Translated from German weekly stern of today:
Bombing of Kunduz: Red Cross report damages Guttenberg
Despite his recent about-face: his hasty statement on the bombing of Kunduz has greatly injured the public image of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. A Red Cross report from Afghanistan means more pressure for the new Defense Minister, the stern reports.
Guttenberg, Red Cross, Kunduz, air raid
A report by the International Red Cross (ICRC), according to information from the stern, is expected to bring more trouble for Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in explaining himself. The aid agency has investigated in Kunduz, where the German army ordered the bombardment of the two tank trucks. According to information from the stern, the ICRC has concluded in a “strictly confidential” classified report that the attack, ordered by German colonel George Klein, was not “in conformity with international law”. Also, there had been too many civilian casualties of the bombing. In the annex to the report, the ICRC lists the names of 74 dead civilians, including eight-, ten- and twelve-year-old children.
The ICRC report was on Guttenberg’s table on 6 November. Nevertheless, he said hours later, at his first press conference as Minister of Defense, that the attack had been “militarily appropriate.”
See also here.
Red Cross: US Afghan troop surge will endanger more civilians: here.
Britain: Joe Glenton, the serving British soldier who refused to fight in Afghanistan, has been released from military prison in Colchester: here. And here.
The mayor of Kabul remains in his post despite being jailed for corruption, casting doubt on Western-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s claim that he’s serious about tackling rampant graft and bribery in his administration.
UN Afghanistan survey points to huge scale of bribery: here.
ARMUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan soldiers shot dead four civilians who were demonstrating against a NATO-led attack in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, witnesses and a Reuters journalist said: here.
- Red Cross: Penalize war crimes in video games (news.cnet.com)
Controversy over ‘war president’ Obama’s Nobel
9 December 2009,
OSLO – Controversy mounted Wednesday over the choice of US President Barack Obama as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on the eve of the award ceremony in Oslo, as public opinion judged him unworthy of the prize.
Obama, scheduled to arrive in the Norwegian capital early Thursday to receive the award just nine days after announcing a surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, will accept the prize as a ‘war president,’ the White House said Tuesday.
‘We’ll address directly the notion, I think, that many have wondered, which is the juxtaposition of the timing of the Nobel Peace Prize and his commitment to add more troops,’ Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
That juxtaposition is losing support in Norway for Obama as this year’s choice for the distinguished award, an accolade that stunned the world and the laureate himself when it was announced on October 9.
Obama had moved into the White House less than nine months before the recognition, and as commander-in-chief of US troops was waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The surge in Afghanistan will bring the number of US troops in the war-torn country to 100,000, triple the amount stationed there before Obama took office.
Two months after the prize announcement, consensus appears to have emerged that the five people appointed by the Norwegian parliament to pick the laureate of the world’s most revered peace award made a premature decision.
A December 1-6 Quinnipiac University survey of 2,313 registered voters published Tuesday showed that by a wide margin of 66-26 percent, Americans think Obama does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
And in Norway, whose capital is preparing to welcome Obama to give him the Nobel medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (around 1.0 million euros, 1.4 million dollars) prize money, the award is also viewed with mixed feelings.
A poll conducted by the InFact institute and published Wednesday in the daily Verdens Gang (VG) showed that just 35.9 percent of Norwegians thought Obama deserved the prize, down from 42.7 percent when the winner was announced in October.
Nearly as many, 33.5 percent, believe the 44th US president is unworthy of the award that has been handed out for over a century.
The awkward timing of Obama’s announcement of troops for Afghanistan forced the Nobel Norwegian Committee to justify its choice again this week.
Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee, said on Norwegian NRK radio that most US presidents face conflicts and wars — but the new mood in US foreign policy justified Obama’s elevation.
The president had ‘put the accent on international cooperation, the United Nations, dialogue, negotiation, the struggle against climate change and disarmament,’ Lundestad said.
Obama will be in Oslo for a bit more than 24 hours to pick up the award that adds him to a list of laureates including Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Events related to the formal Nobel Peace Prize ceremony normally run over three days, but the president has shortened his visit and excluded the traditional lunch with the king and a Friday night concert in his honour.
