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…
President Obama moves to halt the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Secretary of State Kerry plans a visit to the Mideast after a wave of violence in Israel. And Turkey continues to investigate the weekend bombing of a peace rally. 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. President Obama announces the end of U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. A wave of Palestinian violence worsens with the burning of a Jewish religious site and new reports link the deadly weekend bombing of a peace rally in Turkey to ISIS and Kurdish rebels.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the international Friday News Roundup, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Elise Labott of CNN and Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israel News and The Forward. Throughout the hour, we'll be taking your calls, comments, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see you all.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood to be with you.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSThank you.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANGood to be here.
REHMDavid, President Obama announced a shift in his policy of troop withdrawal regarding Afghanistan. Big decision, why now?
IGNATIUSThe president has been struggling with this. I think it's one of the more painful moments of his presidency. This is a president who promised he would turn the page on the era of America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had, earlier, planned to draw down to only 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 2016 based at the embassy, a skeleton presence. And he announced yesterday that because of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, he would keep almost 10,000 troops there through 2016 and in 2017, would reduce that number to roughly half, 5500.
IGNATIUSIt's an admission, first, that the situation in Afghanistan has gotten worse, that our hopes that the Afghan army, Afghan security forces could contain the situation really haven't worked out. The UN says that more than half of the districts in Afghanistan are now extremely dangerous or one of the high categories of insecurity. Several hundred Taliban, a few weeks ago, managed to route Afghan security forces in Kunduz, a city in the north where the Taliban has never been strong.
IGNATIUSThe U.S. had to come in with air power, leading the tragic bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital. So this must have been a very painful day for President Obama, to say that it has not been possible at the end to withdraw these troops and complete this war.
LABOTTWell, and what he didn't say was the word Iraq. I mean, the lessons learned from Iraq, the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops only to see what's going on on the ground down now, the growth of ISIS, was recognition, I think, even though, you know, implicit in the decision was that you can't pull out troops when the forces are not ready, when their situation is still unstable. And I think that this time he wants to make sure, not only to show the political commitment of the United States, but make sure that the blood and treasure that the U.S. exerted for all of these years in Afghanistan, 14 years, was not lost.
LABOTTAnd then, the next presidents following him might have to go back in again. And as David said, the situation is very bad. Not only has the Taliban continued to grow, but al-Qaida is reemerging in several parts of the country. There's talk that ISIS has a growing number of sympathizers and is recruiting in, you know, about three-quarters of...
REHMFrom the Taliban.
LABOTTExactly. Three-quarters of the Taliban, disaffected Taliban fighters now joining ISIS so instead of, you know, pulling out and having to go back in years later, I think the president acknowledged that the job is not done, that the Afghan troops are not ready and you also have what you did not have in Iraq, which was a government that wants U.S. troops to stay. President Ghani asked President Obama to allow U.S. troops to stay. There are more legal provisions for U.S. troops and there's a more willing environment for the U.S.
REHMI must say, there haven't been any polls of U.S. citizens on this, but I wonder how Americans are feeling about this, Nathan.
GUTTMANWell, I think it's true that there aren't any polls so we can't gauge exactly, but I think you can look at it in two ways. On the one hand, you can say, well, if you're down from 100,000 troops involved in active combat to 5500, this is a pretty significant reduction to Americans can feel safe that, in general, the United States is out of Afghanistan. On the other hand, this is more than a small increase. We're talking about keeping presence not only in Bagram, but also in Kandahar and Jalalabad.
GUTTMANWe're talking about having troops involved in active pursuit after the -- in Taliban and al-Qaida, probably ISIS there further down the road. So definitely, the United States is maintaining and active involvement there so even though the numbers are small, you're still in Afghanistan.
REHMI wonder what this is going to mean for President Obama's legacy, David?
IGNATIUSWell, I think it certainly clouds it. This will be seen as a president who deeply wanted to change the course of America's involvement in these wars in these difficult parts of the world and at the end of the day, found even more instability than he expected. I think one lesson historians may draw is that the United States, historically, had kept a true presence in countries following wars where there's been great instability. We certainly did that in Germany for a generation.
