Department of State

You Can’t Spread Justice in an Insecure Country

Back in July, SIGAR noted that $50 million in US funds had been awarded in a sole source contract secured only by a short letter of agreement between the Department of State and the contractor, the International Development Law Organization, known as IDLO.  That contract was for one of three programs that are administered by State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) under the overall program called the Justice Sector Support Program, JSSP. IDLO’s contract covers Regional Justice Sector Training. PAE, which previously had been the contractor for all of JSSP, retains responsibility for the other two programs, a Case Management System and Institutional/Administrative Capacity Building. Over $200 million has been invested by INL for JSSP.

In an audit released today (pdf) SIGAR found that the contract with PAE is limited in how PAE’s performance can be assessed and whether the goals of JSSP are being achieved.

There is a much larger overall problem, though, and it is in how this program, like all of the rest of US plans for Afghanistan, was scuttled by the abject failure of the military to bring peace to Afghanistan. Note that the original plan was for the justice program to spread throughout Afghanistan. But the abject failure of the military to stabilize the country means that this program only was able to address small portions of the country:

Specifically, under the May 2011 statement of work agreed to between INL and PAE, the case management system was supposed to be completed nationwide by May 2012. However, geographic, logistical, and other challenges prevented PAE from expanding the electronic, internet-based case management system beyond 7 of 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces. As a result, INL modified the contract by replacing the requirement for a nationwide system with one that required implementation in only the seven provinces where it had already been installed.

So a portion of the program meant for all of the country wound up being operational in only 7 out of 34 provinces because of many failures, but I suspect that the indirect language in this section is meant to gloss over security failures being the main reason for restricting the reach of the program. I see no evidence that the budget for this portion of the program was cut to reflect the smaller size, so I wonder if PAE merely got to pocket what they would have spent expanding to the missing 27 provinces.

As noted back in July, the transfer of a portion of JSSP to IDLO was suspect. Today’s audit doesn’t reduce the concerns about IDLO: Continue reading

State Department, US Press Hide Important Karzai Statement on Bilateral Security Agreement

Karzai addressing his cabinet. Photo is from the web posting of Karzai's statement on the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Karzai addressing his cabinet. Photo is from the web posting of Karzai’s statement on the Bilateral Security Agreement.

Although there really is only one controlling issue in the quest to sign a new SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) governing US troops in Afghanistan after official NATO actions conclude at the end of next year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to be taking perverse pleasure in taking sweeping actions and making broad statements that seem to alternately encourage and then discourage those seeking to finalize the agreement. As I explained late last year, the US will keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014 only if they are granted criminal immunity. Without immunity, the US will withdraw fully just as it did in Iraq when immunity was denied there.

Recall that Karzai called for all US Special Forces to leave Maidan Wardak province back in late February. Just about three weeks later, he appeared to relent somewhat and it appears that SOF only left one district. On May 9, Karzai surprised everyone by announcing that the US could maintain nine bases in Afghanistan after 2014, apparently catching the US off-guard. In response, the US claimed they want to house troops at Afghan bases, because there is no desire for permanent US bases in Afghanistan.

Lest those negotiating the agreement get too encouraged by the base proposal, though, Karzai has now placed what appears to be a completely impossible precondition on signing the agreement, but citizens in the US would be hard-pressed to know anything about it. At the State Department briefing on May 17, there was an acknowledgement that Karzai had released a statement, but we don’t learn what Karzai actually said from the exchange with a reporter:

Walitz, do you have something?

QUESTION: Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Karzai’s office issued a brief statement today that he spoke to Secretary Kerry. Do you have any details on the readout, what were the issues they discussed?

MS. PSAKI: I do, I do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: So Secretary Kerry spoke this morning with President Karzai. They discussed our joint progress on the bilateral security agreement, border issues, and the status of the ongoing peace process. Secretary Kerry also affirmed that he and President Karzai remain committed to the same strategy and the same goal of a stable, sovereign Afghanistan, responsible for its own security and able to ensure that it can never again be a safe haven for terrorists.

QUESTION: Do you know when this BSA will be signed? What’s the status on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific update on that. Again, it’s obviously something that we continue to work on, work very closely on at many levels with the Government of Afghanistan.

So neither Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson, nor the reporter referred to as Walitz bothers to actually mention what Karzai said in his statement that was released. Here is what Karzai’s statement says regarding the bilateral security agreement:

On the bilateral security agreement that the United States is seeking to sign with Afghanistan at the soonest, President Karzai has said to the US Secretary of State that Afghanistan would sign the agreement only if conditions of the Afghan people were accepted and the first precondition is to bring peace and to end war in Afghanistan.

