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Afridi’s Trial: Similar to Gitmo Military Commissions? Bonus: Rohrabacher Goes Bold

Abbottabad district, red, is within Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa Province, green, which is next to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, blue, where the town of Bara is in Khyber Agency. (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Hmmm. Venue-shopping. That would never happen in the US, especially when the chosen venue is seriously lacking in due process.

And the trial had to be secret so that Afridi would not be attacked: Read more

Rorhrabacher’s Attempt to Defund Pakistan Falls 335-84

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.

Rohrabacher’s attempt at lead pipe diplomacy has failed miserably, going down by a vote of 335 to 84.  Here is how Pakistan Today described the outcome:

Dashing Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s drastic designs, the US Congress on Thursday turned down the bill proposing curbs on American aid to Pakistan.

/snip/

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

MEK to Be Delisted as Terrorists in Reward for Engaging in Terrorism

The Foreign Terrorism Organization list really doesn’t mean much if the way to get off it is by killing Iranian scientists at the behest of the US and Israel.

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.

 

As NATO Summit Approaches, Taliban Strength Accumulates

Violence in Afghanistan continues its steady increase.

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.

It seems only fitting that since CNN was where Feinstein and Rogers made their claim that the Taliban is stronger that NATO would choose CNN for their push-back on the idea:

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.

/snip/

There are, however, few signs of improving security in Afghanistan. Read more

Rohrabacher’s Team for Decentralizing Afghan Government: War Criminal, Thief and War Hawk

Portion of mass grave of Dostum's victims excavated in 2002 by Physicians for Human Rights. (Physicians for Human Rights photo)

Yesterday, I pointed out that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai denied entry to his country by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) over the weekend. At the end of that post, I posed a question:

Rohrabacher’s freedom-fighting then gave us a wonderful “hero” by the name of Osama bin Laden. Who will his latest adventures bring us?

It turns out that we can get a good handle on whom Rohrabacher wishes to promote in Afghanistan by going back to Rohrabacher’s own press release arising from his January 9 meeting in Berlin that brought his feud with Karzai to a head. Although Rohrabacher would like us to think that he is arguing for a more decentralized model of government in Afghanistan, his real motivation is revealed in the opening sentence of the press release, where he states he brought a group together “to discuss alternatives to Hamid Karazi’s consideration of including the Taliban in Afghanistan’s coalition government”.

Once again, we see Rohrabacher’s primary operating principle at work. His actions are determined by whom he has chosen as his enemy. Unfortunately, once Rohrabacher has chosen his enemy, all he seeks in an ally is someone who also opposes that enemy. As noted yesterday, that was the process that led him and his Freedom Fighters in the Reagan administration to ally us with Osama bin Laden against the Soviets when they were in Afghanistan. Now, with Karzai daring to negotiate with the Taliban, Rohrabacher has decided to team with anyone in Afghanistan whom he sees as opposing the Taliban. In doing so, he chose for his meeting in Berlin to present a group of “National Front Leaders” that contains the war lord responsible for the largest, most heinous war crime committed in Afghanistan since the turn of the century, a criminal former vice president of the country who was stopped with a suitcase containing $52 million and a former security chief described as an unapologetic hawk who advocates escalating the war in Afghanistan.

Batting leadoff for Rohrabacher’s All Stars is the notorious war criminal Rashid Dostum. Read more

Resistance Rabble-Rouser Rohrabacher Refused Entry to Afghanistan

Rohrabacher playing dress-up in Afghanistan. (Rohrabacher photo via Mother Jones)

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tried to pull a fast one over the weekend and sneak in as a “last minute replacement” on a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. The problem was that, as BBC reported, the rest of the delegation had visas for entry but Rohrabacher did not. Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai learned that Rohrabacher had joined the group prior to it leaving Dubai for Kabul, and he instructed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ground the flight until Rohrabacher was removed.