Wednesday’s InFact survey showed that a majority of Norwegians perceived his short programme and tight schedule as ‘impolite’ snubs.
There will also be no traditional day-before press conference or lengthy CNN sit-down interview laureates usually grant — enabling him to avoid potentially embarrassing questions.
Yet some plan to make sure the prize attribution does not go unquestioned.
A number of peace and anti-nuclear weapons organisations have planned demonstrations on Thursday evening near the hotel where Obama will be staying.
Travers: Afghan torture backspin leaves Tories squirming
Smear of whistleblower, general’s flip flop, has MacKay on defensive
By James Travers National Affairs Columnist
Published On Thu Dec 10 2009
OTTAWA–Tug one thread, the worn adage advises, and the whole sweater unravels. Just weeks after Richard Colvin pulled the single strand of Afghan prisoner abuse, Peter MacKay’s defence is in tatters, torn apart by the admission that a Canada detainee was beaten.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk’s stunning reversal Wednesday proves the wisdom of another political maxim: The cover-up is always more damaging than the original fault. By bobbing and weaving around torture allegations, Conservatives exposed the more threatening problem of the badly strained relationship between civil servants and their political masters.
Colvin did his duty by speaking truth to power. MacKay responded by tarring the diplomat.
Self-serving from the outset, that smear no longer hides that this government knew, or should have known, as early as June 2006 that continuing to transfer prisoners was wrong and potentially illegal. Still, in testifying before a Commons committee yesterday, MacKay clung to the shrinking fig leaf that Ottawa acted whenever action was required.
MacKay’s defence was suspect even before Natynczyk corrected the record. It required suspending disbelief that Canadian prisoners were uniquely treated humanely and that reports that others were routinely tortured were not sufficient to end the transfers.
Ducking blame for that glaring political failure was the first priority. But in targeting Colvin, Conservatives opened a second front with civil servants the Prime Minister doesn’t trust, reluctantly consults and demonizes as closet Liberals.
Retired ambassadors escalated that conflict from private to public this week by fingering the attack on Colvin as a warning to other civil servants to tell politicians only what they want to hear. That’s a familiar national capital theme that runs through Conservative policies from climate change and stimulus spending to criminal justice. A bureaucracy created and schooled to consider all options and provide every ruling party with sound non-partisan advice is now expected to shut up and sign off on what are often highly politically charged policies.
Mandarins ultimately must do as they are ordered or resign on principle; ministers in turn are expected to be accountable for government decisions. That fragile bargain, revealed as non-functional by the Quebec sponsorship scandal, is now being hammered into fragments by Conservative refusal to accept responsibility for what happened in Kandahar on their watch.
Beyond raising a window on the Harper cabinet’s character and lowering MacKay’s leadership prospects, that failure is loaded with implications. Politicians who pass the buck to mandarins should expect more of the pushback that MacKay felt this week from former ambassadors defending Colvin and from Natynczyk’s abandonment of the fiction that no Canadian prisoner had been abused. There will be more demands that ministers personally and specifically approve politically sensitive decisions, more brown envelope leaks and more grumbling that the Clerk of the Privy Council, who doubles as the Prime Minister’s deputy minister and the country’s top civil servant, is not defending Colvin.
Two critical masses are forming here. One is that Colvin was far from alone in worrying about how Afghanistan treated prisoners and warning that Canada had a serious problem. The other is that those accustomed to serving their country silently are starting to shout that they are mad as hell and won’t take it any more.
James Travers’ column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Hundreds of women lead protest in Afghanistan
Followed by about 500 men, they demand that the government purge anyone connected to the Taliban, war crimes or corruption. Many hold pictures of slain relatives.
Several hundred women, many carrying pictures of relatives they said were killed by Taliban militants or drug lords, took to the streets of Kabul to demand that President Hamid Karzai purge from his government anyone connected to the killing of Afghans. (Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times / December 10, 2009)
By Tony Perry
December 10, 2009 | 1:04 a.m.
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan – Several hundred women, many holding aloft pictures of relatives killed by drug lords or Taliban militants, held a loud but nonviolent street protest today, demanding that President Hamid Karzai purge from his government anyone connected to corruption, war crimes or the Taliban.
