War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Iraq sees an increase in violence following the exit of U.S. combat troops. Former President Carter travels to North Korea. And Somali insurgents kill dozens, including six members of parliament. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Former President Jimmy Carter has secured release of the U.S. citizen in North Korea. The American was accused of entering that nation illegally and sentenced to eight years of hard labor. A series of bomb attacks across Iraq have killed dozens this week following withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the country and more than 8 million Pakistanis still need emergency assistance in the aftermath of devastating floods. Joining me to talk about the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Courtney Kube of NBC News and David Wood of Politics Daily. Do join us at 800-433-8850. I look forward to seeing your e-mails at drshow.org and you can join us on Tweet or on Facebook. Good morning to all of you.
MR. MOISES NAIMGood morning.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. DAVID WOODGood morning.
REHMGood to see you. Moises, President Carter won the release of this American who, apparently, walked into North Korea thinking he could accomplish something. And coincidently Kim Jong-il left the country at the same time. What's going on here?
NAIMYeah. These seem to be two independent events. President Carter went to try to bring back Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a 30-year-old from Boston who had gone -- has cut -- from China had crossed into North Korea. And President Carter was successful in bringing him back. Mr. Aijalon Mahli Gomes was sentenced to hard labor, eight years of hard labor and $600,000 or $700,000 in fines. And there is a faith-based dimension to this. Apparently, there's like a whole of group of Christian groups that are very concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea and the horrible situation there in the prison camps. And President Carter, apparently, went also at the behest of these groups and was successful. As was successful President Clinton six months ago, when he also went and got the release from the Korean prison for another American.
REHMBut how do you figure this happened? Did it happen with or without the acknowledgement -- the permission of Kim Jong-il? Courtney?
KUBEWell, I think you have to remember here, Mr. Gomes was -- he allegedly tried to commit suicide several weeks ago. He was in very poor health. So the U.S. argument that this was a humanitarian release really did ring true. It was difficult for the North Koreans to dispute. There's still -- it's still unclear whether President Carter met with Kim Jong-il on his trip. The assumption is he did not. But the other thing to keep in mind here is, you know, just as President Clinton brought home two Americans several months ago, almost a year ago now, there hasn't really been any change in U.S. and North Korean relations since that time. In fact, there was -- you could argue that it's more tense now than it was before because of the Cheonan sinking earlier this spring.
REHMSo what about Kim Jong-il's trip to China? What...
WOODWe don't know, Diane, whether that actually took place. He has three identical presidential trains. He never flies. One of them crossed the border into China. There was a big celebration at a local grade school where his father was said to have spent a couple of years, but nobody actually saw the president so we...
REHMOh, I see.
WOOD...so we don't know that he actually went and, of course, the Chinese are not saying.
NAIMBut the fact that there is this possibility, is just a manifestation of two things going on in North Korea. First is the transition, the succession from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un, as a 28-year-old son. And the other is the disaster that is going on in Korea. There are -- one aspect of the trip to China was to ask for emergency relief and help because there is devastation going in North Korea. People are starving. And so the idea is that Kim Jong-il went both to yet again get the Chinese approval -- support for the, you know, for the crowing of his son and also to get some help...
REHMWell, in any event, it seems to me President Carter deserves thanks and appreciation for making that trip and for bringing home that young man. Let's turn to Iraq. For the first time since the U.S. lead invasion in 2003, U.S. troop strength in Iraq this week dropped below 50,000. Is Iraq prepared to defend itself, Courtney?
KUBEWell, I think you have to remember that I don't think you'll find many average Iraqis on the street in Baghdad or anywhere in the country that would say that just because Operation Iraqi Freedom is technically ending in few days, Operation New Dawn begins. U.S. combat forces are out. I don't think the average Iraqi believes that that means a light switch is going to flick off and violence is going to end. The Iraqi security forces are certainly going to be tested in the coming days, weeks, months, probably, but the U.S. force that exists there now, it's still almost 50,000 troops. They're not going anywhere. They're not going to draw down beyond this until next summer.
REHMBut you did have a wave of, what, coordinated attacks in 13 cities.
WOODYeah. Just a horrific thing mounted, apparently, by Al Qaida in Iraq, the sort of home-grown, foreign-directed Sunni terrorist organization. What was particularly striking, I thought, was that after they -- after these bombs went off in these 13 cities in a two-hour period, the Iraqi police rushed in to sort of help. And people stoned them and shouted at them and they were very angry. Why can't you protect us? And it's, you know, it was -- I thought, uh-oh. It was a real uh-oh moment because clearly the Iraqi security forces cannot keep this kind of thing from happening.
