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Quagmires R Us: Now Adding Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Dial "Q" for quagmire. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarkably, the US is sending “clandestine” CIA teams into Libya to coordinate bombing runs and to provide contact with the rebels there at the same time that courts in Pakistan are still sorting out how Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country after his blood money payment despite having been placed on the Exit Control List.  Also, Washington is gearing up for a “debate” on drawing down US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military now angling to narrow the options to include only insignificant numbers to be withdrawn.  Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the remaining “non-combat” US troops there, violence in Iraq continues, with 56 killed in a single attack Wednesday.

In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has given various government offices until April 8 to respond to a petition that has been filed with the court requesting information on how CIA operative Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country despite having been placed on the Exit Control List:

The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, requested the court to seek explanation from Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, AD&SJ Mohammad Yousuf Aujla and others as to why they facilitated Davis in his acquittal and emergent departure despite the fact that his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

/snip/

The petitioner had stated that the LHC had directed the interior ministry to place Davis’s name on the ECL and the court was also assured by a law officer and the ministry that the order had been complied with.

He had further said that the court order was in place when Davis was released and the LHC had not suspended or withdrawn its order and no such application was filed by any one on behalf of Davis.

The petitioner had therefore alleged that the government and its functionaries released Davis ignoring the order of the LHC through which his name was placed on the ECL.

And yet, despite the ongoing fallout from the CIA’s continuing misadventures in Pakistan, Obama has signed a “finding” allowing CIA teams to enter Libya with assignments that appear to be very similar to Davis’ reported activities in developing targets for drone attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

/snip/

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

/snip/

In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.

Given the track record of the US in these matters, you can bet that it is only a matter of time until our operatives are engaged not just in “directing the actions” of the the rebels but also actively engaged in the miraculous “training” that always is just on the verge of achieving success, but needs only another Friedman Unit or two to be completed. Of course, we probably also will need some drone strikes to “protect” the rebels and their trainers, too.

At the more mature end of the quagmire process that is beginning in Libya, we are about to move to the next phase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports Thursday morning on the upcoming battle over the extent of troop reductions this summer:

Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate.

Despite the fact that Obama is the Commander in Chief, Obama is following his usual negotiation strategy by allowing others to set the parameters of the debate:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House.

/snip/

As both sides prepare for what they expect to be a vigorous debate, they are seeking ways to achieve their favored outcome by limiting what the other can do. For the military, that means crafting a narrow set of choices, because there is general agreement that reduction numbers need to originate in the field, not be imposed by the White House. But the National Security Council may attempt to impose its own limitations by setting a date by which all the surge forces must be brought home, the officials said.

And how is that going to work out? We only need go as far as Iraq to find out. The “drawdown” there was finalized by redefining the remaining troops as “non-combat”. And that is going just swimmingly:

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for a bloody siege in Tikrit in which 56 people were killed, Iraqi officials have said.

Tuesday’s attack took place at a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A fierce gun-battle ended when the attackers – numbering about eight – blew themselves up.

Just how many quagmires do we have to be engaged in simultaneously for the military-industrial-congressional complex to be satisfied?

Raymond Davis Freed After Payment of Blood Money

4:58 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Raymond Davis on the day of his arrest. (screengrab from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-kcRDhatoM)

With all of the attention on Japan in the past few days, I missed the scheduled hearing date of March 14 for Raymond Davis’ immunity question to be settled. It turns out the Lahore High Court punted on that issue on the 14th, and referred the immunity question back to the criminal trial which was underway but in recess. Today, however, Davis was released after payment of blood money to the surviving family members of his victims. This is likely not to go over well in Pakistan, where a group of ex-military members yesterday called for Davis to be waterboarded, in order to eliminate his “network”.

Here is Dawn on the release:

A Pakistan court on Wednesday freed CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was accused of murdering two men in Lahore, after blood money was paid in accordance with sharia law, the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said.

“The family members of the slain men appeared in the court and independently verified they had pardoned him (Davis),” provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told private Geo television.

“He has been released from jail. Now it is up to him. He can go wherever he wants,” he added.

The Express Tribune has more:

Initial reports from sources state that Davis has been flown to London.

A sessions court has acquitted Davis. Earlier in the day, a sessions court judge in Lahore had formally indicted US national Davis.

On Monday, the Lahore High Court had refused to rule on the question of diplomatic immunity for Davis, sending the question back to the sessions court where he was being tried in the murder case:

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled on Monday that the matter of immunity for US citizen Raymond Davis will be decided by the trial court, and disposed of all petitions challenging his diplomatic status in Pakistan.

When the government replied vaguely on the issue, LHC Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry silenced petitioners’ lawyers — who created pandemonium after hearing unclear replies submitted by the foreign ministry, — by observing that since the Davis trial was in progress, the trial court should be allowed to “adjudicate on this matter”.

Questioning the government counsel if his side had submitted any letter establishing his diplomatic status, the chief justice said that if the foreign ministry did not issue any letter for the diplomatic status of the accused, why should the court insist on submitting such a certificate?