“These women are being very brave,” said the protest leader, her face hidden by a burka. “To be a woman in Afghanistan and an activist can mean death. We want justice for our loved ones!”
Afghan police, in riot gear, monitored the rally as it worked its way slowly through muddy streets to the United Nations building here, but they did nothing to disrupt the event.
The unusual display of political activism by women comes as Karzai is under increasing pressure to remove from his cabinet anyone connected to rampant corruption, including links to the flourishing drug trade. His own finance minister says corruption is the biggest threat to the future of Afghanistan.
Karzai, elected to a second term in a vote marred by ballot-stuffing, had been expected to announce his selections for cabinet positions this week but delayed his announcement until next week.
In a surprise visit to Kabul this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he hopes that Karzai appoints reformers.
Karzai declined to say who he will appoint but promised that his selections will satisfy the Afghan public and the international community.
The protest group, under the banner Social Assn. of Afghan Justice Seekers, said that “our people have gone into a nightmare of unbelieving” because of the disputed election and the fact that “the culture of impunity” still exists despite Karzai’s vow to eliminate it.
While the women took the lead in the protest, about 500 men followed them in support, an unusual display in Afghan culture of men allowing women to take a leadership role.
The group spokeswoman, who gave her name as Lakifa, said many women are still afraid to demand an accounting of the death or disappearance of family members during the three decades of war that have ripped Afghanistan.
“We need to know about all of our martyrs, and the government needs to find the mass graves and the killers, not give them jobs and protect them,” she said.
Although it was not a major focus of the protest, the group was also critical of President Obama’s decision to send additional troops.
“The innocent and oppressed people will be the victims of American air and ground attacks,” said the group’s statement handed to Afghan and U.S. reporters.
Earlier this week, the Afghan Rights Monitor released a poll suggesting that half of Afghans think of the Karzai government as illegitimate because of the election fraud. The cabinet selections, said the group’s director, Ajmal Samadi, represent a “win or lose time” for Karzai.
“Mr. Karzai must urgently implement transformational reforms in all aspects of his government or accept grave consequences,” Samadi said.
Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
Seoul to break no soldiers pledge
South Korea: Seoul has vowed to press ahead with plans to send troops back to Afghanistan despite earlier pledges not to do so.
South Korea, a staunch US ally, said that it would send up to 350 troops next year to protect its civilian aid workers working in the province of Parwan.
The Taliban released a statement on Wednesday which pointed out that the deployment would violate South Korea’s 2007 promise to withdraw from Afghanistan permanently in exchange for the release of 21 Presbyterian missionaries.
New Afghan city official detained over graft
(AFP) – 55 minutes ago
KABUL — Afghan authorities detained another high-ranking official in the Kabul municipality on corruption charges, officials said Sunday, just days after the capital’s mayor was convicted over graft.
The arrest and conviction are the first high-profile moves against corruption in Afghanistan since President Hamid Karzai came under renewed Western pressure to crack down on graft.
Police detained deputy mayor Wahabuddin Sadaat on arrival from Saudi Arabia on Friday after the attorney general issued a warrant for his arrest, a senior prosecutor told AFP.
“We’d issued an arrest warrant which was implemented on Friday. The deputy Kabul mayor is in custody right now,” deputy attorney general, Fazil Ahmad Faqiryar, told AFP.
Sadaat was detained on charges of corruption, the prosecutor said without giving further details. He said the official would be put on trial “very soon.”
An Afghan court on Monday sentenced Kabul mayor Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi to four years in prison for wasting around 16,500 dollars of public money. He was released on bail pending an appeal.
Sahebi has professed innocence and denounced what he calls “a conspiracy against me and my colleagues” which he will “soon” appeal in a court.
“The court’s decision was baseless and unlawful. I’m preparing to challenge it in a higher court. I’ll prove it’s a conspiracy against my colleagues and I. We’ll prove it very soon,,” Sahebi told AFP by telephone from his Kabul home.
“I’m still the mayor. I’ve not been sacked nor I have resigned,” he said.
One of the charges was failure “to control my staff,” Sahebi added.
“Can one control one’s staff, how do you do it? It’s not my responsibility,” he told AFP, adding: “I have enough documents to prove my innocence”.