I find it really hard to believe that Rohrabacher did not plan to be a part of the trip from the start, but wanted to avoid advance publication of his plans. Back in January, Rohrabacher, along with his usual co-conspirators Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA), somehow managed to get Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) to lend a patina of “bipartisanship” to a meeting held in Berlin that many viewed as a call to partition Afghanistan and to arm opposition groups such as the Northern Alliance. This meeting made Karzai “incredibly angry”, giving Rohrabacher good reason to try to stay below Karzai’s radar. Further, Rohrabacher also held a Congressional hearing on establishing an independent Balochistan, which, if drawn according to cultural lines, would take territory from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

The full list of Congressmembers on the weekend trip to Afghanistan has not been disclosed, but the fact Politico reports that it was headed by Gohmert supports my suspicion that Rohrabacher planned to attend all along. The timing for additional meddling in US-Afghanistan relations could not have been worse, because Sunday was when it was announced that the US and Afghanistan had finally reached agreement on the outlines of a long term agreement for US support after the withdrawal of fighting forces. Rohrabacher seems to be quite entertained by Karzai’s response. Returning to the Politico article: Read more

Chief Justice Chaudhry: Balochistan Burns While Police Watch

Showing extreme frustration over senior police officials not appearing before his hearing today on Balochistan, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry lashed out at them:

Chaudhry had summoned Inspector General (IG) Balochistan and relevant Superintendent Police (SP) in the court earlier today on an immediate notice.

“If the police officials failed to comply with the court’s order, they will be sent to jail,” he had warned.

He censured the law enforcement agencies for their incompetency in maintaining peace in the province and remarked that the courts are being kept uninformed about the factual details.

“Balochistan is on fire but the officials are mere spectators to it,” Chaudhry remarked.

The court also heard from three people who previously had been among the “missing”:

In another relevant development, three people who had been recovered from Kuchlak area were presented before the court.

They narrated their ordeal before the bench and said: “We were abducted from Quetta at night; we were blindfolded and then kept at some unknown location for about 40 days.”

The court issued release orders for the three recovered people and directed the police to safely escort them to their homes.

The number of missing people abducted by government forces is very much in dispute, as pointed out on Monday in the Express Tribune:

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBMP), an organisation striving for the safe recovery of missing persons, urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to hold monthly hearings on the issue in Quetta.

“Relatives are coming to Quetta with the hope that the chief justice will recover their loved ones who have been missing for years,” VFBMP Chairman Nasrullah Baloch told The Express Tribune.

Baloch added that the relatives of all 1,300 missing persons will appear before the court and record their statements before Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. “This move will prove that the government and its functionaries are lying (when they say) merely 47 persons are missing,” he said. Read more

Rohrabacher Attempts to Justify His Meddling With Pakistan

Over the weekend, the Washington Post gave California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher space so that he could attempt to explain to us why he is disrupting diplomatic efforts to repair US-Pakistan relations by continuing his quest for an independent Balochistan. Rohrabacher does manage a reference in the opening paragraph to the atrocities befalling the Baloch at the hands of Pakistani authorities, but his  column is more of a laundry list of what is wrong with Pakistan rather than why Balochistan should be independent.

Remarkably, Rohrabacher states “With this resolution, I do not seek to single out Pakistan”, but goes on to list a litany of complaints against Pakistan, most of which have nothing to do with the Baloch. Rohrabacher hits Pakistan for being an accomplice in the 9/11 attacks, for the fate of Shakeel Afridi and for harboring the Taliban. Coming from the man who coined the term “Freedom Fighters” to describe the Mujahedin while on Reagan’s staff and even going so far as to fight alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets, this is a remarkable level of hypocrisy. He also happens to mention that the Chinese have designs on the port of Gwadar. The clincher that Rohrabacher is simply punishing Pakistan comes in his penultimate paragraph:

It is time Washington stopped aiding Pakistan and developed a closer friendship with India and, perhaps, Baluchistan.

Yup, he’s not singling out Pakistan, he just thinks we need to stop supporting them and support their biggest enemy and those fighting from within.

Missing from Rohrabacher’s piece is any mention of what the Baloch are doing in their quest for independence. One would think that having been burned already by teaming with bin Laden out of hatred for the Soviets, Rohrabacher would look into the actions by those he is now supporting against Pakistan. Others appear to be aware that such examination will come soon, and we see a recent piece in Dawn where the independence movement attempts to justify some of its worst violence:

Brahamdagh [Bugti], whom the authorities in Pakistan have variously accused of financing, running and heading terrorist activities in Balochistan, rejected the perception that Baloch sardars were against development in their areas. He said the Baloch were, however, opposed to road-building projects meant for further exploitation of the province’s natural resources.

When asked about the murder of Punjabi settlers in Balochistan, Brahamdagh blamed the army. “When the army kills people, the family members [of those killed) have no choice but to react and take revenge,” he said.

The reason roads are being destroyed is that they are being used exploit natural resources and Punjabi settlers are being murdered because the Baloch have to kill someone in return for the Pakistani army killing their family members. What could possibly go wrong with supporting groups with these views?