IGNATIUSWe've continued to do that in South Korea. There continue to be American troops in Japan. Not occupying, but assisting the Japanese in security. And it probably was unrealistic to think that we'd blow into Iraq, knock down all the structure and then leave with no military presence, and the same -- you'd have to say the same is probably true with Afghanistan. So there's a way in which President Obama, painful though this is for him, is coming to the point that other presidents have in recognizing some continuity of American power is required.
REHMOn the other hand, I wonder how the Afghans themselves are going to feel about an increased U.S. troop presence and a vital part of that question, could this mean a kind of mission creep back up again, Elise?
LABOTTWell, it's very possible that it does. I mean, I think that, you know, it's a mixed bag for the Afghan people. Certainly, they want to see their country assert its territorial sovereignty and independence, but they know that, you know, their troops are not up the task of defending the country. And when you see the Taliban, as David mentioned, take Kunduz so quickly, it shows that even the U.S. forces that are on the ground are having trouble dealing with this problem. They know that the Afghans are not up to the task.
LABOTTI think it could, in some ways, if the Afghans are not trained up in the way that the U.S. was looking to, that NATO was looking to involve some mission creep, but I think that should -- were the U.S. to withdraw and then have to go back in piece meal by piece meal, which is what we're seeing in Iraq right now, I think, is more -- I just want to make one point on what David said about the president. I think this is a little bit what, you know, President Obama has been criticized throughout his presidency in many areas.
LABOTTBut, you know, he did create the expectation that I'm going to -- this was a campaign pledge that I'm going to withdraw from these wars. And so maybe he created the expectation, but his commanders continued to say, his staff continued to say, the reality on the ground, it needs to be condition space. And clearly the conditions are not such that the U.S. can withdraw right now.
IGNATIUSI just would add that I think the lesson for President Obama and for all of us, and maybe we'll see soon the lesson for Vladimir Putin in Russia, is the limits of military power to achieve what are essentially political solutions. We've been unable to do that Iraq. We're now unable to do that in Afghanistan. I suspect the Russians will find themselves unable to do it in Syria. It's just kind of the way the world is now. Military power's efficacy is much less than we thought.
GUTTMANAnd, of course, Afghanistan was never a place where neither -- in Russia nor the United States were able to sustain any kind of calm or stability in this nation so it was a difficult case to start with. But going back to the question of the mission creep, I think there is, definitely, a foundation now that will allow the United States to increase its power if needed. There is no way of knowing how things will play out, but clearly, the Afghan military is not in the position that it can take over right now.
GUTTMANAnd if things do continue with this trajectory, with the Taliban increasing its power, then we could definitely see more and more troops just coming to, first of all, protect their own soldiers on the ground and to make advances.
REHMYou know, it's my understanding and yours as well that the United States spent billions of dollars trying to train the Afghan troops and came up with a total of five success stories. Where did all that money go? What happened to it, David?
IGNATIUSDiane, I don't know if you're referring to Syria where the five on the ground is the number that General Austin, the CENTCOM commander, referred to. That train and equip program as it was called, it was an overt program -- effort to train a moderate Syrian force, had many setbacks. I listed some of them in a column this morning. We had terrible intelligence about what was on the ground in Northern Syria.
IGNATIUSWe just didn't know the trap that they were walking into. We made them a promise that they wouldn't fight Bashar al-Assad, which for these Syrians who were being recruited was the primary passion. Their villages were being bombed by Assad's forces. We made them swear an oath they wouldn't attack their enemies and we tried to pull them out of those villages, often under siege to go get training and that didn't work so there were a series of quite practical problems that made this, in the end, impossible.
REHMAnd David, you're quite right. I did misstate where those five were. David Ignatius of The Washington Post. Short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Elise Labott, global affairs correspondent for CNN, David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post, contributor to the "Post Partisan" blog on washingtonpost.com. His latest novel is "The Director." And Nathan Guttman, he's Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Forward. Do join us, 800-433-8850, your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and join us of Facebook or Twitter.
