FP's Situation Report: On FP, the disturbing story of the U.N.'s failed peacekeeping mission in Darfur
A runoff likely in Afg., but election a signal of smoother relations; Hagel to send destroyers to Asia; LT says: "your soldiers will amaze you;" and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold with Nathaniel Sobel
An FP investigation: How the U.N. mission in Darfur failed - and why. After the Darfur genocide, the U.N. sent in 20,000 peacekeepers with a single mission - to protect the region's civilians. But an FP investigation by FP's Colum Lynch details why they failed and what the U.N. knew about it. The three-part series begins with a March 2013 incident in which refugees under the nominal protection of the peacekeepers were kidnapped by armed rebels before being robbed and beaten.
The U.N. officials said they did all they could to protect them. The victims said, though, said they were handed over without a fight. Several said they even saw the U.N. soldiers flashing "thumbs up" signs to the kidnappers as the buses drove off. The U.N. personnel peacekeepers, one of the bus drivers told investigators, "did nothing." FP's Colum Lynch's piece on the Darfur Debacle; this one is called "They Just Stood Watching," and this is Part One:
"At 6:20 p.m. on March 24, 2013, a convoy of United Nations and African Union peacekeepers escorting three buses of displaced residents of Darfur to a peace conference was stopped by a group of uniformed men in a pair of Toyota Land Cruisers. Mistaking the heavily armed men for government soldiers, the convoy commander, Lt. Paulinus Ifeanyi Nnadi, stepped out of his armored vehicle to talk them into allowing the vehicles through. As he walked toward the SUVs, five gun trucks filled with armed rebel fighters opposed to the talks roared out of the bush.
"The rebels boarded the buses and ordered the drivers to follow them away from the main road. The captives were driven to a rebel stronghold where insurgents opposed to the peace talks stole their cell phones, bags, clothes, watches, and cash. They were then separated into groups of men and women and put into small cells where, according to several victims, they were beaten. Six days later, the rebels released their captives to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Nnadi, the peacekeeper's commander, later told U.N. investigators that his forces had attempted to prevent the abductors from heading off with the civilians. The victims and bus drivers, though, said they were handed over without a fight. Several said they even saw the U.N. soldiers flashing "thumbs up" signs to the kidnappers as the buses drove off. The U.N. personnel peacekeepers, one of the bus drivers told investigators, 'did nothing.'
"The mass March 24 kidnapping -- the details of which have never been publicly disclosed by the U.N. -- marked a humiliating setback for troops from the African Union/United Nations hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID), a beleaguered, U.N.-funded force that was established specifically to protect Darfur's citizens from a renewal of the genocide that had raged in the region years earlier, leaving more than 200,000 dead. The peacekeepers, though, have been bullied by government security forces and rebels, stymied by American and Western neglect, and left without the weapons necessary to fight in a region where more peacekeepers have been killed than in any other U.N. mission in the world. The violence that once consumed Darfur, meanwhile, has returned with a vengeance, resulting in civilian casualties and the large-scale flight of terrified men, women, and children.
"Drawing on a massive trove of highly confidential UNAMID documents -- including thousands of pages of emails, police reports, internal investigations and diplomatic cables -- Foreign Policy will over the next three days publish a series of articles that shed light on how Darfur's combatants, particularly the Sudanese government, have effectively neutered the U.N. peacekeeping mission, undermining its capacity to fulfill its primary duty to protect nearly 2 million civilians displaced by Sudan's genocide. During the past year alone, more than 500,000 terrified men, women, and children have poured into the region's already overcrowded refugee camps." Read the rest of Colum's incredible tale here.
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After the vote, Dunford urges Kabul to allow a foreign force to remain. The FT's Michael Peel in Kabul: "NATO's commander in Afghanistan on Sunday hit back at fears that the drawdown of his troops could lead to the collapse into civil war that followed the end of Soviet occupation more than 20 years ago. General Joseph Dunford said the peaceful voting in heavily populated areas for Saturday's presidential election had shown that Afghan soldiers were capable of securing the country.