Copyright © 2009 AFP.
German Defense Minister Refuses To Quit
Published on December 15, 2009
by EU News Network
(EUNewsNet.com and OfficialWire)
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German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is refusing to resign over his role in handling a deadly NATO air raid in Afghanistan.
Guttenberg has been accused of wrongly forcing the resignation of two top military officials and of not disclosing early on what he really knew about the Sept. 4 airstrike that killed an estimated 142 people, many of them civilians.
“Even if it gets really stormy, I will stay right where I am,” Guttenberg told RTL television on Sunday. “That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the way I’m going to deal with it.”
He also vowed that he did not withhold any information about the bombing from the public. Instead, he said that Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhahn and Deputy Defense Minister Peter Wichert failed to pass on to him crucial details about the airstrike. Schneiderhahn and Wichert have since had to resign.
Schneiderhahn has contested that version, saying in a TV interview that all relevant information had been in a NATO report Guttenberg accessed after entering into office.
Allegations of a coverup already cost his predecessor in office, Franz Josef Jung, his job in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet.
Guttenberg has admitted that the raid, executed by a pair of U.S. F-15 bombers on the order of a German colonel, was a “mistake.”
The strike targeted two fuel trucks stuck in a riverbank some 5 miles outside a German base. The trucks had been seized by Taliban insurgents, and the German colonel feared they could be used to attack his base.
He had previously defended the move, calling it “militarily appropriate” but since had to backtrack when it surfaced that many civilians were killed.
Guttenberg has vowed to compensate victims of the airstrike that targeted two fuel trucks seized by the Taliban but injured and killed many civilians also present at the site.
Members of opposition parties have called for a parliamentary inquiry. Recently, rumors surfaced that a German commando unit in Afghanistan, the elite KSK, might have been involved in the planning of the airstrike.
Germany has some 4,250 troops in Afghanistan and is facing calls to send more to go along with a greater NATO surge. However, the mission is increasingly unpopular in Germany, with the recent bombing campaign fueling calls for German troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan. Instead, Germany has promised to boost its police training in Afghanistan and may send more troops after an Afghanistan conference early next year.
German parliament begins probe into Kunduz airstrike
German parliament begins probe into Kunduz airstrike
The controversial Kunduz airstrike – which has already claimed the jobs of the German defence minister and military chief of staff – will become the subject of a parliamentary probe in Berlin on Wednesday, DPA reported.
The air attack in September on two tankers commandeered by the Taliban but which also killed many civilians caused a major political row in Germany, eventually claiming the jobs of then-minister of defence, Franz Josef Jung, and former military Chief of Staff General Wolfgang Schneiderhan.
Now a 34-member permanent defence committee is to set up a special panel to establish the circumstances of the September 4 airstrike, in which a German officer ordered an attack on two hijacked fuel tankers in the northern Afghan province.
The head of the investigation committee, Social Democrat Susanne Kastner, said Wednesday that the committee would conduct most of its business in public, except for when military evidence was being handled.
In an interview with weekly Zeit newspaper published Wednesday, Schneiderhan accused current Minister of Defence Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg of “telling untruths” in relation to his sacking.
The new minister of defence had accused the general of withholding evidence about civilian casualties in the airstrike.
Guttenberg has already rejected calls for his resignation over his handling of the affair.
Despite protests, France deports nine Afghan illegals
Despite protests, France deports nine Afghan illegals
Less than 24 hours after a suicide bomber killed 15 people in the Afghan capital Kabul, the French government deported nine illegal Afghan immigrants to the strife-torn city, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson said Wednesday, DPA reported.
The nine deportees had not applied for asylum in France, Besson said, adding that they had arrived safely at their destination early Wednesday.
The expulsion took place despite despite protests by non-governmental organizations and several French ministers.
On Wednesday, the junior minister for urban policy, Fadela Amara, told France Info radio, “I’m against the deportation of Afghans. This is not the France I love. I want them to stay until the war ends in their country.”
The human-rights NGO Movement Against Racism (MRAP) charged that “sending these exiles back to this country will expose them to grave danger.”
In November, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had also criticized the deportation of Afghans fleeing the conflict in their country.
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