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Entries in Jeremy Scahill (5)


Yemen Feature: Why is President Obama Insisting on Imprisonment of an Honest Journalist?

Abduelah Haider Shaye (Photo: Iona Craig)On February 2, 2011, President Obama called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The two discussed counterterrorism cooperation and the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. At the end of the call, according to a White House read-out, Obama “expressed concern” over the release of a man named Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom Obama said “had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP". It turned out that Shaye had not yet been released at the time of the call, but Saleh did have a pardon for him prepared and was ready to sign it.

It would not have been unusual for the White House to express concern about Yemen’s allowing AQAP suspects to go free. Suspicious prison breaks of Islamist militants in Yemen had been a regular occurrence over the past decade, and Saleh has been known to exploit the threat of terrorism to leverage counterterrorism dollars from the United States.

But this case was different. Abdulelah Haider Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist.

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Somalia Special: The CIA's Secret Bases (Scahill)

Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago, is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

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Yemen: The Dangerous US Game (Scahill)

Hillary Clinton and Ali Abdullah SalehThe prospect of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure is a source of great anxiety for the White House, but the United States has unintentionally played a significant role in weakening his regime. For more than a decade, US policy neglected Yemen’s civil society and development, focusing instead on a military strategy aimed at hunting down terrorists. These operations not only caused the deaths of dozens of civilians, fueling popular anger against Saleh for allowing the US military to conduct them; they also fed Saleh’s corruption while doing nothing to address Yemen’s place as the poorest country in the Arab world, which proved to be major driving forces behind the rebellion.

A serious case could be made that the stakes are much higher for the United States in Yemen than in Libya, yet its response to the repression of protests in the two countries has been starkly different.

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Afghanistan: America's Failed War of Attrition (Scahill)

It is not simply a matter of ideology versus technology. The Taliban is not one unified body. The Afghan insurgency is fueled by fighters with a wide variety of motivations. Some are dedicated jihadists, but others are fighting to defend their land or are seeking revenge for the killing of family members by NATO or Afghan forces. While Al Qaeda has been almost entirely expelled from Afghanistan, the insurgency still counts a small number of non-Afghans among its ranks. Bolstering the Taliban's recruitment efforts is the perception in Afghanistan that the Taliban pays better than NATO or the Afghan army or police.

The hard reality US officials don't want to discuss is this: the cultural and religious values of much of the Pashtun population--which comprises 25–40 percent of the country--more closely align with those of the Taliban than they do with Afghan government or US/NATO forces.

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Afghanistan Special: How the US Kills Its Allies and Helps a New Taliban Generation (Fitzgerald)

Certainly, the killing of Sahib Jan and the rise of a new generation of more militant Taliban  both point to a severe lack of "granular understanding of local circumstances". What is curious is that American officials and observers have been talking about granular understanding in Afghanistan for years. The author of the Times piece, Scott Atran, is an anthropologist, and it was anthropologists such as Montgomery McFate and David Kilcullen who advocated aid to intelligence-gathering by sending social scientists to map the "human terrain" in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Four years into the "human terrain systems" programme, why is it still possible for special forces to target a "reconciled" Taliban? Why is ISAF inadvertently killing off those Taliban with whom it is possible to negotiate?

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