I have to give this to Michele Bachmann. Unlike most of the members of Congress she traveled to Russia with last week, she has not (at least not apparently) been suckered by Vladimir Putin to play his patsy.
Jim already described Dana Rohrabacher’s posturing with Steven Seagal while he attempted to replay his glory days palling around with the mujahadeen. Subsequent to that, Rohrabacher defended Putin’s abuse of power in fighting his former soulmates.
“If you are in the middle of an insurrection with Chechnya, and hundreds of people are being killed and there are terrorist actions taking place and kids are being blown up in schools, yeah, guess what, there are people who overstep the bounds of legality,” he said.
While the rule of law is important, Rohrabacher added, “We shouldn’t be describing people who are under this type of threat, we shouldn’t be describing them as if they are Adolf Hitler or they’re back to the old Communism days.”
Meanwhile, both Rohrabacher and Steve King bravely defended Putin’s prosecution of Pussy Riot.
“It’s hard to find sympathy for people who would do that to people’s faith,” King said.
But I’m most amused by the script William Keating (who represents parts of Boston and its southwest suburbs) is speaking from, parroting FSB’s assurances that the Marathon attack could have been prevented if only FBI had been more responsive to the tip they had provided the FBI and CIA.
Keating said the letter contained a lot of details about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, including his birthday, telephone number, cellphone number, where he lived in Cambridge and information about his wife and child. He said it also referenced the possibility that Tsarnaev might be considering changing names.
The Russians also had information about his mother, including her Skype address, Keating said.
Keating told the AP that the Russians believed Tsarnaev wanted to go to Palestine and engage in terrorist activities, but was unable to master the language.
‘‘That was the level of detail they were providing in this letter,’’ Keating said.
Keating said the intelligence officials believed that if Russia and the U.S. had worked together more closely, the bombings might have been averted. He said a top Russian counterintelligence official told the delegation that ‘‘had we had the same level of communication as we do now, the Boston bombing may never have happened.’’
Note Keating doesn’t make clear whether the details from the texts on Palestine were included in what the Russians sent us (the Russians translated the letter for the CODEL), or whether they only now shared it with the CODEL.
Proving once again that he has the reasoning skills of a termite-infested and rotting fence post, Dana Rohrabacher had the bright idea that he and fellow geniuses Michele Bachmann and Steve King should go to Russia to get to the bottom of why Russian and US intelligence agencies did not jointly predict and prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. From the announcement of the trip on Rohrabacher’s website (oh, wait, it looks like Rohrabacher just crossposted the ABC News story transcribed from what Rohrabacher’s office fed them):
A delegation of American lawmakers will travel to Russia next week in part to investigate last month’s Boston Marathon bombings, ABC News has learned.
The group, led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., wants to find out why a 2011 Russian request that the United States investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston bombers, did not raise more red flags.
The Russians offered a vague warning that Tsarnaev planned to link up with extremist groups abroad, but an FBI investigation yielded no evidence to support those claims at the time. The lawmakers also want to know why subsequent U.S. requests for additional information about Tsarnaev went unanswered by the Russians.
“If there was a distrust, or lack of cooperation because of that distrust, between the Russian intelligence and the FBI, then that needs to be fixed and we will be talking about that,” Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, told ABC News by telephone.
“Our goal is to use Boston as an example, if indeed there was something more, that should’ve been done that wasn’t because of a bad attitude,” Rohrabacher added.
Remarkably, the ABC News transcription goes on to cite Rohrabacher wanting to overcome any “lingering mistrust between the former Cold War rivals”. And yet, neither ABC News nor Rohrabacher seem to give any thought to the fact that back in the heady days when the US was backing Osama bin Laden and other mujahideen fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Rohrabacher himself decided to play dress-up, grab a gun and go to Afghanistan to join the fun in hunting Russkies. Oh well, forgive and forget, I guess.
Unlike when he tried to visit Afghanistan and was denied entry because of his rabble-rousing past and continued meddling, Rohrabacher was allowed entry to Russia. Rohrabacher’s goal wasn’t only to talk to Russians, however. Since the Boston bombers were ethnic Chechens, it appears that the great Congressman decided he had to visit himself some “Chechnyans”. That’s right, in a reprise of Rohrabacher’s infamous Congressional hearing on Balochistan where he mangled the pronunciation of the region, Rohrabacher now has shown his cultural sensitivity once again by mangling another name: Continue reading
Even though he was unsure of its pronunciation, Representative Dana Rohrabacher mounted what was initially a one-man campaign that he claimed was for a free and independent Balochistan. He did eventually enlist top-notch intellectual luminaries Louie Gohmert and Steve King in his effort, but the lingering question I had regarding his efforts on this front boiled down to:
Does Rohrabacher want to help the Baloch, or does he merely want US control of the port of Gwadar and an end to the planned gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan through Balochistan?