REHMHere is an email from anonymous, who says, as a conservative, I do not support Obama. But I feel maintaining troops in Afghanistan is necessary. I must confess that, even when Obama does the right thing, it's still infuriating because it often means he's breaking a promise he never should have made and, as such, belies our belief he should never have been elected. David.
IGNATIUSWell, I think the caller's point that setting the date when you're going to withdraw troops when you put them in, in a sense vitiates the mission. You tell your adversaries at the outset, you know, wait it out for this period of time and the troops will be gone. And I think that's probably one lesson the president and everybody else has learned, that setting these time limits doesn't really accomplish much. If you -- it's -- that should be results based but not time-table based.
REHMAnd let's turn now, Nathan, to what's happening in Israel. Last night Palestinian rioters set fire to a Jewish holy site. Tell us what happened.
GUTTMANYes. This was the Tomb of Joseph. There's some historical dispute if Joseph is actually buried there or not but, traditionally, it's seen as the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in the West Bank. It's a place that Jewish worshipers have very little access to. It's in the Palestinian area. And though Israelis do come there occasionally, it's mostly controlled by the Palestinians right now. And last night, the Palestinians set fire to the place itself, causing a lot of damage. And that's just one more demonstration of this escalation...
GUTTMAN...that we've been seeing for the past two weeks.
REHMWeeks of escalating violence.
GUTTMANDefinitely, which really, one of the intriguing things about it is that it's hard to put your finger on the real reason for this outburst. Obviously, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades and the lack of any viable peace process just increases frustration on both sides. But it's hard to tell what caused this outburst. There were claims that Israel is trying to change the status quo on Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif, one of the holiest places for both religions. And these claims are, in general, not true. But they did create somewhat of a stir that led to some of these incidents. And then it just took on a dynamic of its own, with daily stabbings and shootings and incidents and demonstrations that we're still seeing today.
LABOTTWell, Nathan has been, you know, obviously from Israel and I was just there earlier this year. I mean, this has been brewing for a long time. So the latest kind of call to arms has been over what some people call the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but this has been, you know, brewing for some time. And I think, now, there are a lot of fears because of these, you know, continually, daily stabbings and killings over maybe the last two weeks, that there'll be a third intifada. But what's different from, you know, this period as opposed to the last intifadas, is this is not affiliated with any political movement, these are not people that are, you know, working on behalf of some well-organized...
REHMThey're just individuals.
LABOTT...terrorist organization. These are independent, mostly young Palestinians that are independently deciding to kill Israelis. And not only is it hard to get a finger on how to solve it but also how to prevent these attacks. Because, you know, everybody with a knife, with a, you know, butcher club, with anything, is just taking to arms and making these random attacks. And now the Israelis are, in addition to imposing a lot of security measures in the West Bank and in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, also calling on Israelis to bear arms. So it's really hard to see...
REHMWell, there have been a lot of shootings of Palestinians.
LABOTTThere have been a lot of shootings but there's certainly -- a lot of Palestinians. And that was one of the things the U.S. said this week, that, you know, a lot of these shootings of Palestinians, of course, you know, a Palestinian with a knife is a threat. But some of these Palestinian rock throwers have been killed. And I think the U.S. caused a little consternation when it talked about excessive force by Israelis, that's specifically what it was talking about, that they're afraid of this escalation of tit for tat once again.
IGNATIUSWell, I think we've seen -- since this wave of violence began, usually dated to the beginning of October -- the degree of suspicion, rage, certainly on the Palestinian side, the way in which social media now among Palestinians spreads rumors, amplifies discontent. And also, on the Israeli side, just the degree of insecurity. People, when you go on a bus, you look at somebody and you wonder, does that person have a knife? I mean...
IGNATIUS...the weapons in this not quite intifada have been kitchen knives, they've sometimes been cruder instruments than that. They've been cars that are driven into people, just to harm them. I was able to talk this morning with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer about the crisis and what can be done. And he said -- I hear this also from Jordanians -- the Jordanians historically have responsibility for the Temple Mount, for the Muslim religious shrine the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It's their people who were there. And the Jordanians would like to be empowered to provide greater security there and they think that's the way out.
