June 17, 2011 – The United States Conference of Mayors hold their 79th annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland this weekend and the number one item on their agenda is a call for an end to the Afghanistan War and to re-direct spending towards job creation at home.
The resolution will be put to a vote on Monday, and is expected to be overwhelmingly approved by the representative mayors of all major and intermediate US cities, who will be joined by Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi at the conference.
-President Obama and his national security team met on Wednesday with Afghanistan ground troop commander General David Petraeus to consult and discuss options for the commencement of the imminent troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Although Wednesday’s meeting was not listed on the President’s official schedule, leading some to speculate that it was a “secret meeting”, a Whitehouse spokesman said that Obama will soon begin withdrawing the 30 thousand troops that were surged in 2009. However there have still been no official numbers discussed or date provided. At the time of the surge, the President promised that the drawdown would begin in July 2011.
-Yesterday, Joint Chief of Staff Mike Mullen and Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced, on behalf of the Pentagon, that they have decided to re-route 800 US Soldiers destined for deployment in Afghanistan as of July 1st. The two battalions will be sent instead to Kuwait and will aid with training operations in neighbouring Iraq.
The decision, taken on behalf of the Pentagon, was suggested by Afghanistan ground troop commander David Petraeus and was approved by President Obama.
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will drop by 40$billion, in the year starting October 1st, from 160$billion to 120$billion, according to Defence Secretary Gates. Pardon me for maintaining a “believe it when I see it” attitude on this one…
-Meanwhile, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the past month (May) then in any month since 2007. According to the United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), there were 368 civilian deaths and 593 civilians injured in Afghanistan during May.
The Human Rights Director with the UNAMA was quite clear about what needs to be done.
“We have called on pro-government and international forces to ensure that night raids are carried out in a manner that protects Afghani civilians,” said Georgette Gagnon. “We have urged them to stop using devices that hurt people indiscriminately.”
Eighteen months ago, after demands from Afghani President Hamid Karzai, NATO agreed to cease and desist from all night raid operations and make an attempt to lessen civilian and non-combatant casualties. Three days after NATO made that commitment; twelve Afghani civilians were killed in a night raid by NATO forces.
-Since the beginning of June things haven’t gotten much better for Afghani civilians either. Fighting between foreign forces and Afghanis has led to the displacement of 12 thousand refugees in Faryab Province.
The refugees have come from at least 20 different villages to camp in the remote northwest of Afghanistan, and the Red Crescent is reporting a dire need for water, sanitation and other essentials.
A separate study by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Bank estimates that there are over 400 thousand refugees in Afghanistan, and over 200 thousand refugees have been internally displaced during the last two years of foreign occupation in Afghanistan.
Canada’s Role in Afghanistan – June 17, 2011
-Despite a majority of Canadians wanting an end to Canadian troop presence and public resource spending in Afghanistan, Canada continues to plod ahead with its campaign of international disrepute, this week also extending the timeline for Canadian operations in Libya until the end of September.
In what was described as a “morale boost” for Canadian personnel already on the ground, the extension of the Libyan engagement is a clear indication that the Conservative government has its own agenda when it comes to the use and manipulation of Canadian forces and resources that is not in tune with the priorities of the Canadian people. Unfortunately, even the newly-anointed NDP opposition supported this war extension, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May being the only Canadian parliamentarian to vote against the prolongation of Canadian military actions.
Just like in Afghanistan, Canadian presence in Libya has been justified by a blanket commitment to NATO operations and a loosely interpreted spin of the UN mandate for involvement. In Libya, the UN mandate is to specifically target the Gadhafi regime – and the announcement by Canadian military this week that CF-18 fighter jets are involved in day and night raid bombing on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, is seen by many as condoning and participating in actions which target the entire Libyan population and not just the Gadhafi regime. Clearly this oversteps the boundaries of the UN mandate as several Canadian political commentators have pointed out. Should we be surprised that none of the voices of Canadian consciousness have come from the meanstream Canadian media?
-Testimony by diplomatic whistleblower Richard Colvin almost two years ago threatened to bring down the Conservative government when he revealed that Canadian soldiers knowingly transferred detainees to Afghani forces engaged in torture. Since that time, Colvin’s testimony has been corroborated by other witnesses, internal “intelligence” documents, and military police commissions. What Canadians still don’t have is an open public inquiry into this war crimes scandal that will allow Canada to identify and fix problems within its military and intelligence operational systems. The open, transparent public inquiry is just as important to save Canadian face internationally as it is necessary to restore Canadian face domestically.
Since the original allegations surfaced, the Conservative government has prorogued Parliament, shut down military and judicial fact-finding commissions and censored documents to prevent any information or responsibility for Canadian actions to be acknowledged. All the while the Conservatives have continued to play cat-and-mouse games within the Canadian legal system, the Canadian media and the House of Parliament itself, doing nothing but delaying the calls for accountability that leave the international community wondering what they are hiding and Canadians wondering what we have to do to get a government that will be responsible enough to be held accountable for its actions.