We now have the opportunity to answer that question, as Rohrabacher’s attempts to arrange US control of Gwadar and to prevent the gas pipeline have failed. Pakistan officially transferred control of the port of Gwadar to China today from the Port of Singapore Authority. The final agreement relating to construction of the gas pipeline through Pakistan (Iran claims to have completed 900 kilometers of the pipeline within its borders already) was expected to be signed last Friday, but it appears a last-minute disagreement of gas pricing has delayed those signatures for a week. Here is Dawn on the transfer of Gwadar:
China took control of Pakistan’s Gwadar port on Monday as part of its drive to secure energy and maritime routes that also gives it a potential Arabian Sea naval base, sparking Indian concern. “The contract of operation of Gwadar port is formally given to China. Today, the agreement is transferred from the Port of Singapore Authority to China Overseas Ports Holding Company Limited,” President Asif Ali Zardari announced. “The award of this contract opens new opportunities for our people… It gives new impetus to Pakistan-China relations,” added Zardari in a speech broadcast live on television.
As the article notes, China had funded the bulk of the construction of the port, so it should come as no surprise that they would eventually gain control:
China paid about 75 per cent of the initial $250 million used to build the port but in 2007 PSA International won a 40-year operating lease. Then-ruler Pervez Musharraf was reportedly unwilling to upset Washington by giving control of the port to the Chinese.
I have to wonder whether Rohrabacher’s outright hostility shown to Pakistan over the Balochistan freedom movement and the issue of Dr. Shakeel Afridi played into their willingness to go against US wishes in signing Gwadar over to the Chinese. Perhaps Representative Rohrabacher can enlist a new ally in his battles with Pakistan since he is such an adherent to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach. It appears that Iran is finding it necessary to build their own naval base very close to Gwadar so that they can keep an eye on what transpires there:
Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says the country is establishing a new base in the Sea of Oman near Pakistan’s border to boost the Islamic Republic’s defense capabilities. “The naval base, which is under construction, is situated in the Gwatr Gulf on our country’s farthest eastern shores bordering Pakistan,” Sayyari said on Sunday.
“The Iranian navy has so far had no military presence in the area, but now, we will be present in the region to defend the interests and maritime resources of our country and exercise a tighter control over the traffic in the region,” Sayyari noted.
Just as he took up arms to fight alongside Osama bin Laden’s Mujahideen movement against his arch-enemies from the Soviet Union, maybe Rohrabacher will decide to team up with Iran’s navy near Gwadar in an attempt to punish Pakistan for daring to thwart his wishes.
At his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Secretary of State, engaged in nearly ten minutes of discussion with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul managed to come off as not nearly as batshit insane as he sounds while campaigning (although Kerry did have to say “let me finish” several times), and actually came very close to making a good and substantial point. While discussing the issue of providing arms to Egypt, Paul mentioned the long history of the US supporting and providing arms to a series of groups including the mujahideen and even Osama bin Laden. I say Paul came close to making a good point because this part of his commentary was framed around these groups coming back to pose a threat to Israel. Paul could have made a very important point had he framed the discussion as part of the bigger issue of the blowback when these groups, especially bin Laden, set their
sites sights on the US after being funded by us as “the enemy of my enemy”. Kerry did a fine job of ending this part of the exchange, by stating that answer to the issue of arming various parties is to “make peace”.
In the final third of the video above, Paul moves to the question of relations with Pakistan. I didn’t get to watch the hearing live and haven’t yet found a transcript, but at least in the questions Paul had about Pakistan, I find myself wishing different questions had been asked. Regarding Pakistan, I would have asked Kerry if his idea of diplomacy is represented by his actions in the Raymond Davis affair, when Kerry went to Pakistan to lobby for Davis’ release and smuggled out of Pakistan the driver of the diplomatic vehicle that struck and killed a Pakistani civilian while attempting to rescue Davis from the site where he had shot and killed two Pakistanis. I also would have asked Kerry what steps he had taken personally to follow up on his pledge to Pakistan that Davis would be subject to a criminal investigation for the killings in Lahore.