 

Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King Invade National Press Club

Map from Wikimedia Commons

Lacking both the authority and the means to carry out their own invasion of Pakistan to secure the independence of Balochistan, Republican Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Louie Gohmert (TX) and Steve King (IA) instead invaded the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Tuesday for a press conference. Freedom for Balochistan is the latest quest for Rohrabacher, who has a history of being profoundly wrong in how he pursues freedom for various peoples.

One should never forget that as a speech-writing aide to Reagan, Rohrabacher was in on the ground floor of the “Freedom Fighter” effort in Afghanistan that funded Osama bin Laden:

Rohrabacher’s Afghanistan history dates back to his days as a speechwriter and presidential adviser in the Reagan White House, where he helped shape the Reagan Doctrine—the policy of arming resistance movements to undermine Soviet influence, with the mujahideen serving as Exhibit A. “I’d be there with guys in full Afghan garb in the executive dining room of the White House,” he recalls.

Of course, Rohrabacher wants to relegate his role in advancing bin Laden’s career to the dustbin. However, his approach in demonizing his current foe, the government of Pakistan, is just as wrong-headed as the decision to fund and arm bin Laden. From yesterday’s press conference:

“The government of Pakistan is radical Islam,” and has been providing weapons and resources to radical Muslim elements who use them against Americans, Rohrabacher said. “They are the evil force, they are the radicals.”

Wow. In all my blogging about Pakistan, I’ve totally missed the part about how the mullahs run the government. I was under the impression that Pakistan has a secular, civilian government. In fact, it appears that this government is making significant strides in avoiding the military coups that have befallen all previous Pakistani civilian governments.

But Rohrabacher was not alone in bringing forth profoundly wrong ideas at the press conference. Here is Gohmert:

Gohmert accused Pakistan of supplying the Taliban through Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan. Supporting an independent Balochistan could close of that supply route, he said. “The enemy of my enemy should be my friend,” he said.

That’s tremendous strategy from Gohmert. A look at the map above reveals that once Balochistan is “free” (and following the desires of Rohrabacher, Gohmert and King in all their actions, one presumes), there is just no way that supplies from Pakistan could get to Taliban forces in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Read more

Unintended Consequences: Rohrabacher’s Inept Balochistan Meddling Provokes Pak Rebuke of ISI, MI for Extra-Judicial Killings

On February 8, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) held a hearing on Balochistan, which he followed up on February 17 with a resolution calling for an independent Balochistan. As I reported on the hearing, Rohrabacher mispronounced Balochistan so badly during the hearing that one Pakistani newspaper referred to him as “Donna Rohrbacher”. As might be expected, having a minor congressman meddle so clumsily in foreign affairs had a horrible immediate fallout, with large anti-US demonstrations in Pakistan developing in response to the independence resolution.

The fact that Rohrabacher is playing petty politics with the fate of a large number of people has not been overlooked in Pakistan. Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Najmuddin A. Shaikh, writing yesterday in Dawn, had this to say in an opinion piece:

Rohrabacher has had an interest in Afghanistan for the last 30 years. As part of president Reagan’s stable of speech writers he takes credit for having Reagan call the Afghan Mujahideen ‘freedom fighters’ and even for the parallel Reagan drew between America’s founding fathers and the Mujahideen. In those days, Pakistan was his favourite country.

Today his attitude towards Pakistan is coloured by what he believes Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan and not by his concern for the Baloch people. Had he been genuinely concerned about Balochistan his star witness should have been Selig Harrison who has long been regarded in the American security establishment as the foremost expert on Balochistan.

That has been my concern as well. Rohrabacher’s professed support for the Balochs seems strikingly like the support the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans displayed for the Kurds after the first Gulf War, where the Kurds were encouraged to take on Saddam Hussein, only for the Republicans to then stand by idly while Hussein massacred them. In this case, it appears that Rohrabacher is professing support for the Baloch, but mainly for the way in which this support can weaken the Pakistani government, which he blames for sheltering Taliban insurgents who carry out attacks in Afghanistan and for hiding Osama bin Laden (who was no longer a Freedom Fighter, I guess).

Despite this cyncial background, however, the attention generated by Rohrabacher’s stunts is having some distinctly positive effects. Writing yesterday at BBC.com, Ahmed Rashid notes:

It took an obscure United States congressman holding a controversial hearing in Washington on the civil war in Balochistan to awaken the conscience of the Pakistani government, military and public. Read more