"However, he also urged the government to sign a deal to allow a small foreign force to stay. While many Afghans went to the polls with optimism in their country's first democratic transfer of power, the long-flagged withdrawal of almost all NATO forces has also sparked anxiety. This has undermined the economy and raised memories of past conflict. ‘We are not leaving, we are transitioning - there's a big difference,' Gen Dunford said in an interview at the widespread fortified compound of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in central Kabul. ‘I don't view what we are doing as withdrawing, so I reject the analogy with the Soviet days.'" More here.
John Allen says the U.S. must commit to a post-2014 force: "Very shortly now the U.S. and the international community ought to be unambiguously committing ourselves to a post-2014 presence in this country," Allen said told CFR's Gayle Lemmon, writing on Defense One. He called the vote "an enormous accomplishment by the Afghan people." Read the rest here.
Page One: Afghan elections likely point to a
Yaroslav Trofimov and Margherita Stancati in Kabul: "Former
World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah
appeared to be the two front-runners in Afghanistan's presidential election,
sidelining a candidate viewed as President Hamid Karzai's favorite, according
to partial results tallied by news organizations and one candidate.
"A victory for Mr. Ghani or Mr. Abdullah could significantly reduce the influence of Mr. Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion and paved the way for a long-term security deal with the U.S. that Mr. Karzai has not agreed to sign, a refusal that has infuriated Washington.
"Messrs. Ghani and Abdullah both say they will sign the bilateral security agreement, which is needed to maintain American aid and a limited U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the international coalition's current mandate expires in December." More here.
Seven million voted in a country in which 15 million were registered, but the turnout was significant. The Atlantic's Uri Friedman: "...an estimated 7 million Afghans headed to the polls to choose from a roster of presidential candidates whose average age is 63. This in a country where 68 percent of the population is under the age of 25-where seven in 10 people were 12 or younger when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. Arguably the most important storyline in this weekend's election-which marks the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's modern history-is the participation of Afghan youth, who will play an outsize role in shaping the country's future as U.S. troops withdraw." Full story here.
If you don't know anything about the military - or even if you do - you should read this bit by a lieutenant in Afghanistan on the War Council blog. Army 1st Lt. Scott Ginther on "What I Wish I Knew," here. #17: Your Soldiers will do amazing things: "Far more often than your Soldiers doing stupid things, you will be blown away at how talented they are. I have the following Soldiers in my platoon: a former blacksmith and rodeo clown, a NASCAR pit crewman, two carpenters, a private who is a multi-millionaire and drives and Audi R8, a Sugar Bowl-winning, University of West Virginia offensive lineman and a SSG who graduated college at 17 years old and taught physics at Tulane before the age of 26."
Sea Air Space Expo begins at the Gaylord National in Washington, D.C. today. Deets here.
Pro-Russian protestors seize government buildings in eastern Ukraine. LA Times' Sergei Loiko: "Pro-Russia demonstrators on Sunday seized at least three government buildings in industrial cities of eastern Ukraine, which has been plagued by demonstrations in favor of stronger ties to Moscow. Early in the day several hundred demonstrators carrying Russian flags pushed through a police cordon in front of the regional administration building in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, the UNIAN news agency reported. There were no officials or employees at work in the building and the police refrained from using force to stop the protesters, the report said. The demonstrators demanded a referendum in the region aimed at joining Russia and called for the release of former riot police officers arrested in Kiev last week. The officers are being held on suspicion of shooting protesters in the Ukrainian capital during violent clashes in February that led to the overthrow of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich." More here.
A possible break in the search for 370 could come just in time. The WaPo's Chico Harlan: "An Australian navy vessel searching for a missing Malaysian passenger jet has picked up deep-sea acoustic signals 'consistent' with those emitted by an airplane's black box, the leader of the multinational search operation said Monday. Though officials cautioned that they had not yet confirmed the plane's location, the signals mark the most promising lead in a month-long search. If the acoustic noises ultimately lead searchers to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the timing of this breakthrough is extraordinarily fortunate: The batteries powering the plane's emergency beacons will likely run out within hours or days. Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said at a press conference in Perth - the noises are "probably the best information we've had" so far." The rest here.
