentence is that the figure will TRIPLE what is already there.

Our nation has additional responsibilities beyond that of guns and planes. So far in eight years, we have done very little economically and diplomatically to facilitate the emergence of a vital and stable Afghanistan. Beyond that, in light of the 16 days International Campaign Toward the Elimination of Violence against Women, we have failed on another front-Congress.

Let’s not forget the “Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2007” introduced by Representative Maloney and it’s twin by Senator Boxer, sent to rigor mortis at the respective foreign committees. Oh sure, the Feminist Majority and others have pushed. However, most of the members of Congress haven’t done their part to provide the tiniest measure of help to women in Afghanistan. The bill was reintroduced in April of this year to the house as HR 2214Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2009, and in January as S.229 under the same name. Again it was referred to the relative foreign relations committees. Again it sits.

I linked the house and senate text versions to their numbers above. However, to give you an idea of the bill, the CRS Index terms, which are used to identify key themes in a bill, is the following:

International affairs

Afghanistan

Asia

Foreign aid and international relief

Human rights

International organizations and cooperation

Sex, gender, sexual orientation discrimination

Women’s rights

Here is a list of the Senate cosponsors:

Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 6/1/2009

Sen Burris, Roland [IL] – 9/14/2009

Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] – 10/26/2009

Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] – 8/6/2009

Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] – 7/15/2009

Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] – 7/28/2009

Sen Franken, Al [MN] – 11/4/2009

Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] – 4/29/2009

Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] – 7/13/2009

Sen Kaufman, Edward E. [DE] – 6/23/2009

Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] – 5/4/2009

Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] – 7/31/2009

Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] – 4/27/2009

Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 10/14/2009

Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] – 7/28/2009

Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] – 12/1/2009

Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] – 7/28/2009

Here is a list of the House cosponsors:

Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] – 9/15/2009

Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] – 4/30/2009

Rep Brown, Corrine [FL-3] – 7/24/2009

Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] – 9/16/2009

Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] – 9/15/2009

Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] – 9/8/2009

Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] – 9/8/2009

Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] – 9/8/2009

Rep Hodes, Paul W. [NH-2] – 9/8/2009

Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] – 7/29/2009

Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] – 7/28/2009

Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] – 10/14/2009

Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9] – 10/20/2009

Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] – 7/28/2009

Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] – 9/8/2009

Rep Shea-Porter, Carol [NH-1] – 6/3/2009

Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] – 7/28/2009

Rep Tsongas, Niki [MA-5] – 10/22/2009

Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] – 9/22/2009

Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] – 5/12/2009

Rep Wu, David [OR-1] – 9/8/2009

The allocation of money provided in this bill is a tiny sum compared to the vast amounts we have allocated for the war. The House bill asks for 150 million for each year between 2010 and 2112. The Senate bill asks for a paltry 45 million for the same period. (I know the word paltry is hard to swallow for some of us, but try to keep in mind what we have spent elsewhere this year.)

One cannot have a war without allocating funds to it. Concomitantly, one cannot have a war without provision for the effects upon civilians. Above and beyond that however, is the general question of what we as a country are willing to toward the progress of women as equal partners in the world. Whether or not we leave Afghanistan today, the OTHER war is waging. So, when a bill like this, designed to facilitate civilian impact of the guns and planes, can’t get out of committee, you have to look to other reasons why. Some of the following people are also on the above lists. Many of the following people have inserted viewpoints regarding the Afghan War on their Congressional web pages. Contact them and find out why the bill isn’t part of their statement. Or hey, contact them anyway and tell them YOUR viewpoint. Or not. Maybe, like Greenwald, you have some inane idea that helping women is the equivalent of nation building. It isn’t. It’s nation changing. And we all have to do it.

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

John Kerry, Chair

Christopher J. Dodd

Russell D. Feingold

Barbara Boxer

Robert Menendez

Benjamin L. Cardin

Robert P. Casey Jr.

Jim Webb

Jeanne Shaheen

Edward E. Kaufman

Kirsten E. Gillibrand

Richard G Lugar, Ranking Member

Bob Corker

Johnny Isakson

James E. Risch

Jim DeMint

John Barrasso

Roger F. Wicker

James M. Inhofe

House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Howard L. Berman, CHAIRMAN, D-CA, 28th District

