Latest Developments, October 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
New York University’s Sarah Knuckey provides a brief summary of the new interim report on the UN’s investigation into drone strikes and targeted killings:

“There is ‘strong evidence’ that between 2004 and 2008, Pakistani intelligence and military officials consented to US strikes, and that senior government officials acquiesced and at times gave ‘active approval’ (¶53). However, the report states that only the democratically elected Government of Pakistan can provide legal consent to US strikes, and (now) only in accordance with consent procedures announced in a 2012 parliamentary resolution. Any current cooperation ‘at the military or intelligence level’ does not ‘affect the position in international law’ (¶54). On this basis, the report finds that there is currently no legal consent, and thus that the continued US use of force in Pakistan violates Pakistani sovereignty (absent valid US self-defence).”

African test case
The New York Times reports that the US military, eager for new missions after Iraq and Afghanistan, is using its Africa Command to try out “a new Army program of regionally aligned brigades”:

“The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
The brigade has also sent a 150-member rapid-response force to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to protect embassies in emergencies, a direct reply to the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed four Americans.

Before deploying, the troops in Kansas receive six days of cultural training and instruction from Africa-born graduate students at nearby Kansas State University.”

Françafrique redux
In an interview with La Voix du Nord, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian indicates that France is also looking to increase its military capacities in Africa:

“We can carry out two or three [UN-led] operations simultaneously. We do, after all, have 280,000 troops and there are only 3,000 in Mali, as far as I know. I would even say that, with the changes to the military budget I’ve undertaken, we could do another Mali alone, without the Americans. With drones – the first two Reapers will arrive in Niamey by the end of the year –, the transport planes and the supplies that have been ordered. The puny little French army I’ve been hearing about will be able to do another Mali all by itself in the years to come.
The key is our reactivity in Africa between the prepositioned forces and, shall we say, the long-term foreign operations. If we succeeded in Mali, it’s because we had troops in Ouagadougou. We’re on the ground in Dakar, Abidjan, Bangui, Libreville, Bamako, N’Djamena, Niamey. The time has come to think about improved reactivity, particularly with regards to managing the Sahel question.” [Translated from the French.]

Migrant deaths
The Miami Herald reports that a boat carrying Caribbean migrants has capsized off the Florida coast, killing at least four:

“ ‘It was difficult to ascertain truly how many people were on this overloaded vessel,’ said Commander Darren Caprara, chief response officer for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami.

Once in U.S. custody, Haitian and Jamaican migrants may ask for asylum, after which asylum officers would determine whether each one has a ‘credible fear’ of being returned home.
If they pass the credible-fear test, the migrants would have their cases heard in front of immigration judges. A win there would allow them to be freed and to apply for a green card after a year in the United States. If they lose, including appeals, they would be deported.
A separate policy known as wet foot/dry foot applies to undocumented Cuban migrants. Those caught at sea are generally returned to the island nation, while those who reach U.S. land can stay.”

Saudi no
Al Jazeera reports that Saudi Arabia has turned down a two-year stint on the Security Council, accusing the UN of “double standards”

“ ‘Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,’ the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
‘Therefore Saudi Arabia… has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world’s peace and security,’ it added.”

Illegal texts
The BBC reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has backed an “illegal-immigrant text message campaign” despite some wrong numbers:

“The Home Office says just 14 people out of a total of 58,800 contacted were mistakenly asked if they had overstayed their visas.
But campaigners say the true number of people wrongly contacted is far higher.
Labour described the government’s tactic as ‘shambolic and incompetent’

Originally, [the texts] had included the phrase: ‘You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain.’ ”

Kyrgyz pullout
Foreign Policy reports that the US military has announced it will return the Manas airbase to Kyrgyzstan by next July, after years of bumpy relations with the host government:

“The Defense Department instead will expand its use of an air base in eastern Romania called Forward Operating Site Mihail Kogalniceanu, or ‘MK,’ which now serves as a logistics hub for U.S. European Command. MIK is already used to house as many as 1,350 troops at any one time, typically for rotational use for troops deployed to Romania. Now that will be used for troops leaving Afghanistan.”

Casting stones
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders suggests it is problematic for Canada to apply “the ‘G’ word” to countries like Turkey when its own past may be no less genocidal:

“The UN Genocide Convention, which Canada ratified more than six decades ago and has applied against other countries, defines the crime as including ‘any of’ a list of acts committed against an identifiable group, including not just mass killing and mass physical or mental harm but also ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part,’ ‘imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,’ and ‘forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’ You can find sustained examples of many of these in Canadian history, plus acts of cultural destruction such as forcing thousands of Inuit to replace their names with metal number plates.”

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