Instead, Paul asked Kerry whether he would condition financial aid to Pakistan on the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi. Neither Paul nor Kerry mentioned or condemned the vaccination ruse in which the CIA employed Afridi or the damage that ruse has done in terms of reduced polio vaccination rates and murdered health workers who were administering the polio vaccine. Instead, both lamented that someone who had helped the US to find bin Laden would find himself in jail. Kerry, however, stated that withholding aid would be the wrong approach. From the New York Times:
On Pakistan, Mr. Kerry said he had talked to Pakistani leaders about the Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned for assisting the C.I.A.’s effort to track Osama bin Laden.
“That bothers every American,” said Mr. Kerry, who said that he was nonetheless opposed to cutting aid. “We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it,” he said.
Dawn went into more detail on the exchange:
It was Senator Rand Paul, a new Republican face in the committee, who suggested cutting US aid to Pakistan “if they do not release Dr Shakil Afridi” who, he said, was imprisoned for helping the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader was killed in a US military raid on his compound in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Mr Kerry informed the senator that he had discussed this issue directly with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and like most Americans found it “incomprehensible if not repugnant, that somebody who helped us find Osama bin Laden is in jail in Pakistan”.
And “that bothers every American,” he added.
The senior US lawmaker, who stayed engaged with both Pakistan and Afghanistan as President Obama’s informal emissary during his first term, urged Senator Paul to also look at what the Pakistanis say.
“Pakistanis make the argument Dr Afridi did not know what he was doing, who he was specifically targeting … it was like a business for him,” he said, adding that this was no excuse for keeping the physician in jail.
But he said that he would stay engaged with Pakistan rather than resorting to “a pretty dramatic, draconian, sledge-hammer” approach of cutting US aid to the country Senator Paul had suggested.
This discussion by Paul and Kerry of Afridi is the first time in several weeks that Afridi’s name has resurfaced. I still think it likely that Afridi will disappear from the jail where he is now held. The only question is whether he will reappear in the US (where people like Rand Paul and Dana Rohrabacher will certainly want to take him on tour with them in a victory lap) or just disappear entirely.
You know that things are truly screwed up regarding US policy on Pakistan when the “best of Senators” is Dianne Feinstein, but it’s hardly surprising that Rand Paul would step up in the Senate to carry Dana Rohrabacher’s sentiments forward and attempt to cut all funding from Pakistan until Dr. Shakeel Afridi is released.
First, the good news from Feinstein. While many in Washington were getting overheated in response to a cost estimate finally being attached to the closure of NATO supply routes through Pakistan ($100 million a month), Dianne Feinstein made the courageous observation that the US could likely move ahead through the current diplomatic standoff with Pakistan by issuing a simple apology over the Salala raid:
A senior US lawmaker said on Wednesday that apologising to Pakistan over the Salala incident would improve Washington’s relations with a key ally.
“National security of the US will be better served with a positive relationship with Pakistan,” Senator Dianne Feinstein told a Senate hearing on budget priorities for 2013.
The Senator, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, observed that both sides made mistakes in handling the Nov 26 incident, which caused the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US air raid.
Senator Feinstein noted that the dispute over the supply lines could be solved “with some civilian acceptance of the mistakes” the US had made.
Such an acceptance could also lead to the reopening of Nato supply lines, she said, adding that “it would do well to apologise” for the mistakes made.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was very quick to respond to this overture:
“We appreciate Senator Feinstein for showing the way forward in normalising ties in a relationship that is important to both sides and critical for stabilising the region,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman while welcoming the gesture.
Rehman’s time in Washington this week has been difficult, as seen by Rand Paul’s attempt at “diplomacy”:
US Senator Paul Rand was blocked from attaching an amendment to the farm bill that would withhold US aid to Pakistan.
The amendment would have defunded US aid to Pakistan until the country frees an imprisoned doctor, who worked for CIA in hunt for al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Rehman was happy for the move to block Paul’s action, but it appears that her task is doomed: Continue reading
There are many developments today surrounding Pakistan’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi to 33 years in prison, including two that are quite unexpected. According to documents released today to multiple news agencies, it turns out that Afridi’s conviction is not on the treason charges relating to his work with the CIA in finding Osama bin Laden that many thought were the basis of the charges against him. Instead, the documents indicate that Afridi was convicted for aiding the outlawed group Lashkar-e-Islam, which is said to be in open conflict with Pakistan. Equally unexpected is today’s column by CIA
spokesman reporter columnist David Ignatius in the Washington Post where he chastises the CIA for using Afridi in a vaccination ruse, citing the resultant danger to public health as vaccination programs come more generally under suspicion in the areas where they are needed most urgently.