Gary L. Ackerman, VICE CHAIR, D-NY, 5th District

Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa

Donald M. Payne, D-NJ, 10th District

Brad Sherman, D-CA, 27th District

Eliot L. Engel, D-NY, 17th District

Bill Delahunt, D-MA, 10th District

Gregory W. Meeks, D-NY, 6th District

Diane E. Watson, D-CA, 33rd District

Russ Carnahan, D-MO, 3rd District

Albio Sires, D-NJ, 13th District

Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, 11th District

Michael E. McMahon, D-NY, 13th District

John S. Tanner, D-TN, 8th District

Gene Green, D-TX, 29th District

Lynn Woolsey, D-CA, 6th District

Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, 18th District

Barbara Lee, D-CA, 9th District

Shelley Berkley, D-NV, 1st District

Joseph Crowley, D-NY, 7th District

Mike Ross, D-AR, 4th District

Brad Miller, D-NC, 13th District

David Scott, D-GA, 13th District

Jim Costa, D-CA, 20th District

Keith Ellison, D-MN, 5th District

Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, 8th District

Ron Klein, D-FL, 22nd District

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, RANKING MEMBER, R-FL, 18th District

Christopher H. Smith, R-NJ, 4th District

Dan Burton, R-IN, 5th District

Elton Gallegly, R-CA, 24th District

Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, 46th District

Donald A. Manzullo, R-IL, 16th District

Edward R. Royce, R-CA, 40th District

Ron Paul, R-TX, 14th District

Jeff Flake, R-AZ, 6th District

Mike Pence, R-IN, 6th District

Joe Wilson, R-SC, 2nd District

John Boozman, R-AR, 3rd District

J. Gresham Barrett, R-SC, 3rd District

Connie Mack, R-FL, 14th District

Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE, 1st District

Michael T. McCaul, R-TX, 10th District

Ted Poe, R-TX, 2nd District

Bob Inglis, R-SC, 4th District

Gus Bilirakis, R-FL, 9th District

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An interesting Dipnote arrived today. HRC spoke yesterday to the US and International troops in Afghanistan. In the clearly elucidated message, she included the community and family based beliefs that are a foundation of her political tenets. Recognition of the effort, that community and family play when a member goes to war, is too often ignored.

The other interesting comments centered around apparent statements that newly re-elected President Karzai has made; that he hopes that within three years Afghan security forces will lead in certain areas, and within five years, throughout the country. This is not, of course, an announced US timeline. However, it might suggest a framework within which the US and International forces are considering their operations.

Imagine that.

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Oct 16th was World Food Day. On this day “The World Summit on Food Security” convened in Rome and will conclude today, November 18th.  Part of a three pronged series of events, these meetings are being held to address the additional burden that the global economic crisis has placed on world hunger.

The Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the number of hungry people worldwide, will pass the one billion mark this year. This means that one sixth of the world is suffering from persistent hunger.

The agenda of these meetings is to provide an action plan on how to boost agricultural productivity. The FAO states:

[The gravity of the current food crisis is the result of 20 years of under-investment in agriculture and neglect of the sector. Directly or indirectly, agriculture provides the livelihood for 70 percent of the world’s poor.]

As you can see, global warming is not mentioned. (more…)

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Footprints and trails.

What Quaker Dave SAID:

We won’t come close to what this felt like again until we touch Mars, or the next planet, or the next system. Even then, with the wonder of those events yet to arrive, they will be points on a continuum.

In the mean time, while humans are floating through the atmosphere of the Gods, we have the wonder of the first African American man to lead the NASA agency:  Charles Bolden, and a woman, Lori Garver, as Deputy Administrator.

SacBee is reporting here this evening that California’s solons have, amazingly, reached a budget agreement, HERE.

Lest you get your hopes up, it still has to be ratified by legislature.  I haven’t seen it yet; I have no idea what they came up with.  They are hoping the plan’s ratification will give them the credit they need to acquire short term loans and avoid the IOU’s they have been reduced to.

We lost another pioneer this week, Walter Cronkite.

In addition, we lost a wonderful writer, Frank McCourt.

We are thinking of this MAN. We hope he returns soon.

In the fifth year of a growing tradition, North Carolina Cherokee hosted tribes from far-flung places including origins in Hawaii, Mexico, Peru, New Mexico, British Columbia, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

FESTIVAL HONORS HISTORY, HERITAGE, ART

[CHEROKEE, N.C. – Traditions, history and cultures collided as indigenous tribes gathered for the fifth annual Festival of Native Peoples, with a special Indian Art Market Preview on July 16, at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds….]

http://nativetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2187&Itemid=0

We witnessed the return of the Blob, last seen in 1958, HERE. Since it was last dropped off in the Artic, it probably wasn’t too much of a swim to Alaska after all that global warming.

Do we sci-fi people know our stuff or what?

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