IGNATIUSAnd the king has sent the message, give me more power here and I can -- Ambassador Dermer said this morning, that's exactly what we'd like to do. That -- we are totally in favor of that. So I'd -- next week, I'd look for meetings, maybe in Jordan, that involve the Jordanians more in trying to stabilize this.
REHMAnd Secretary of State Kerry has said he will go to Israel and try to speak with Netanyahu. And what else is he going to do?
GUTTMANThat's one of the interesting questions because there isn't much that the U.S. can do right now and it seems that the administration is well aware of this fact. In the past, we've seen Netanyahu at times come to the Americans and say, I need you to talk to Abbas to calm things down. Now even the Israelis are acknowledging -- not all of them but most of them -- that Abbas is not the one behind this wave of violence, that he does not control the situation on the ground because these are individuals just going out with a screwdriver or a knife in the hand and there is no direction coming from above, so what can the U.S. do?
GUTTMANAnd what seems to be emerging now is some kind of a summit or separate meetings that Kerry will have with the Jordanians, the Israelis, the Palestinians, to try and extract some kind of assurances -- to get Netanyahu to say that Israel is not changing the status quo on Temple Mount, to get Abbas to say that the Palestinians are against violence. And hopefully that could calm the situation, although there isn't much more that the Americans can do right now.
REHMYou know, we seem to go through periods when there's quiet and then an uprising again. But nobody wants to call it an uprising. They're still not even applying terms to it, saying it's the work of individuals and therefore how can you deal with it?
GUTTMANRight, exactly. I think one of the differences between what we're seeing right now on the ground and previous waves of violence was -- is the fact that there's no broader framework right now. In the past, up to a year ago, there was an American-sponsored peace process going on. Before that, we've seen other attempts to reach an agreement. Now, with the -- the Palestinians are even saying that they're not obliged by the Oslo Agreement anymore, for what it means. And I'm not sure it means much. But there isn't any kind of horizon that you can promise either side, to say, well, let's just get over this rough patch and then we can look forward to a solution, because no one's talking about that right now.
REHMAs you said, Elise, with no real political backing behind this, could this sort of fall apart rather than lead to a real uprising or, as some people have said, an intifada?
LABOTTWell, it could explode in the sense that every Palestinian could feel that they're, you know, obligated to...
LABOTT...a call to arms. And it's, as David said, they're being egged on by social media. It's not being orchestrated by groups like Hamas and such, but certainly online they're calling these people martyrs. And the deaths of these Israelis that we're -- these Palestinian young people are being, you know, rebroadcast on Palestinian networks. And it just does raise questions about what the U.S. can do here. And I think that, although Secretary Kerry does want to be helpful and try to get some mechanism going, there is also a concern that he's going to raise expectations in terms of, if he goes out there and the violence doesn't stop, then where does that leave you?
LABOTTAnd so I think that, you know, certainly the Israelis are saying right now that, yes, Kerry is always a welcome guest. But, you know, we also have to institute these security measures.
IGNATIUSOne of the most interesting comments coming out of Israel in these last couple weeks has been that, because this violence has been largely centered in and about Jerusalem, it calls into question a core idea for Israelis that there is one Jerusalem, one city, in which Jews and Arabs live together. One Israeli commentator wrote that what's happened shatters the coexistence illusion that we can live together safely. And people who argue for a two-state solution would say, precisely. That's why, somehow, Israel needs to find a process that gives the Palestinians a state and gives Israel a border that it can defend.
REHMAll right. And let's turn to Syria and Russia, the impact on the opposition rebels in Syria. What's been the impact from this new offensive by President Assad? David.