NAIMAnd August was the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in the past two years. At least 265 have been killed in June alone. And if you look at the places where these attacks took place, they bring back names that had gone out of the news; Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra. These were places where we used to talk about them all the time and then they disappeared. This is a way of telling the world and telling Iraqis, we are still here on the part of the insurgents in Iraq and explaining that, you know, the fact that the U.S. troops are leaving is creating -- plus the very important backdrop to this story is that Iraq doesn't have a government. They had an election now a few -- several months ago. That election did not yield clear results and they have been struggling to create a functioning government.
REHMHow are these 50,000 so-called non-combat troops going to be able to stand back and watch as this kind of desecration happens?
KUBEWell, they won't be standing back at all. I mean, 20,000 of those 50,000 are assigned to advise and assist brigades that -- just today there was an advise and assist -- some U.S. troops that went out with Iraqi security forces, arrested -- I think it was seven Al Qaida and Iraq suspected members. They won't be sitting back. You know, almost half of those forces are still going to be involved in combat missions, frankly. It's just that they cannot do it alone. There really hasn't been a big change in posture of U.S. forces since last summer, since the U.S. forces were no longer allowed to operate on their own, no longer allowed to conduct missions within Iraqi cities. So the only real difference that we're seeing right now is the numbers are down a little bit. The combat troops that were assigned to, you know, so-called combat brigades are now out and they're now reassigned to advise and assist.
REHMThere is more than a little ambiguity here, David Wood.
WOODI think it's deliberate. What are the -- I want to pick up on something that Moises was saying and that was that there's no Iraqi government in power. Of course, there's been a lot of political turbulence since March when there were presidential elections and nobody won a clear majority or enough to put together a government in parliament. One of the upshots of that is that the United States is supposed to, by law, withdraw all its military forces from Iraq by December 31 of next year. I think that agreement was made in the last months of the Bush administration, with the understanding that it would be renegotiated because if it were carried out, you wouldn't even be able to have Marine guards at the U.S. embassy. With no government you can't renegotiate it and the clock is ticking. And Al Qaida in Iraq has noticed. And the statement they issued after this bombing was quote, "The countdown has begun to return Iraq to the embrace of Islam and its Sunnis with God's permission." Pretty chilling stuff.
NAIMSo the story here again is one of calendars versus conditions. There is a Washington-based or U.S. politics-centered calendar that people are following and then there are realities on the ground and these two are clashing. The realities on the ground in Iraq are not in sync with the deadlines and timelines and the calendar that has been decided by purely domestic U.S. politics kinds of considerations and calculations.
REHMSo next week -- President Obama is going to make an oval office speech next Tuesday. What's he expected to say, Moises?
NAIMHe's going to confirm that -- two things that may be a bit contradictory, I think. One is that the troops are going out and this was his campaign promise and that Iraq is in better shape now than before and so on. But at the same time, he's going to claim the continuous continuing support and commitment of the United States to the building of a democratic Iraqi nation.
REHMMoises Naim, he's chief international columnist for El Pais. We'll take a short break here. I'll look forward to hearing your calls, questions, comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio with me for the international hour of our Friday news roundup, David Wood is national security correspondent for PoliticsDaily.com, Courtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News and Moises Naim, chief international columnist for El Pais. Well, President Karzai says, knowing the U.S. plans to start withdrawing from Afghanistan next year, has given the Taliban a morale boost. David, what do you think?
WOODWell, I'm just back from Afghanistan. I didn't hear anybody talking about this at all. And I think what's happened is that, initially, President Obama made the statement in his speech last December outlining the new strategy for Iraq -- for Afghanistan and the fact that he was sending 30,000 additional troops. And what he said was, Our troops will begin to come home in 18 months. That was a pretty flat statement. He later clarified that and said, well, of course, depending on conditions on the ground. But what everybody heard was they're coming home.