President Karzai clarified to John Kerry, it was impossible for the people of Afghanistan to be pleased with signing of the security agreement whereas violence and war continue in the country.

The President said to the Cabinet meeting that the security agreement if signed without the return of peace, and with continuation of violence and bombings means that the people of Afghanistan would continue to suffer every day from blasts, terrorist attacks and foreign invasions.

President Karzai added, the fundamental precondition of Afghans for the agreement is bringing peace, security and stability to Afghanistan if this is fulfilled, then the Afghan people would agree with signing of the agreement with the United States.

Just wow. Karzai has said he will not sign the agreement while “violence and war” continue in Afghanistan, and neither the “press” nor the Department of State “spokesperson” found it necessary to put that particular tidbit into the public record. I can find no reports on Karzai’s statement in the US press. It has been reported by ToloNews in Afghanistan. It would appear that when the State Department gives its own “readout” on a conversation, it is very important to check other original sources for what really took place in the conversation.

[Brief note on dates: the reporter mentions that Karzai's office released a brief statement "today" that Karzai had spoken to Kerry. From the records I can find, this press briefing took place at 12:30 pm in Washington on May 17, which would be 9 pm in Kabul on the same day. The statement from Karzai's office that I quote here is dated May 18, so it is unclear whether Walitz had seen the full Karzai statement at the time the question was posed. I can find no reference to the Karzai-Kerry conversation on the Karzai website that is dated May 17.]

The Cost of Bullshit: Climate Change, National Security, and Inaction

photo: toolmantim via Flickr

photo: toolmantim via Flickr

While we’re waiting for Congress and the White House to do something productive together for once, let’s recap:

•  The Department of Defense said climate change is a critical strategic concern with regard to its operations and its impact on defense efforts, based on its legislatively-mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) published two-plus years ago in 2010;

•  The State Department also said climate change is a serious threat to our national security, noted in its inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QQDR), also published two-plus years ago in 2010;

•  A who’s who of defense and diplomacy expressed their concerns about climate change and the need for urgent action, as Marcy noted two days ago; apparently whatever action has been taken so far has not impressed these experts as responsive to the threat climate change poses.

Yet if asked, the average American likely could not point to a single action taken by the U.S. government to reduce the impact of climate change.

In other words, all the effort expended and resources spent on drafting the components of the QDR and QQDR are wasted, the words published mere bullshit—more wasted government employees’ time and taxpayer money.

How much has this wordy inaction cost us?

Here’s a more specific opportunity to save taxpayer money:

…Of all military spending, energy accounts for a small proportion, roughly less than 2% of total military expenditures and 2% of total US energy usage–but is 93% of all US government energy consumption.In fact, the US military is the single biggest consumer of energy in the nation, at about 932 trillion BTU in 2009, resulting in 4% of all US carbon emissions.

Oil accounts for 78.5% of all US military energy usage (54% of that is jet fuel); electricity is 11%, direct use of natural gas comes in a bit under electricity. Direct use of coal and other sources of energy are small fractions of total usage. …

[source: TreeHugger.com, 05-MAY-2011]

The amount spent on energy surely hasn’t declined since these numbers were published in 2009.

Yet Congress and the White House have been locking horns over the sequester for some time now, looking for places to cut costs. Doesn’t it seem like any item should be ripe for examination and audit for cost-cutting if the government is the largest consumer?

Further:

…The United States is far and away the largest military spender on the planet–but you probably already knew that. How much more? In 2010 the US accounted for 42.8% of all military spending in the world (and has doubled military spending since 2001). The next nearest competitor, China, accounts for 7.3% of global military spending. The UK, France, and Russia each spend roughly 3.7%. Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Italy round out the top ten. All other nations spending 25.3% combined.

In dollar terms, the grand total spent on military offense and defense in 2010 was $1.6 trillion. So based on those calculations, done by a Swedish think tank, the US outspent China by 5.86 times. …

[source: TreeHugger.com, 05-MAY-2011]

If the U.S. is the largest military spender, its energy expenditures must likewise be the largest globally. This means the U.S. military could provide the largest impact globally on climate change by urgently and robustly changing its fossil fuel consumption.

Which begs the question: are we going to stop wasting time and money on reports like the QDR and the QDDR when we’re clearly making no effort to follow the recommendations they contain by responding to climate change and its inherent national security risks?