IGNATIUSWell, Assad and the Russians, together, have been trying principally to drive the rebels east from a province called Idlib, which borders on Assad's home region of Latakia, along the western coast. Latakia, the Alawite heartland, as Assad's ethnic group would think of it, has been threatened. The approaches to Latakia have been taken by these rebel groups. Rebel groups are armed and backed by a group that includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States. CIA is involved with these groups big time. So the Russians really are pushing back, joined by Assad's army and increasingly by the Iranians. And Hezbollah pushing back forces that are directly supplied by the U.S., it's closest allies.
IGNATIUSThat's why this is a more dangerous situation than you might think.
IGNATIUSIt is becoming a proxy war, in which there's a Russian team and an American team. And you -- these are the kinds of situations that could really get out of control. It's one reason, I think, that President Obama has been so low key, almost passive in his response.
IGNATIUSHe's worried about a flashpoint.
REHMAnd our own Steve Inskeep of "Morning Edition" spoke with Secretary of State Kerry at Indiana University yesterday. And in answer to a question about whether it's time to send in U.S. troops, Secretary Kerry said, not yet. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Your thoughts on that?
LABOTTWell, it's not time for troops to go in. But, I mean, Secretary Kerry is pushing the idea of a no-fly zone. And why is that? Not only to protect civilians and possibly from Russian airstrikes -- you've seen a lot of airstrikes against the civilians -- against the opposition, and also to, you know, help some of the people that are displaces. But also to put a little pressure on the Russians. I mean, President Obama's view is that sooner or later, Russia is going to, you know, see the error of its ways and want to have a political negotiation.
LABOTTBut, you know, Kerry and others feel, to hasten that day, you need to flex a little bit of military muscle. You need to show the Russians that they're not dominating the skies or the ground in Syria, which certainly they are right now. And I mean, when you talk about a flashpoint, right now the U.S. position is, you know, the Russians are there. There's not much that we can do. But now the Saudis and a lot of others in the region are saying, okay. You want a proxy war? We'll give you a proxy war. And we're going to make you bleed and send every jihadi known to man and arm them.
GUTTMANAnd just think of the situation, how delicate the situation is right now, when you have the Russians increasing their bombings. They're up to almost 100 a day. You have opposition fighters using American-made anti-tank missiles to fight Assad and ISIS. You have the Saudis, the Qataris, you have the Turks shooting down planes across the border. It's so easy to see how this thing could go out of -- get out of hand very easily.
IGNATIUSJust one comment on what I think Secretary Kerry meant when he was talking about no ground troops yet. I think the administration is looking at the fighting in Syria and thinking that there's a zone in the west, where the Russians, Assad's army, the Iranians are operating, is probably best left to them. And increasingly the view is, there is a place in northeast Syria where ISIS is concentrated, where ISIS's capital of Raqqa is, where the U.S. and its allies are very strong. We wandered in to supporting a Syrian-Kurdish group known as the YPG, a Syrian-Kurdish militia which has been incredibly effective on the ground.
IGNATIUSWe just, on Monday, airdropped 100 pallets of supplies to them and about 5,000 Arabs who are fighting with their 25,000 people. And I think what U.S. policymakers are considering is putting limited numbers of special forces on the ground to help these people, who we've gotten to know and trust, going forward. I think it's that more than putting in significant numbers of troops. It'd be a few people and they'd be with these people we've grown to feel are reliable.
LABOTTWell, what you hear Putin say yesterday is, you know, the U.S. is criticizing Russia's strategy on the ground. And what Putin has said is that the U.S. doesn't have a strategy. The U.S. strategy is weak and so why are you criticizing us when you won't even talk to us. And the U.S. is saying, no, we're not going to talk to you about what your real goal in this operation is, about keeping Assad in power. We'll talk about deconfliction, making sure there are no clashes in the skies. We'll talk about ISIS. But we're not going to talk about anything that will bolster Assad.
LABOTTAnd here lies the problem: who has the advantage right now? Clearly, Putin has the advantage right now. The U.S. is hoping that soon, you know, that won't look so rosy to the Russians.
GUTTMANAnd just to add to the mix, we have the Iranians also increasing their involvement there. They're sending more troops. They've lost some senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. So definitely they're taking advantage of this chaos and of the fact that pressure is off Iran after the nuclear deal to increase their footprint in Syria as well.
REHMNathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Forward. Short break here. Your calls, your comments, when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back to the international hour of our Friday news roundup. Going to open the phones now, first to Jenna in Towson, Maryland. You're on the air.
JENNAHi Diane, thanks for taking my call.
JENNAI'm a longtime listener and a big fan.
JENNAI was wondering whether the recent ratification of the Iran deal would help or hurt the situation in the Middle East.
IGNATIUSIt's a great question. Certainly as the Iran negotiation was ending, both Secretary Kerry and President Obama hoped that the door would open to a period of greater cooperation with Iran and Russia, we'd sat around the table with both, over broader Middle East issues. I heard the president say that himself, and Secretary Kerry certainly said it.
IGNATIUSWhat we've seen instead is that the Iranians have been very aggressive with the Russians in pursuing military solutions, not diplomatic solutions, in the months since the agreement was completed, and that should worry people because it undermines confidence in the broader diplomatic process. Is it better to have the nuclear issue off the table for 10 years while this very unstable part of the world sorts things out? I would say yes, no question about it.
REHMBut what about this week's broadcast footage of what seems to be an underground missile facility, Nathan?
GUTTMANDefinitely, the fact that the Iranians are making this public, a new surface-to-surface missile that according to the United States and many of its allies violates U.N. resolutions regarding what it's permitted to do or not, clearly the fact that the Iranians are making this public is an attempt to show that now that the deal is signed, it is in a position where it can allow -- it feels that it can challenge the international community.
GUTTMANAnd the response we're seeing from the United States is basically saying, well, this has no bearing on the nuclear deal. We have ballistic issues, we have conventional issues, we have terror issues with the Iranians. We have places to deal with these, namely in this case the United Nations. But it doesn't have to do anything with the nuclear deal, which is still intact.
LABOTTBut this was the fear all along, right, of Israel and the Gulf that not necessarily that Iran was going to launch a nuclear weapon. And so yes, it's good to take that off the table, but now they feel emboldened, and they have -- they're going to have the money to, you know, have destabilizing activity and expand it throughout the region. And so just the very fact that on the day that Iran kind of -- the parliament endorsed the Iran deal, they're launching a missile test, they're featuring this underground bunker, and what you see what they're doing in Syria and elsewhere, they're basically saying, you know, we'll live by your nuclear deal but this -- don't expect us to, you know, heed in other areas in the region.
REHMAnd in the meantime, David, Iran has convicted in secret Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. What do you expect to happen next?
IGNATIUSWell, for those of at the Post and I hope for all of your listeners, this is really a terrible moment. Jason Rezaian, who was arrested 14 months ago, who was the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, was convicted. The conviction was announced, convicted of espionage. His sentence has not been announced. The Washington Post editor Marty Baron has denounced this as an outrageous injustice, and I think people who look at the facts of the case will agree with that.
IGNATIUSThe Iranians have suggested that they might be open to an exchange of prisoners, that Jason Rezaian might be released if Iranians who have been held, charged with violating sanctions laws, are also released. The U.S. government has said we have no interest in that whatsoever. But the situation for our correspondent, who is a very hard-working, dedicated, likeable guy, who is said to be absolutely despondent after the sentence, is something I hope people will think about.
REHMYou know, there -- we have gotten so many emails and phone calls about the question of why wasn't Rezaian's sentence part of the Iran deal, why wasn't his whole abduction and release taken into account in that Iran deal.
IGNATIUSI think the administration felt that just as wrapping in other regional issues, arming of Hezbollah, the situation in Syria, would have complicated the negotiations, let's just focus on the nuclear file, that it would've been a mistake to add the situation of our correspondent. Obviously we at the Post would like to have seen it resolved, but you can understand why the decision was made. Otherwise, I think there was a hope that in the spirit that followed the signing of the agreement in Vienna that there would be a kind of spirit of goodwill, and in that spirit he would be released.