WOODInitially, I think, in Afghanistan, people immediately started hedging their bets, saying, okay, well, if the Americans are leaving, the Taliban were thinking, we can hang on. Everybody else was thinking, we've got to turn elsewhere for protection. So I think there was a real corrosion in confidence that the U.S. was going to see it through. Since then, everybody from Robert Gates to David Petraeus, everybody has been saying, well, of course, it's conditions-based and, you know, we're not going to pull out precipitously. And President Obama himself said, well, we're not going to just turn out the lights and leave. I'm, and a lot of people, are hoping that he will use this speech next Tuesday when he talks about Iraq to also throw in something about Afghanistan. To say more explicitly than he has, the United States is not going to leave. I think the preponderance of opinion now from people I talk to in Afghanistan and here is that we're talking about another three or four years.
REHMThe Washington Post is reporting today that secret CIA payments have been made to a number of people in the Karzai administration. What do you make of this, Moises?
NAIMWell, I was commenting to my colleagues here that I'm surprised that it's a surprise. Spy agencies around the world are paid to penetrate all the governments and are paid to get all their government officials to help the national interest of their own country. So the fact -- and that is done by all countries and everywhere. So the fact that the United States intelligence agencies are trying to talk, (word?) and cajole, persuade and buy off government officials in Afghanistan should not be a surprise. That was -- that's what intelligence agencies are paid to do.
NAIMNow, the fact that there is this very weak government, this highly corrupt government in Afghanistan, is also very problematic at a time in which you are trying to build a partnership that, as David said, that will take four, five years in order to get it running in a way that generates the stability that everyone hopes to have there. But one is to be very careful not to inject expectations in Afghanistan that are more akin to the ones you will find in Switzerland than in what you will find there.
REHMHere is an e-mail from Jane who says, "I don't understand why we're still trying to change the culture of Afghanistan. It seems to me, if we had a group of special forces concentrated on killing bin Laden, that would be quite enough. The Afghans have never had a central organized government. They live in tribes. They have for thousands of years. We are wasting our money and lives. This is as hopeless as is Iraq in having peace. But we can't seem to learn from history and are too afraid to lose face. Let them take care of their own business. I think nine years is enough for us having drones and special forces to handle al-Qaida." That's from Jane. Courtney.
KUBEWell, Jane has several people who agree with her, probably, in this town, especially in the Pentagon, frankly. There are -- there was a growing chorus not long ago for more of a special forces campaign in Afghanistan, more drones. The one thing that Jane is a little bit off on is that the belief is that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan as opposed to Afghanistan. But there is a predator drone campaign there already. So that may be the wave of the future, frankly, in Afghanistan. In July, 2011, when there has to be some sort of a symbolic drawdown of U.S. forces, no matter how small and what components are actually leaving, there may be a greater influence, a greater force of special forces, a drone campaign and less of an impact on the ground forces.
REHMAnd Moises, three Spaniards were killed by Afghan police this week. What happened there?
NAIMWell, the three Guardia civilians from Spain and their translator were just caught and killed and that is generating some debate in Spain. Again, one needs to remember that in Spain and in the other native countries from Europe, the notion is that they are in Afghanistan for a humanitarian mission, that they're not there in a combat mode. But the fact is, that they get constant reminders that they are fighting and there have been people shooting at each other. And that creates a debate in this country that is not unlike the sentiment there was in the e-mail from Jane that you just read and that Courtney commented on. There is a wide-spread sentiment, not only in the United States but also in Europe. The question is, what are we doing there and how can we win and what is -- how is this related to my daily life? Remember that Spain is going through a very difficult situation from -- they're reeling from a terrible economic crisis.
NAIMThey have 20 percent unemployment. The situation is very bad. And so when you inject this in the local politics, as will happen in the United States as we face the midterm elections and beyond, the conversation is going to include sentiments like those expressed in the e-mail that you read.
WOODI think -- I take Jane's point and there are a lot of people who agree with her. I think one thing that stays the hand of people who would just withdraw the U.S. presence and just have a counterterrorism operation with the special forces, is what do you do with the tens of thousands of Afghans who have stepped up and have agreed to join the police or the army or are working in these local governments that I saw happening all over Afghanistan, who have really bravely stepped out in front of the Taliban and said, yes, I do want to build a better government here. And if we leave, who's going to protect them?
NAIMExactly. And that's very important. But then you have events like the Spanish (word?) ...
NAIM...in which the shooter worked for the local Afghan police chief. And all this took place in a military base in Afghanistan during a training course.
NAIMAnd so you have all this contradiction and all these bubbling conflicts...
