Wikileaks Document Dump Supports New Rules of Engagement and Need for Responsible Transition

The 92,000 classified documents on the war inAfghanistan posted by Wikileaks and made public on Sunday are already causing a firestorm.

Although I can't claim to have reviewed the tens of thousands of documents myself (Human Rights First will be reviewing them for specific information on detentions at Bagram and the U.S. reliance on private contractors in Afghanistan), the accounts from diligent reporters so far suggest that the documents support the Obama administration's new rules of engagement, which emphasize the importance of keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. While some soldiers in combat have complained about that, the latest reports in these newly-released documents that some U.S. efforts to target insurgents has led to the killing of civilians and stoked Afghan anger suggest that the administration's efforts to limit the use of air power so as not to kill Afghan civilians unnecessarily was the right move. Reducing unnecessary civilian casualties is not only important to compliance with the laws of war, but it's critical to the U.S. counterinsurgency effort. After all, killing Afghan civilians isn't a very effective way to win hearts and minds. The change in the rules also appears to have responded to solid information the military had received about field operations gone wrong.

Many of the failures in Afghanistan reportedly catalogued in the released documents, which do not extend past 2009 and therefore do not reflect the impact of the new rules of engagement, appear to be the result of insufficient investment in securing Afghanistan and preparing the Afghan police and security forces to responsibly assume their appropriate roles in their own country. To the extent that the U.S. military is currently working with NATO forces to train the Afghan police and security forces to improve their practices, these Wiki-released documents support that effort.

Human Rights First has consistently urged the administration to plan for the turnover of U.S. detention operations to the Afghan government by helping the Afghans develop fair and humane detention and justice systems that reflect a commitment to international standards of due process for suspected terrorists. The Afghans need civilian training, support and funding for those efforts,which are critical to allowing the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan responsibly. I plan to take a trip to Afghanistan in the fall to observe first-hand how that transition is proceeding and whether the U.S. and its NATO allies are providing the necessary support and training.

 Unfortunately, some lawmakers, understandably concerned about corruption, have responded by voting to block all civilian aid to Afghanistan, which could seriously jeopardize those efforts and the United States' long term goals.

When the firestorm over the latest Wikileaks document dump dies down, let's hope that a responsible transition strategy remains standing.

Wikileaks Document Dump Supports New Rules of Engagement and Need for Responsible Transition

The 92,000 classified documents on the war inAfghanistan posted by Wikileaks and made public on Sunday are already causing a firestorm.

Although I can't claim to have reviewed the tens of thousands of documents myself (Human Rights First will be reviewing them for specific information on detentions at Bagram and the U.S. reliance on private contractors in Afghanistan), the accounts from diligent reporters so far suggest that the documents support the Obama administration's new rules of engagement, which emphasize the importance of keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. While some soldiers in combat have complained about that, the latest reports in these newly-released documents that some U.S. efforts to target insurgents has led to the killing of civilians and stoked Afghan anger suggest that the administration's efforts to limit the use of air power so as not to kill Afghan civilians unnecessarily was the right move. Reducing unnecessary civilian casualties is not only important to compliance with the laws of war, but it's critical to the U.S. counterinsurgency effort. After all, killing Afghan civilians isn't a very effective way to win hearts and minds. The change in the rules also appears to have responded to solid information the military had received about field operations gone wrong.

Many of the failures in Afghanistan reportedly catalogued in the released documents, which do not extend past 2009 and therefore do not reflect the impact of the new rules of engagement, appear to be the result of insufficient investment in securing Afghanistan and preparing the Afghan police and security forces to responsibly assume their appropriate roles in their own country. To the extent that the U.S. military is currently working with NATO forces to train the Afghan police and security forces to improve their practices, these Wiki-released documents support that effort.

Human Rights First has consistently urged the administration to plan for the turnover of U.S. detention operations to the Afghan government by helping the Afghans develop fair and humane detention and justice systems that reflect a commitment to international standards of due process for suspected terrorists. The Afghans need civilian training, support and funding for those efforts,which are critical to allowing the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan responsibly. I plan to take a trip to Afghanistan in the fall to observe first-hand how that transition is proceeding and whether the U.S. and its NATO allies are providing the necessary support and training.

 Unfortunately, some lawmakers, understandably concerned about corruption, have responded by voting to block all civilian aid to Afghanistan, which could seriously jeopardize those efforts and the United States' long term goals.

When the firestorm over the latest Wikileaks document dump dies down, let's hope that a responsible transition strategy remains standing.

Wikileaks Document Dump Supports New Rules of Engagement and Need for Responsible Transition

The 92,000 classified documents on the war inAfghanistan posted by Wikileaks and made public on Sunday are already causing a firestorm.