Reuters gives us the basics on the documents released today by the court:
A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was imprisoned for aiding militants and not for links to the CIA, as Pakistani officials had said, according to a court document released on Wednesday.
Last week, a court in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border sentenced Shakil Afridi to 33 years in jail. Pakistani officials told Western and domestic media the decision was based on treason charges for aiding the CIA in its hunt for the al Qaeda chief.
But in the latest twist in the case, the judgment document made available to the media on Wednesday, states Afridi was jailed because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which amount to waging war against the state.
Dawn fills in more details:
The order said intelligence reports had indicated that the accused had close links with the defunct LI and “his love for Mangal Bagh, Amir of Lashkar-i-Islam, and his association with him was an open secret”.
Referring to the report submitted by the JIT, it said the accused had paid Rs2 million to LI when he was serving at the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Dogra, Bara, Khyber tribal region.
The court also accused Mr Afridi of providing medical assistance to militant commanders like Said Noor Malikdinkhel, Hazrat Sepah, Wahid Shaloberkhel and others at the hospital which he headed.
It also referred to statements by some people that militant commanders used to visit the hospital and hold private meetings with the accused. “These meetings were usually of longer duration and most often those meetings were followed by attacks by militants on security forces’ checkposts and other places at night,” the order read.
It said LI’s design to wage war against the state of Pakistan was a reality known to all and that those attacks were planned in the office of the accused. Being a public servant, the involvement of the accused in subversive activities and his role in facilitating the waging of war and attacks on security forces made him liable to be proceeded against, it added.
There is one more point that stands out in the Dawn article: Continue reading
Fallout continues from yesterday’s sentencing of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA to identify Osama bin Laden prior to the US raid that killed him. Marcy commented yesterday on the poor outcome from Leon Panetta disclosing Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA and I noted how the sentencing may have been one motivation behind the potential political impetus for yesterday’s drone strike in Pakistan (which has been followed up by yet another drone strike today).
I will get to the obligatory statement of outrage from Dana Rohrabacher in a bit, but first there is a very interesting article in Dawn that has a few details from Afridi’s trial. Although Afridi’s cooperation with the CIA occurred in Abbottabad, which is in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly referred to as North West Frontier Province), Afridi was tried in the town of Bara, which is in the Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The map on the left shows the FATA in blue, most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in green and the Abbottabad district in red.
In the Dawn quotations below, “Khyber” refers to Kyber Agency within FATA and not Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as far as I can tell.
Dawn describes where the trial took place and the convictions that were handed down:
Officials said Afridi had been tried at the office of assistant political agent (APA) in Bara. He was sentenced on the charges of conspiring “to wage war against Pakistan or depriving it of its sovereignty”, “concealing existence of a plan to wage war against Pakistan” and “condemnation of the creation of the state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty”.
“The trial conducted under the Frontier Crimes Regulation continued for one year during which Dr Afridi was denied the right to engage a lawyer,” said Rahat Gul, an administrative official at the Khyber House.
Dawn then moved on to citing criticism about where the trial took place:
Critics have said he should not have been tried under tribal law for an alleged crime that took place outside tribal jurisdiction, in the town of Abbottabad where he ran a fake vaccination programme designed to collect bin Laden family DNA.
A senior official in Khyber, Nasir Khan, defended Afridi’s trial.
“We have powers to try a resident of FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) under the FCR enforced in tribal areas,” he told AFP.
And the trial had to be secret so that Afridi would not be attacked: Continue reading
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) worked himself into quite a bit of anger yesterday defending his amendment to the NDAA which was intended to cut off funding for Pakistan. He gave a remarkable performance, railing against practices by the Pakistani government which he avidly endorses when carried out by the US.
He railed against Pakistan providing haven for Osama bin Laden even though Rohrabacher actually took up arms and fought alongside the mujahideen, which included bin Laden, back in the mid-80′s when they were fighting the Soviets. He blasted Pakistan for supporting terrorists like the Haqqani network at the same time that he is agitating for the delisting of the MeK as a terrorist group. He decried the arrest and detention without charges of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who carried out the polio vaccine ruse on behalf of the CIA at the bin Laden compound, and yet he has for years been at the forefront of advocating in favor of the prison at Guantanamo, where many remain held indefinitely without charge.