NAIM...and resentments and surprises in which the people you're training, the people you're trying to help, the people that you are trying to recruit to be part of the new Afghanistan, turn around and start killing you.
REHMAnd here's an e-mail from Angela in Greenbelt, Md. who said, "I've read about our increased activities in Yemen and the proposed drone attacks on terrorist sites. Will this be another example of our starting as advisors and then invading? Are we working with the Yemeni government? Courtney.
KUBEYeah, absolutely. I mean, the U.S. military funding to Yemen has more than doubled this year. It's over $155 million. Largely Huey helicopters -- they're refurbishing some of their old Russian helicopters. I think they're MI17's. So yes, absolutely, the United States is helping the Yemeni government to fight al-Qaida. And lately, especially in the past few weeks and past few months, there's been a growing chorus of experts who are saying that al-Qaida and the Arabian Peninsula is now -- presents a bigger threat to the United States than al-Qaida and to the Taliban. And that there's more collusion between both al-Qaida, Pakistani Taliban, Al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP in Yemen.
NAIMThe Financial Times reports a conversation with a counterterrorism official that says -- this counterterrorism official -- American, says, "Conditions in Yemen in the past couple of years have allowed al-Qaida to regroup. The mortal threat they pose is not in doubt." So as Courtney was saying, there is a wide swath of experts that think that now Yemen is becoming an epicenter of these activities. And that until now, they have got scot-free and that they need to have the same kind of pressure that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies are placing on the tribal areas in...
REHMAnd you've also...
NAIM...between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
REHM...got news that al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgents killed 32 people in Mogadishu, Dave.
WOODSomalia is a real mess. I've been in and out of there for 30 years and I've never seen it as bad as this.
WOODWhere now you have a homegrown, but al-Qaida-linked, terrorist organization mounting attacks in Uganda. Why Uganda? Because Uganda's one of the African countries that sends peace-keeping troops into Somalia to help prop up the very weak and ineffectual U.S.-backed government there. But this is a really dangerous situation. And to the point that Angela raised in her e-mail, Africa -- U.S. Africa Command, which is the military command that's based in Stuttgart, Germany, but has responsibility for Africa, is now talking about sending in trainers into Somalia to help train the pro-government forces.
NAIMThe situation is so bad there that legislatures have to work out of Nairobi. They cannot work out of Somalia. And as you said, there was a recent attack in which they killed 30 people in a hotel, including six members of parliaments. And this is a larger offensive, as David was saying, of, again, showing a show of force on the part of Al-Shabaab.
REHMAnd a number of people have asked about the funding for President Carter's trip. Was it a journey of mercy? How much did that cost taxpayers? It was a private jet with plenty of secret service. What's the answer, Moises?
NAIMPresident Carter has had since -- for many years the Carter Center, based in Atlanta, Georgia, that has -- one of its missions is a foundation as a think tank, as an action tank that has electoral observation. He goes into countries that have elections that are highly contested and he serves as an honest broker. He intervenes and tries to break peace in situations. He rescue workers and has a variety of other things. So this is part of a very noble and very sometimes effective pri--
NAIM...privately funded foundation called the Carter Center in Atlanta.
REHMSo taxpayers did not foot any part of this trip.
WOODI don't know that we can say that. I think there certainly probably was some secret service involvement. But more to the point, the State Department was very clear that this was a private effort. It did not have the stamp of approval of the United States Government and there was no U.S. Government involvement at all.
NAIMThere is a long history of government officials not liking President Carter's meddling in their affairs. And the joke often is, you know, that one of the things that has to happen is to take away his passport so he cannot go around and mess up their own diplomatic activity.
REHMAnd former President Carter will be on this program in several weeks so I'll be sure and ask him about the legitimacy of his passport. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There is a terrible tragedy continuing in Pakistan with flood victims really not getting the help they need. Courtney.
KUBEYeah, absolutely. The estimates are between 15 and 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by this flooding -- this widespread flooding that's not over. There are still areas around the Indus River that they're concerned the flooding is going to continue and maybe even worsen. There are at least 6 million Pakistanis have lost their homes and more than 1,600 estimated -- the numbers may rise. More than 1,600 have already been confirmed to have been killed in the flooding.
REHMBut now, you're getting reports that farm relief workers are being targeted by the Taliban, Dave.