As a preview of how badly Davis’ release will be received in Pakistan, consider this call from a group of ex-servicemembers yesterday for Davis to be waterboarded:

The 2,000-member strong Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) is joining political parties, religious groups and security officials by diving headfirst into the chatter over the Raymond Davis issue. It plans to stage a protest in Islamabad on March 23 to raise awareness about “issues of national interest”, including the case of Raymond Davis.

/snip/

The demands laid out in an e-mail sent to PESA’s members call for the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

The e-mail says: “Raymond Davis is seen as a saboteur operating as a mercenary for the destabilisation of Pakistan, under the protection of the US government. He has been creating and executing threats to the security of our citizens and homeland. He must be fully interrogated using all methods (including water-boarding) that are used by the US against those who act against the security of the US. His network and methods must be followed and eliminated. Probability of other mercenaries/CIA operated networks must be investigated through him.”

According to a 2004 CIA report, 9/11 suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammad was waterboarded 183 times. The report defined the technique: “The application of the waterboard technique involves binding a detainee to a bench with his feet elevated over his head. The detainee’s head is immobilised and an interrogator places a cloth over the detainee’s mouth and nose while pouring water onto the cloth in a controlled manner. Airflow is restricted for 20 to 40 seconds and the technique produces the sensation of drowning and suffocation.”

I will watch for reports of reaction to Davis’ release.

Raymond Davis Murder Trial Proceeds, Blood Money Discussed, Germans Arrested

8:13 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Developments in the Raymond Davis case are continuing. Davis’ double murder trial for his killing of two Pakistani citizens on January 27 in Lahore will resume on March 8, with the hearing on his immunity status still postponed until March 14. David Ignatius reported earlier this week that the concept of the payment of blood money is being discussed as a way out of the impasse, and the Washington Post is continuing with that theme today. In a somewhat related development, five German nationals have been arrested in Lahore as Pakistan continues to review the documentation of foreign nationals who might fit the profiles of Raymond Davis or Aaron Dehaven.

Here is Dawn’s description of the proceedings Thursday in the “sessions court” which is hearing the double murder charges against Davis, with the proceedings being carried out in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore:

A sessions court rejected on Thursday US citizen Raymond Davis’s claim that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and decided to go ahead with his trial.

/snip/

“I also told the court since various petitions relating to Davis’s immunity are being heard by the Lahore High Court, trying the accused right now will be a wastage of time,” Mr Bukhari said.

He said the court, however, rejected his plea saying it had not received any stay order from the superior court.

Mr. Bukhari is a retired judge who is Davis’ defense attorney. The article then went on to state that the trial was adjourned until March 8.

With the murder trial moving ahead before the hearing on immunity, the parallel pressure for a “blood money” route becomes very significant. Here is Ignatius’ description from Wednesday:

This approach would require a prominent Islamic intermediary – perhaps from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates – who would invite relatives of the two men Davis killed to the Gulf. Payment to the victims’ families could then be negotiated quietly. Once the next of kin had agreed to this settlement, the legal case against Davis for murder might be moot in a Pakistani court.

A senior Pakistani official in Washington outlined this “blood money” concept in a conversation Monday. An official of that country’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate also endorsed this approach; he said it had the advantage of meshing with the dispute-resolution customs of the Middle East and South Asia.

Asked about such a third-party mediation to free Davis, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday: “The United States is open to exploring any and all options that could resolve this matter. . . . It’s in our mutual interest to move beyond the Davis issue, and we believe the Pakistanis understand the stakes involved.”

So it would appear that Ignatius, who has a reputation for close contact with the CIA, has been in contact also with ISI. Both ISI and the CIA appear to be leaning in favor of blood money, at least as Ignatius would have us believe. This approach puts Davis’ fate in the hands of the families of those killed, and this remarkable interview with several of the family members shows that getting forgiveness from them is not going to be easy:

What is important here is that the decision by the families on whether to accept blood money must be made prior to a verdict being rendered in the murder trial. Since the trial now is slated to resume on Tuesday, these negotiations have little time left.

It is intriguing to me that the Lahore High Court has chosen not to order the murder trial delayed until after it makes a decision on immunity. Perhaps the High Court has decided that should the families not opt to accept blood money, a strategic outcome might be to allow a guilty verdict to be rendered and then to declare immunity after the fact. Perhaps such immunity after the fact would come conditioned on some sort of promise from the US to jail Davis for his crime.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s process of examining the immigration status of foreign nationals who might be involved in intelligence continues. Following on the arrest of US national Aaron DeHaven last week, five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday, and just as was the case for Davis, they are said to have had “sensitive” photos on their cameras:

Five German nationals were arrested in Lahore on Friday for not having their travel documents.

According to Express 24/7 correspondent Shiraz Hasnat, the foreigners were not able to provide their documents and were taken into custody for questioning by the police.

The reporter said that police had found snapshots on their cameras of the railway headquarters and other senstive [sic] areas nearby.

Stay tuned for further developments.