Here is how Rohrabacher described his amendment in a press release:
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 5734, the “Pakistan Terrorism Accountability Act of 2012.” The legislation would require the Department of Defense to list all Americans killed by terrorist groups operating with impunity inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and supported by elements of the Pakistani government. For each person killed, $50 million would be subtracted from U.S. foreign assistance to Pakistan, a requested $2.2 billion, and given to the victim’s family.
“For too long America has funded the Pakistani government, giving it free money, while elements of the ISI and Pakistan’s military operate radical Islamic groups that are actively murdering Americans,” said Rohrabacher. “Americans will not accept this.”
“Pakistan has for decades leveraged radical terrorist groups to carry out attacks in India and Afghanistan,” continued Rohrabacher. “Pakistan helped to create the Taliban and Pakistan’s intelligence service hid Osama Bin Laden from the U.S. for years. Today, one of the most dangerous and sophisticated groups killing American troops in Afghanistan is the Haqqani Network, which is closely operated by the Pakistani government.”
I suppose it’s too much to hope for that someone who operates on the fringes of American politics might realize that the Pakistani government is not a monolith that always acts with all of its participants working together for the same outcome. Rather than supporting those within Pakistan who will advance US interests, Rohrabacher wants to punish all of Pakistan because of those who work against US interests.
Dashing Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s drastic designs, the US Congress on Thursday turned down the bill proposing curbs on American aid to Pakistan.
The House of representative rejected the bill as 335 votes were cast against the bill while 84 in favour. Pakistan ambassador to US, Sherry Rehman played an active role against the bill.
At least he did a better job pronouncing Balochistan…
The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.
The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.
The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. The terrorism designation, which has been in place since 1997, freezes the MeK’s assets inside the U.S. and prevents the exile group from fundraising.
Oddly, the entire article makes no mention of allegations that MEK trained at a US Special Forces camp in the NV desert and/or killed a bunch of Iranian civilians with magnet bombs.
Though its last paragraph amounts to as much.
“If there’s a coalition against the mullahs, then we should fund that coalition, and the MeK should be a part of it,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.). He cautioned that for now, he wasn’t advocating directly funding MeK. “The MeK has the resources to resist and fight the mullah dictatorship. They don’t need our money, they just need us to get out of the way and take the shackles off.”
Jim? I believe this is your department.
Though maybe it’s not all the dead scientists that made the difference here. Maybe it’s the art project that significantly resembles the INC’s finger painting projects leading up to the Iraq War. America. Big fans of primitive art.
We demand our terrorists to be able to both kill civilian scientists and draw crude pictures, you know.
Update: In potentially related news,
Iran has hanged a man it said was an agent for Israeli intelligence agency Mossad whom it convicted of killing one of its nuclear scientists in 2010, Iranian state media reported on Tuesday.
NATO found it necessary yesterday to trot out a high-ranking spokesman to try to tamp down the suggestion from Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers over the weekend that the Taliban has increased in strength. Unfortunately for NATO, however, there are more reasons to believe that the Taliban is in a strong position than just statements emanating from Washington power players. The Taliban themselves seem also to sense their stronger position, as evidenced by their abandoning the “secret” negotiations that the US had entered into with them over the winter. The caution exhibited by Hamid Karzai as he prepares to accept the handoff of security control for more of Afghanistan also reflects a strengthening of the Taliban’s position.
A top coalition official on Wednesday disputed lawmakers’ assertions that the Taliban are increasing their strength in Afghanistan.
“I’m afraid for the Taliban the evidence is rather different,” said British army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, in a briefing with reporters from Kabul.
The Taliban’s ability to deliver attacks in Afghanistan was reduced by almost 10% in 2011, said Bradshaw, adding that the NATO-led force is seeing a similar trend early this year.
“We get reporting, reliable reporting of Taliban commanders, feeling under pressure with lack of weapons and equipment, with lack of finance,” he said.
Bradshaw is of course gaming the figures. The independent group Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, or ANSO, reported that for 2011 (pdf), attacks by Armed Opposition Groups (AOG, described as the Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Hekmatyar) continued its upward trend in 2011, as seen in the figure above, rather than going down as Bradshaw would have us believe.
Reuters reports on the concerns surrounding the next step in handing over security control in Afghanistan:
Afghanistan faces tougher security challenges in the next phase of a transition from foreign to Afghan forces as insurgents step up their attacks, Afghan officials said on Thursday.
President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce on Sunday the transfer of 230 districts and the centers of all provincial capitals to Afghan control in the third phase of a handover before most NATO troops pull out by the end of 2014.
There are, however, few signs of improving security in Afghanistan. Continue reading