WOODBut this again is such a mess. The United States does not -- is not well thought of in Pakistan. I think its approval rating is down in the low teens. And I'm very surprised that the Obama Administration has not really taken a higher profile role in the rescue effort. We've sent, I think, $200 million worth of stuff (unintelligible) ...
REHMWell, it's half what the U.N. asked for.
WOODHere's the problem. In Pakistan, as in Yemen, you have a government that is very prickly and very concerned that it do things by itself and doesn't need Uncle Sam to come in and do its business for it.
REHMBut it's asking for help.
WOODWell, but it wants to control how the help is given so that the U.S. is (word?) ...
REHMSo you give money and who knows where the money goes, Moises?
NAIMThere is not only that, but there are other groups that are not to the liking of the United States Government that are becoming very active. In fact, there's a group -- as the New York Times reports, there's a group called Falah-i-Insaniat who is a charity wing of Jamaat-ud-Dawa that it's apparently linked with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. So what this says is that these groups are also taking advantage of the situation to come in and work. In helping, but at the same time, they have a political agenda, as the United States also has a political agenda.
NAIMAgain, the fight for hearts and minds of these populations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan now, is a central element. And I also wanted to say another thing that has to do with the frequency that we're getting these massive humanitarian disasters created by all sorts of ecological environmental situations. We're getting more and more. And both taxpayers, governments are becoming -- there is donor fatigue and there is -- you know, you just had a massive earthquake in Haiti that is still in the process of recovering and then you have this. And so you constantly now have requests, demands for help that are stretching both the money and the operational capabilities of rescue agencies.
REHMBut I guess the part that bothers, perhaps, many people is that some of these governments say, just give us the money and we'll take care of it. Haiti is a perfect example of money going in. And where has that money gone? These people are living in the middle of the street in Haiti. What has happened to all the money that went into Haiti?
NAIMHaiti -- historically, the main problem in Haiti is not the lack of money. It's the lack of institutions. It's the lack of trained public servants. It's the lack of functioning civil society that can organize to the level of what is needed. So when you throw a lot of money into that setting, you end up having not a lot of results.
REHMAll right. And when we come back, we're going to open the phones after a very short break. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back. It's time to open the phones for the international hour of our Friday news roundup. First, to Jama in Annandale, Md. Thanks for waiting. Jama, are you there?
JAMADiane, thanks for taking my call. I wanted to mention two things. One of them is regarding U.S. pullout out of Iraq. If the U.S. leaves Iraq, the basic scenario in Iraq will be country that's client of Iran. And you will have very strong Shiite agents like (sounds like) Isbola in Lebanon that will threaten Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and even Afghanistan if this (word?) government continues to survive. Second comment I want to make regards Somalia. I think the U.S. got involved in Somalia lately and very actively to fight terrorism. But, you know, the history -- the civil war history of Somalia goes beyond that. This civil war has been going for a long time. The Union of Islamic Courts have risen out of a wish for -- by the people for peace because the warlords and the number of TFG governments that have been established never actually brought peace. Because whenever they are put together and they form some kind of government, they are very corrupt and they divide any international aid that they get among themselves. They are there to get rich, but they don't do anything. They actually hold, like, 4 kilometers in (sounds like) modercio, you know.
REHMAll right. Thanks. Courtney?
KUBEWell, on your point about Iraq, I think that there is still a concern about Iran's influence in Iraq. And General Odierno has spoken about that. The new ambassador there, Jim Jeffrey, mentioned it just this week. I think it was just yesterday, actually. So I don't think that the United States is disputing that Iran still poses a threat in Iraq. But their contention, you know, as General Odeirno said earlier this week, that the Iraqis have enough fortitude that they wanna create their government, they wanna have a country that doesn't have Iran's negative influence so that it will be somewhat sidelined. In truth, only time will tell what kind of -- and as long as there's not an Iraqi government in place, there still is this power vacuum and Iran has this opening. So as long as we're six months after the elections and still no central government, Iran's opening will continue there.
REHMWhat about his comments regarding Somalia?
NAIMHe's absolutely right. Remember that, you know, this has been going on for a long time. This is a country without a government. It optimizes a failed nation that -- in which the government does not control the territory. Remember that during the Clinton administration, there was an attempt to get there. That is where the movie "Black Hawk...
REHM"Black Hawk Down".
NAIM...Down" that story is there. So he's right. And what he's also -- what Jama is also saying that is right is that there has been a proliferation of actors in the country. Now, we have Ashabab, which is this militia group of insurgents. We have al-Qaida. We have the pirates. Don't forget that the pirates that operate in the Straight of Aden.