IGNATIUSQuite the opposite. It's turned out that the hardliners want to show we will not give ground on this symbolic issue. We're going to convict him. And so I think it's a very worrying sign, and we just all are hoping that Jason at some point will be freed.
REHMAll right, let's go to Coryville, Texas. Carolyn, you're on the air.
CAROLYNGood morning, Diane, long time, big fan, thanks.
CAROLYNMy question is about the corruption in Afghanistan, seemingly at all levels, wondering if we have any leverage to push for change in those situations because it seems like keeping troops there and no change in the level of corruption would amount to anything.
GUTTMANWell, I think there is a limit to what the United States can do, the United States and its allies can do. Of course Afghanistan is one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid and all types of assistance. So you can require certain baselines of accountability and transparency. But we've seen in the past that it doesn't really work that way, that a lot of the money is used to prop up the government. And there's a balance here.
GUTTMANNo one wants to support a corrupt regime. On the other hand, if this corrupt regime is working with you, do you really want to impose more difficulties on it when it's still fighting a war against the Taliban?
LABOTTI also think that President Ashraf Ghani has made corruption one of the main kind of tenets of his, you know, campaign pledges, that he was going to try and root out corruption. And I think the U.S. sees him as a lot more of a permissive partner to work with on these issues than they did Hamid Karzai, who was seen as kind of -- his regime was seen as the bastion of corruption. So I think there are limits to what the U.S. can do, but I think the U.S. does have some confidence that Ghani is going to tackle this problem in earnest.
REHMAnd to Christopher in Orlando, Florida. You're on the air.
CHRISTOPHERHi Diane. I'm a first-time caller. I wanted to ask you a question about a recent video that popped up on Facebook with regards to a 12-year-old boy who was shot and later died in a hospital, but he was shot on the street in Israel by some Israeli police after being chased by an Israeli mob, accusing him of stabbing somebody a few streets over and without question just shooting him.
CHRISTOPHERI guess my question is, why do we continue to support a regime that, I mean, that commits these atrocities or allows these atrocities to be committed. Yes.
REHMAll right, Nathan?
GUTTMANThis boy, a 13-year-old boy actually, is now basically turning into the face of this -- a wave of uprising in Israel and Palestine. The fact of the matter, as we know it, is that this boy and a relative, who's I think 15 or 17, took knives and went after Israeli pedestrians in a neighborhood of Jerusalem. They stabbed -- this 13-year-old boy actually stabbed a Jewish 13-year-old boy riding his bike, and this boy was seriously injured. And security forces did -- now this is where it becomes a little murky, and there were some reports that they shot him, there were other reports that he did not suffer shooting wounds but was wounded by the police.
GUTTMANAnd then it became a big propaganda issue. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his speech to the Palestinian people a couple of days ago, talked to him as a Shahid, about him as a Shahid, as a martyr, who was executed by the Israelis. The Israelis were quick to show that this boy is actually alive and doing okay in an Israeli hospital and being treated. So they saw that as an attempt by Abbas to just incite the Palestinian streets and to get more people out.
GUTTMANDefinitely this tragic, tragic story, in which a 13-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys are victims, one stabbing the other and one getting put down by the police, this is just an example of this awful tragedy.
LABOTTI think that two things are going on. I mean, on one hand, there are, you know, concerns about the kind of rules of the road of Israeli forces and when they shoot to kill and when they are using -- if they are using excessive force particular of rock-throwers, as I said before, not necessarily about stabbing. But there is also a grave concern about that, as Nathan said, that these are being used as propaganda and that there is an impression, particularly among the U.S. and the Israelis, that the Palestinian leadership is inciting violence by calling them martyrs, by not condemning it.
LABOTTYou'll -- interesting enough, the first time you've heard from kind of President Abbas in a massive way to call for calm is this morning with talking about Jacob's Tomb, not calling on Palestinians to stand down and not take a kitchen knife and go stabbing. And I think that's one of the things that Secretary Kerry wants to address, this incitement.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. David, we need to talk about Turkey, which this morning shot down an unidentified aircraft. Do we know if it was a drone, whether it was Russia? What do we know?
