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Obama Sides With Bush on Bagram Detainees

The Obama Administration has advised a federal judge that it agrees with former President Bush's position that detainees at the U.S. military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan have no right to challenge their confinement in U.S. Courts.

Last year, the US Supreme Court gave suspects held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to challenge their detention.
Following that ruling, petitions were filed at a Washington district court on behalf of four detainees at Bagram.

The judge then gave the new administration an opportunity to refine the rules on appeals. In a two-sentence filing, justice department lawyers said the new administration had decided not to change the government's position.

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CIA Plays Candy Man to Afghans

What will the CIA do to win friends among the Afghans? The Washington Post reports almost anything -- including handing out little blue pills to help the warlords with "sagging libidos."

Officials say these inducements are necessary in Afghanistan, a country where warlords and tribal leaders expect to be paid for their cooperation, and where, for some, switching sides can be as easy as changing tunics. If the Americans don't offer incentives, there are others who will, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents in the region.

The usual bribes of choice -- cash and weapons -- aren't always the best options, Afghanistan veterans say. Guns too often fall into the wrong hands, they say, and showy gifts such as money, jewelry and cars tend to draw unwanted attention.

What's next? Stress relievers, anti-depressants, "pep pills", Ambien?

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What if Afghanistan Legalized Opium?

Reza Azlan, writing at The Daily Beast, posits that legalizing opium could save Afghanistan:

America's drug war in Afghanistan has been a miserable failure. So why not legalize opium production and let Afghanistan become the Saudi Arabia of morphine?

He makes some good points. Among them:

It is time to admit that the struggle to end poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is a losing battle. The fact is that opium has long been Afghanistan’s sole successful export. Poppy seeds cost little to buy, can grow pretty much anywhere, and offer a huge return on a farmer’s investment. Only the Taliban has ever managed to significantly reduce opium production in the country (as it did during its late-1990s rule)—a feat managed by executing anyone caught growing poppies. It is no exaggeration to say that we have a better chance of defeating the Taliban than putting a dent in Afghanistan’s opium trade. So then, as the saying goes: if you can’t beat them, join them.

It won't happen, of course. Instead, Congress will redouble its efforts to pass "narco-terror" laws which will end up being used here at home against people who wouldn't know a terrorist if they found one in their soup. (Another example of a failed bill that could make a comeback here.)

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Trading One War for Another

So you think the new President will end our involvement in foreign wars? I never did, I just thought he'd trade one war for another, Iraq for Afghanistan.

It seems like this will be the case. The AP reports our Marines will be moving from Iraq to Afghanistan:

The top U.S. Marine general says there is a growing consensus among defense leaders to send a substantial contingent of Marines to Afghanistan, probably beginning next spring, while dramatically reducing their deployments to western Iraq.

Get ready for the narco-terror war. When they don't capture terrorists in Afghanistan, they'll bust the drug wholesalers and transporters and say they got terrorists.

No change here, other than one of geography. Whatever happened to "Bring the Troops Home?" Guess that went out of fashion after Vietnam.

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U.S. Allows Family Visits at Afghan Military Prison

After years of negotiating with human rights groups and the Red Cross, the U.S. this week allowed five detainees at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan to receive a family visit. There are 600 detainees in Bagram, some of whom have been held for years.

The decision to allow the visits followed years of discussions between American officers and the Red Cross, which says face-to-face visits between prisoners and relatives are a guaranteed right under international humanitarian law.

...The U.S. military in Iraq already allows visits to detainees by family members. Two detention centers, one in Baghdad and one on the Kuwait border, receive an average of 13,000 visitors a month, said Maj. Neal V. Fisher II, a U.S. spokesman in Iraq. Video conference visits are also available, he said.

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We Are Not Winning in Afghanistan

Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress today we are not winning in Afghanistan.

Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appeared before the House Armed Services Committee a day after President Bush announced that the U.S. would increase its presence in Afghanistan by 1,500 troops. Gates, who focused on Iraq, told the committee he thought that the U.S. strategy in Iraq has "entered that end game."

Their testimony was a public airing of a discussion that's going on within the Pentagon about how quickly the military can shift its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. While violence has dropped precipitously in Iraq, it's climbed in Afghanistan. U.S. troop deaths there are higher than Iraq now, despite a far smaller presence. In addition, insurgent groups increasingly are taking control of villages.

Mullen thinks we can win in Afghanistan with more troops and a different strategy. We are not going to save Afghanistan no matter how many troops we put there. [More...]

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Bush to Increase Troops to Afghanistan

The media headlines are all about Bush reducing troops in Iraq. Of course troop reduction in Iraq is a good thing.

But, he also announced that he's increasing troops to Afghanistan due to "renewed resistance from the Taliban."

....the president says that a Marine battalion will be on its way there in November -- instead of going to Iraq. And an Army combat brigade will follow in January.

....Bush's plan to instead shift forces to Afghanistan may give ammunition to the argument of his critics: that while focusing on Iraq, the president paid too little attention to the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Moving troops from one country to another is neither an end to war nor a success. Bringing all our troops home is what's needed.

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Afghanistan and the Opium Crop

The New York Times Magazine has an 7 page article on Afghanistan and the opium crop, with a headline asking if the country is a "narco state."

The author's suggestions for fixing the problem include these steps:

1. Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support. Karzai should issue a new decree of zero tolerance for poppy cultivation during the coming growing season. He should order farmers to plant wheat, and guarantee today’s high wheat prices. Karzai must simultaneously authorize aggressive force-protected manual and aerial eradication of poppies in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces for those farmers who do not plant legal crops.

2. Order the Pentagon to support this strategy. Position allied and Afghan troops in places that create security pockets so that Afghan counternarcotics police can arrest powerful drug lords. Enable force-protected eradication with the Afghan-set goal of eradicating 50,000 hectares as the benchmark.

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9 Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

Nine U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today, more than any number since 2005. As Big Tent Democrat noted earlier, President Bush is now suggesting some troops may begin pulling out of Iraq in the coming months.

Pulling out for where? Home? Not so fast. We may just be trading one war for another.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned during a visit to Kabul last week that there are more foreign fighters, including al-Qaeda members, in Pakistan's tribal areas, militants who cross the border and launch attacks against U.S. and Afghan troops.

Mullen has said he hopes improved security in Iraq will allow troops to be shifted this year from Iraq to Afghanistan, where violence is rising.

One of the things that concerns me about Sen. Barack Obama is his many references to the need to step up the fight in Afghanistan. [More...]

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Obama on Guantanamo and the War on Terror

Sen. Barack Obama today named his National Security team and delivered a prepared speech on the war on terror and Guantanamo. I'm disappointed with it.

Three examples:

There are terrorists who are determined to kill as many Americans as they can. The world’s most dangerous weapons risk falling into the wrong hands. And that is why the single greatest priority of my presidency will be doing anything and everything that I can to keep the American people safe. (my emphasis.)

If you were hoping universal health care or creating more jobs or reducing our country's reliance on incarceration would be his greatest priority, this is a letdown.

On Afghanistan: [More...]

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U.S. Building New Prison in Afghanistan

The Pentagon is building a shiny new prison complex in Afghanistan, where it believes prisoners will be held "for years to come." The initial cost: $60 million.

Until now, the Bush administration had signaled that it intended to scale back American involvement in detention operations in Afghanistan. It had planned to transfer a large majority of the prisoners to Afghan custody, in an American-financed, high-security prison outside Kabul to be guarded by Afghan soldiers.

But American officials now concede that the new Afghan-run prison cannot absorb all the Afghans now detained by the United States, much less the waves of new prisoners from the escalating fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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