REHMSo we should be very concerned about Somalia.
NAIMAnd we must learn from what happened in Afghanistan after -- initially, you know, al-Qaida was able to use Afghanistan as its training camp, headquarters and all that because essentially, the United States and others just disappeared. And they could operate from there. So something like that may happen also in Somalia.
REHMHere is a tweet we've received from an individual, who says, "I'm a veteran of Operational Iraqi Freedom and I believe we should get all conventional troops out of Afghanistan and only use conventional -- sorry, and only use special forces." I'm sure there are a lot of people who are beginning to feel that way. Let's go to Vashon Island, Washington. Good morning, Lynn, you're on the air.
LYNNGood morning, Diane. I love your program.
LYNNI hate to miss it.
LYNNMy -- I would like to pose a practical question to the panel. You know, given our possible double-dip recession, the fact that we haven't been able to respond appropriately to Hurricane Katrina victims, how long, in a practical way, can the U.S. expect to continue to rebuild other countries, fight wars in other countries, spend our money that way that we don't have?
WOODIt's a very good point that Lynn raises and one that's been pretty much of a constant theme in American foreign policy for a long time, which is let's just withdraw to our shores and take care of ourselves. The counterargument, of course, is that the world is too dangerous for us to do that. The reason why we're in Afghanistan is to prevent it from becoming a terrorist safe haven as it was and...
REHMBut it already is.
WOOD...and I think the reason why there's U.S. involvement in Yemen and probably will be in Somalia is for the same reason. The question is, how do you balance those things? One of the things I did in preparation for this program was to go back and read President Obama's speech that he gave just after taking office in which he announced that the U.S. troops will be pulling out of Iraq by August 31. And what he said was not our job is finished or the war is over. What he said was we can't afford it. We have many other priorities, including rebuilding the economy at home and that's why we're pulling out.
REHMWell, let's ponder that and whether that money is going to continue to flow in that direction, despite that kind of statement. Because you've got people in the Pentagon who are saying we have to stay there because of the domino theory. We have people who say you gotta get out because there's nothing more we can do, they have to take charge of their own government. How long is this debate gonna go on, Moises?
NAIMIt's hard to imagine that the United States will continue to operate overseas in such a massive, expensive way. It is also hard to imagine that the Pentagon can continue to resist demands for reform internally and use either less money or use the same money more effectively.
NAIMThere should be cheaper ways of operating international -- I'm with David in understanding that the world is too interconnected to have the illusion that you can just retreat here and forget about the world. The world would come here. So -- but the -- at the same time, the notion that you would operate globally in such a massive, expensive scale, both in terms of human lives and money, it's hard to imagine.
KUBEBut we say that and we -- and it's easy to say that the economy's bad at home and so we should all pull back. But at the same time, the United States is now occupying the largest embassy in the world and is in Baghdad, the largest U.S. embassy. They're gonna be 2,400 civilians there along with tripling the number of security contractors -- private security contractors going in there in the next year or so for all the additional state department officials that are gonna go in to take over the missions that the U.S. troops are now turning over. So it's easy to say that there's gonna be these drawdowns and U.S. money and blood and treasure's gonna stop going overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan, but that doesn't seem to be the reality right now.
REHMLet's go to Hokes Bluff, Ala. Good morning, Daniel.
DANIELGood morning, Diane. I'm a great fan of yours.
DANIELAnd a wonderful show today. I have a couple of comments. Number one, I do -- I think we all need to be concerned about Yemen and Somalia and al-Qaida and all, but I think that that will ever, ever become as pronounced nearly in any shape, way or form because neither one of those entities is next door to nuclear armed Pakistan. I think the big thing in Afghanistan is more so than anything, keep the terrorist out of Pakistan, which we're failing to do anyway. So I don't know how that's ever gonna end up positively. The other comment is so many millions of us Americans who have very little power, I think, because of the way we get our news, don't understand what's going on in Iraq and the building of that government so that they can actually come to conclusion as a government and say, yes, we will negotiate a longer presence of U.S. forces in our country. The long term plan for the U.S. I don't think is Iraq. It is to be a presence next to Iran. The same thing that's gonna happen nuclear-wise in the future is what we're being told. Those are my two main points.
DANIELAnd just one quick thing.