IGNATIUSI was told this morning by an anonymous U.S. official that yes, it was a Russian drone that was shot down. The Turks have not formally announced that, and the Russians have denied it, but that was the statement. So many things happening in Turkey, I don't know, Diane, if you want to talk about the situation after the terrible bombing in Accra.
IGNATIUSLast week. So the Turks have introduced pretty convincing evidence that this was an ISIS operation. They've identified the two suicide bombers who were responsible. One of them had a brother who was involved in the last big bombing in Suruc, on the border of Syria back in July that killed over 30 people. The second of the two suicide bombers had been in Syria. So there's a lot of evidence that this was an ISIS operation, and it makes sense that they would attack people campaigning in favor, basically, of the Kurds, who are ISIS' biggest opponent in both Syria and Iraq.
IGNATIUSStrangely, the Turkish prime minister, given the evidence that would suggest this was ISIS, blamed both ISIS and the PKK, the radical Kurdish group, which is an historic enemy of Turkey, which Turkey regards as a terrorist group. I'm not aware of evidence that would link the PKK to the bombing. The idea that PKK would bomb a Kurdish peace rally is hard to figure out. But that's -- you know, that's -- it's difficult situation for Turkey, and they're heading to a big election November 1 with all this political instability.
LABOTTAnd this is one of the concerns of the international community, that, you know, Erdogan and the Turkish government are focused so much on the Kurds and also on Erdogan's other political opposition that they're missing the fact that, you know, more Islamic extremism is fomenting right in their cities and towns, and they're kind of turning a blind eye to it. And I think this attack really shows that, you know, although a lot of the detention of so-called extremists and terrorists have been PKK and other political opposition, you know, they're missing the threat right in front of their eyes by ISIS.
REHMAnd you've also got Turkey about to deal with the EU on the migrant crisis.
GUTTMANEvidently it seems that there is progress there and that the EU is now willing to discuss both a generous aid package to Turkey, probably something around $3.5 billion, and more significantly a set of measures that will address some of the concerns that Turkey has in its relationship with the EU, visas for Turkish citizens traveling to Europe and reopening this idea of having Turkey join the European Union, which is something that Turkey has long wanted, and the Europeans for many reasons were against.
GUTTMANAnd now, since there is a sense in Europe, not because they've suddenly fallen in love with the Turks but because they have the sense that if the situation in Turkey would be better, then the migrants maybe will want to stay over there and not come over to Europe, now there's a readiness in Europe to rediscuss the issue.
REHMAnd finally the Dutch investigators report on Malaysia Airlines, the plane that was shot down over Ukraine last July. What'd they find, Elise?
LABOTTWell, they said that it was a Russian-developed BUK missile. You know, the investigation was not to say who was responsible but what happened and how, and they said it was a Russian-developed BUK missile. The United States and others feel that this was Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, that the missile was provided by Russia. Russia is, you know, adamantly denying this. In fact, the manufacturer of the missile invited reporters in Russia to show that there's no way that this could've happened.
LABOTTBut, I mean, it just goes to show the impunity that has been going on with this particular flight.
REHMIsn't -- wasn't this such an old missile that only Russians would have known how to operate it, Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, that's one of the points that this Dutch report doesn't really reach any definite conclusion about, what model of the missile was it. Was it one that could not be in the hands of the separatists or not?
LABOTTOr the Ukrainian government.
LABOTTI mean, the Ukrainian government is believed to use these missiles, too, and the Russians say that the Ukrainians shot it down, which is...
REHMYou know, I'm going to echo something David, you said a few moments ago. Our poor world.
IGNATIUSWell, it's a period when I think all of us, your listeners as much as us here, just see the world darkening in so many different ways. And it's time when you want the United States to be a force for ordering the world, re-establishing the rules, maintaining stability. So far, that's just not working out very well.
REHMSad note to end on, but David Ignatius at The Washington Post, Elise Labott of CNN, Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and The Forward, thank you all so much.
GUTTMANThanks for having us.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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