Although I can't claim to have reviewed the tens of thousands of documents myself (Human Rights First will be reviewing them for specific information on detentions at Bagram and the U.S. reliance on private contractors in Afghanistan), the accounts from diligent reporters so far suggest that the documents support the Obama administration's new rules of engagement, which emphasize the importance of keeping civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. While some soldiers in combat have complained about that, the latest reports in these newly-released documents that some U.S. efforts to target insurgents has led to the killing of civilians and stoked Afghan anger suggest that the administration's efforts to limit the use of air power so as not to kill Afghan civilians unnecessarily was the right move. Reducing unnecessary civilian casualties is not only important to compliance with the laws of war, but it's critical to the U.S. counterinsurgency effort. After all, killing Afghan civilians isn't a very effective way to win hearts and minds. The change in the rules also appears to have responded to solid information the military had received about field operations gone wrong.

Many of the failures in Afghanistan reportedly catalogued in the released documents, which do not extend past 2009 and therefore do not reflect the impact of the new rules of engagement, appear to be the result of insufficient investment in securing Afghanistan and preparing the Afghan police and security forces to responsibly assume their appropriate roles in their own country. To the extent that the U.S. military is currently working with NATO forces to train the Afghan police and security forces to improve their practices, these Wiki-released documents support that effort.

Human Rights First has consistently urged the administration to plan for the turnover of U.S. detention operations to the Afghan government by helping the Afghans develop fair and humane detention and justice systems that reflect a commitment to international standards of due process for suspected terrorists. The Afghans need civilian training, support and funding for those efforts,which are critical to allowing the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan responsibly. I plan to take a trip to Afghanistan in the fall to observe first-hand how that transition is proceeding and whether the U.S. and its NATO allies are providing the necessary support and training.

 Unfortunately, some lawmakers, understandably concerned about corruption, have responded by voting to block all civilian aid to Afghanistan, which could seriously jeopardize those efforts and the United States' long term goals.

When the firestorm over the latest Wikileaks document dump dies down, let's hope that a responsible transition strategy remains standing.

Time for 'A Full and Open Debate' about Drones

 

Last week, in a rare public interview, Michael Leiter, the nation's counterterrorism chief, acknowledged that the government's drone and targeted killing strategy, which appears to have become a cornerstone of the Obama administration's "war on terror," demands "a full and open debate."

Leiter was responding to a question from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff about the fact that the Obama administration

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US Refusal To Investigate Torture Lets Other Countries Do It For Us

 

The Supreme Court's refusal this week to hear the claims of Maher Arar, a Canadian sent to Syria to be interrogated under torture in 2002, is appropriately being condemned as another example of the U.S. avoiding any legal or moral responsibility for government- sanctioned torture.

What seems to shock and outrage people about the Arar case in particular is that the facts are not in dispute. Canada, whose security services were complicit in his rendition to Syria, has publicly acknowledged its responsibility, compensated Arar,and launched a criminal investigation of U.S. and Syrian officials. The United States, on the other hand, has still neither admitted its role nor held any U.S. officials accountable. And, it hasn't paid Arar a dime.

The United States' refusal to acknowledge its role in the torture of terrorism suspects even when faced with overwhelming evidence of U.S. involvement has become an unfortunate pattern. But it's heartening to see that other countries aren't dropping the matter.

On Monday, the European Court of Human Rights announced that it would hear the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen seized by Macedonian authorities at the request of the United States. El-Masri was beaten and abused during interrogations in both Macedonia and the notorious "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan. Authorities unceremoniously dumped him on a roadside in Albania without charging him with any wrongdoing.His case against U.S. officials was dismissed by a federal court on the grounds that it would reveal "state secrets." The Bush and Obama Administrations have both invoked State Secrets to stop the disclosure of evidence that may reveal government misconduct.

And last year, an Italian court convicted 21 alleged CIA operatives and a US air force operator for their role in the kidnapping and rendition to Egypt of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric who was already under surveillance by Italian authorities, who suspected him of having ties to al Qaeda. Omar claims he was held incommunicado and tortured in an Egyptian prison for seven months. He was eventually released without charge.

The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that it wants to look forward, not backward, and so has refused to examine the role of senior U.S. officials in the torture of terrorism suspects. In adopting that position, the government is reneging on its obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which demands both that torturers be held accountable and that victims receive remedies.

Until the U.S. lives up to those responsibilities, its past practices and officers will continue to be scrutinized by foreign governments and justice systems. Those verdicts will cast judgment not only on the past administration's conduct, however. To the extent that foreign governments have to intervene to bring justice to victims of U.S. policies, they will reveal the extent of the United States' current respect for the rule of law as well.

 

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