DANIELWith all the negative Islam bashing in the United States, wouldn't it have been a great thing if when General Petraeus was asked what does he think about the World Trade Center or the commerce center with Islamic studies, whatever it will be, downtown Manhattan, that he would've said something positive like, I wish there wasn't all this hullabaloo, instead of not making a comment? Thank you very much.
REHMThank you. Moises?
NAIMWell, Daniel makes a lot of thoughtful comments. And let me just state the one about nuclear Pakistan and being at the center and that their notion that Afghanistan is so important is try to prevent the extremist of going to Pakistan. That's true, except that the extremists are in Pakistan. You know, there is a very important segment of the population that is very -- they are sympathizers of the Taliban. The Taliban -- there is a Pakistani Taliban operating group segments of the security services, the ISI in Pakistan have long ties -- long standing ties with extremists. And all of this happens in the context of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is a nuclear state and that is, of course, a great concern.
REHMTo Manassas, Va. Good morning, Mike, you're on the air. Mike, good morning. I think we'll have to let that caller go. To Diego in Coral Gables, Fla., good morning.
DIEGOGood morning. Great show, Diane.
DIEGOI just had, I guess, a comment and I'll take the response off the air. My comment is, you know, we spend -- we can spend 100 years fighting overseas and putting troops in every country that we feel is gonna be a threat to our national security. And, you know, we're just gonna be kinda like a dog chasing its tail, never really getting anywhere. And we really need to start focusing on, you know, the long term way to solve the issue of these disheartened and radical Islamists in these countries, which is basically educating them and, you know, providing humanitarian efforts and -- such as Jimmy Carter has and not criticizing it if the U.S. government spends some money on sending Jimmy Carter on a humanitarian effort.
REHMWhat do you think, Dave Wood?
WOODI think Diego just hit it out of the ballpark. That is exactly right. The problem is, what do you do with security in the meantime?
WOODI mean, the Taliban are nasty, nasty people and they're wreaking havoc inside Afghanistan.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To follow-up on that, to Johnny in Manchester, N.H., you're on the air.
JOHNNYGood morning to all of you.
JOHNNYYes, along the same lines, you know, I know that we're (unintelligible) in this country, but I just can't help but think what an awful devastation in Pakistan, a "Three Cups of Tea" type of program (word?). I'm talking, you know, a massive humanitarian effort that I think would be the best thing we could ever do for national security.
REHMAs sort of practiced by Greg Mortenson in his book "Three Cups of Tea." John, thanks for your call. Moises, this is quite a story coming out of Chile regarding 33 trapped miners.
NAIMYeah, this is a nightmare, being buried alive. And it could have been a tragedy. Might still be a tragedy, but we hope not. This is a mine that caved in and the 33 are down there. There are -- there is hope that they will be rescued in a few months, which is quite a statement because that means that 33 individuals are gonna be kept buried there underground.
REHMUnderground for all this time. They're in a room 20-by-30 in size. You say they've already cordoned it off into...
NAIMYeah, and, you know, how to have transformed that in living quarters for several months for 33 miners is quite a challenge. They have a cleaning area. They have a sleeping area. They have another -- and so on. There -- but at the same time, this says quite a bit about the nature of the Chilean temper. This is a very successful country that owes part of its success to being highly disciplined. They are very resilient. This is a mining country. Historically, Chile has been a mining...
REHMBut you have to worry about the safety of those mines.
NAIMAbsolutely. And there is -- and I think that the -- probably the owner of the mine is likely to go to jail eventually. There are safety problems. There have been safety problems. And so there will be consequences. And the president, Sebastian Pinera, has taken this very personally. He's made strong commitments. The press in Chile's commenting, you know, he's betting his popularity on this thing because he's saying he has taken this as his own personal cause. The country has rallied around the miners, their families. And there is a very interesting dimension to this that let's hope it does not end in tragedy.
REHMWell, and let's add our hopes and prayers that these men do, in fact, come up safely. And to end this program, I want to wish bon voyage to one of our favored producers, Jonathan Smith, who's leaving for New Hampshire Public Radio after nine years with "The Diane Rehm Show," first as a volunteer, then as a part-timer, now as a full-timer. We're going to miss him and his family. But we wish him all success. Good luck, Jonathan. Moises Naim, Courtney Kube, David Wood, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening everyone. Have a great weekend. I'm Diane Rehm.
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