Or are we going to save some serious money on downsizing our military’s fossil fuel consumption AND make immediate, widespread impact on climate change and national security at the same time?

We really need an answer because this bullshit is costing us a fortune in taxes and lost societal opportunities. (Hurricane Sandy cost the federal government at least $180 million dollars; it’s not yet clear how much February’s blizzard cost in tax dollars. Toronto CAN, however, spent CA$4 million on cleanup and repairs, and it was not the municipality hardest hit by the storm.)

And with each drought and mega-storm, the lack of response is costing us even greater treasure in loss of personal opportunities, homes and lives.

Pakistan Denounces Railway Minister for Filmmaker Bounty, US Joins Condemnation, Ignoring Own Bounties

The US has condemned Pakistan’s National Railway Minister for offering a $100,000 bounty on the maker of the anti-Islam film, while maintaining a website promoting multimillion dollar bounties on a number of people.

On Saturday, Pakistan’s Federal Railway Minister made headlines around the world by offering a $100,000 bounty for the killing of the maker of “The Innocence of the Muslims” after riots related to the film resulted in 21 deaths in Pakistan on Friday:

Federal Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour announced that $100,000 will be awarded to the person who kills the maker of the anti-Islam blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims”.

Speaking to the media on Saturday, Bilour said that there was no other way to lodge a protest and instill fear among the blasphemers other than murder of the filmmaker. “I request all the rich people to bring out all their money so that the killer can be loaded with dollars and gold.”

The minister admitted of knowing that he was committing a crime by instigating people for murder, but said that he was ready to be a criminal for this cause. “If there is a case lodged against me in the international court or in this country’s court, I will ask people to hand me over to them… I want to show these countries that we will not tolerate any such things.”

On Sunday, Pakistan’s government and Bilour’s political party distanced themselves from Bilour’s action:

Announcing a $100,000 bounty on Saturday, Bilour had invited members of the Taliban and al Qaeda to take part in the “noble deed”, and said given the chance he would kill the film-maker with his own hands.

The government has “nothing to do with the statement made by the railways minister,” Shafqat Jalil, a spokesperson for Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told The Express Tribune. “This is not the government’s policy. We disassociate (ourselves) from this.”

The next bit from Jalil is a bit lacking in credibility:

Jalil added that even though the incumbent government respects its coalition partners, it could not endorse statements that may ignite the already provoked sentiments of Pakistanis.

I guess that declaring Friday as a national holiday so that everyone could take part in demonstrations against the film was really not expected to “ignite the already provoked sentiments of Pakistanis”? I can’t buy that one.

We learn in the same article that Bilour’s political party, the Awami National Party distanced itself somewhat, saying Bilour’s comments were his own views, but would not state whether Bilour might face disciplinary action from the party.

In an act undertaken without any apparent awareness of its inherent hypocrisy, the US also has criticized Bilour’s bounty: Continue reading

Now That Training in Iraq is a Failure, Petraeus No Longer Mentioned

Screen grab of glorious General Petraeus from US Army recruiting video

A remarkable story in this morning’s Washington Post addresses a report released today from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  The report details that the training of police forces in Iraq has been a failure:

Over the course of the eight-year-old war and military occupation, thousands of U.S. troops have spent considerable time and effort wooing and training police recruits, but Iraqi officials have often accused the United States of not providing much more than basic training.

In an August interview, Akeel Saeed, inspector general of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said that in the past, the U.S. military was too often “implementing what they wanted, without acknowledging what the Iraqis wanted.”

The article discloses that despite all of this basic “training” that the US has provided over the years, now that the program has been handed over to the State Department, they will use the bulk of their $887 million budget this year on private security contractors.  That fact alone is all the proof we need that there is no confidence at all in Iraqi security forces, or there would be little to no need for the mercenaries:

But a government report set for release Monday found that the department is spending just 12 percent of money allocated for the program on advising Iraqi police officials, with the “vast preponderance” of funds going toward the security, transportation and medical support of the 115 police advisers hired for the program. When U.S. troops leave, thousands of private security guards are expected to provide protection for the thousands of diplomats and contractors set to stay behind. For security reasons, the State Department has declined to specify the cost and size of its anticipated security needs.

However, the SIGIR report (pdf) itself provides more background for understanding why such a large mercenary force is needed.  First, the report documents the handing over of responsibility for police training to DoD back in 2004 [INL is the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs]: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
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JimWhiteGNV Hoping against hope that Balfour won't be on the #Rays flight back home Thursday night.
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