Asia Pivoting: A day before landing in China, Hagel announces the deployment of two Navy destroyers to Japan. Reuters' Phil Stewart and Nobuhiro Kubo: "The United States moved on Sunday to reassure Tokyo over its mounting security concerns, saying it would send more missile defense ships to Japan following North Korean launches and use a high level trip to warn China against abusing its ‘great power.' Japan has watched with alarm in recent weeks as North Korea carried out a series of missile launches, including firing two medium-range missiles capable of hitting the U.S. ally. Tokyo has also voiced growing anxiety over China's military buildup and increasingly assertive behavior in a territorial dispute over East China Sea islands. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that two Navy destroyers equipped with missile defense systems would be deployed to Japan by 2017. It was a response, he said, to provocations from the North, which has also threatened to carry out a ‘new form' of nuclear test." More here.
I'll show you mine if you show me... Cyberdefense is at the top of the agenda on Hagel's visit to China but reciprocation isn't yet there. The NYT's David Sanger: "In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon's emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States - and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese. The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016, a force that will include new teams the Pentagon plans to deploy to each military combatant command around the world.
"But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People's Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks. So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated - a point Mr. Hagel plans to make in a speech at the P.L.A.'s National Defense University on Tuesday." Full story here.
Milley has been getting good reviews for his steady hand at Fort Hood: he's seen as candid and forthright. And he's no stranger to combat. The WaPo's Greg Jaffe on Page One: "... Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley wrapped his arms around the woman and tried to console her in the hallway outside the hospital room. 'I've been in a lot of combat zones,' he said. 'I've seen a lot of wounded and injured soldiers. He's going to be okay.' Milley had returned to Fort Hood late last month, after a one-year tour of Afghanistan and a short leave. Eleven days later, Spec. Ivan Lopez opened fire on troops in his transportation unit and a surrounding two-block area, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 before he took his own life. As Milley visited the hospital Saturday, he was still wearing his Afghanistan combat boots, which had his blood type and the last four digits of his Social Security number written in marker on the ankle." More here.
Five years after the first Fort Hood shooting, the Army faces questions about why it couldn't prevent a second. FP's Lubold: "The Pentagon insists the changes put in place after the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood prevented this week's mass shooting there from being much worse. But its not yet clear that's true, and senior Army generals will face intensive scrutiny in the days and weeks ahead about whether they could have done more to keep Spec. Ivan Lopez from killing three fellow soldiers and wounding 16 more. In the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting five years ago, a commission established by then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates created a laundry list of recommendations designed to better identify troubled soldiers, create systems to more quickly alert the soldiers and family members living at a base about an ongoing attack, and accelerate the speech at which medical care is provided to the wounded. Pentagon officials say that most of those changes that had been put in place at Fort Hood before Lopez, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran with a history of depression, allegedly walked into two different locations on the sprawling Texas base and opened fire." More here.
The Obamas will attend the memorial service at Fort Hood on Wednesday, more here.
These images are not of American troops in Afghanistan: they are Mexican soldiers in Mexico. But heroin is surging north out of Mexico and spreading into the U.S. See the pics and read that one here.
Hayden is out on a limb, and it's getting ugly over the Senate torture report. The HuffPo's Emily Swanson: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, may be too ‘emotional' to have produced a fair report on the CIA's use of torture, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said Sunday. Speaking on ‘Fox News Sunday' about a Senate Intelligence Committee report which criticizes the CIA program as excessive and ineffective at fighting terrorism, Hayden said Feinstein ‘wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American brutal program of detention interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.' ‘That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don't think it leads you to an objective report,' Hayden said." More here.
ICYMI: The CIA ain't going quietly on the drone war. Michael Sheehan, formerly at the Pentagon: "Some might want to get the C.I.A. out of the killing business, but that's not happening anytime soon." Read the NYT's Mark Mazzetti's story on Sunday's Page One, here.