ISIS takes control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Several nations agree to take in Southeast Asian migrants. And the U.S. and Cuba move closer to full restoration of diplomatic ties. A panel of journalists joins guest host Indira Lakshmanan for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
The standoff between French police and the shooting suspect in Toulouse ends in a hail of gunfire; the U.N. Security Council calls for a ceasefire in Syria; and charges are expected to be filed on Friday against the American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. Join Diane and a panel of journalists for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Tom Gjelten NPR national security correspondent and author of "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause."
- Courtney Kube national security producer for NBC News.
- Ahmed Rashid Pakistani journalist; contributor to Financial Times; and author of the new book "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan"; his other books include "Taliban," "Descent into Chaos" and "Jihad."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. China and Russia back a UN plan to attempt a cease-fire in Syria. The U.S. soldier accused of slaying Afghan civilians is likely to face murder charges. A French-Algerian said since suspected of killing Jewish children and others died in a gun battle and there's new hope of finding where Amelia Earhart's plane went down 75 years ago. Joining me in the studio to talk about the week's top international stories on the "Friday News Roundup," Tom Gjelten of NPR, Courtney Kube of NBC and Ahmed Rashid of Financial Times.
MS. DIANE REHMYou're welcome to be part of the program. Call us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning and happy Friday everyone.
MR. TOM GJELTENHi, Diane.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. AHMED RASHIDGood morning.
REHMGood to have you here. Tom Gjelten, what have we learned about U.S. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales?
GJELTENWe're going to know a lot more by the end of today, Diane, because he is going to be charged, we understand, with 17 counts of murder. Now, that suggests of course that 17 people were killed. There's a little bit of dispute about how many men, women and children were killed in those two villages where he allegedly went on this killing spree.
GJELTENYou know, in the middle of the night got up, left his base, took his weapon, went out to two hamlets near where he was and just went wild according to what we have heard about this. Dragging children out of their homes by their hair, shooting them, burning their homes, killing women, killing men, 17 in all. He's going to be charged with 17 counts of murder.
GJELTENNow, the big question, of course, is whether the multiple deployments that he has been through in Iraq and Afghanistan somehow left him incapacitated, incapable of making the moral judgments, you know, that he should have been able to make. The problem is that there have been thousands upon thousands of soldiers and Marines who have had multiple deployments who experienced post-traumatic stress and, you know, they have not done this. So that raises the big question, what happened in this case?
REHMCourtney Kube, Robert Bales' attorney John Henry Brown said that the government has to prove it. He said, there is no crime scene and a lack of important physical evidence like fingerprints. How is the government going to proceed here?
KUBEWell, he has a point in some respects. Of course, immediately after or very soon after the massacre, after the attack, many of the bodies were buried right away. But there were other forensics. There was an Army CID, Criminal Investigation Unit that was able to get in there right away. There were also several of the conventional soldiers that went in. So they were able to gather some forensics, shell casings. They were able to take some pictures. The attorney does have a little bit of a point in that they weren't able to take bullets out of bodies because many of the bodies were buried right away.
KUBEImmediately and then also the U.S. forces did respects several days of a mourning period. They certainly were not welcomed back into that village in the days after. So there was a period there where valuable evidence was lost and Tom mentioned the 17 charges of murder. He'll also be charged with six counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault and we were told by a senior U.S. military official yesterday that one of those cases, one of those Afghan civilians is in very dire straits, still in very serious condition and may not survive.
REHMAnd how is all of this affecting the government of Afghanistan, Tom?
GJELTENWell, Diane, there was outrage of course. There was demand by Afghan politicians, the Afghan Parliament, that Staff Sergeant Bales be prosecuted and tried in Afghanistan, which would not be in accord with the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan. I do think one of the things that we have seen however is that the Afghan leadership, the Afghan political leadership, understands that this is an alliance that is in their strategic interests, between the United States and Afghanistan and I think, in spite of the popular outrage, there has been a recognition by the Afghan authorities that somehow this partnership has to continue.
REHMAhmed Rashid, you wrote a piece in The Financial Times this week titled, "A Deal with the Taliban is The Only Out." Explain your position.
RASHIDWell, really, I think the, you know, there is exhaustion on all sides. This war has gone on too long for the United States, too long for the Afghans and everybody is fed up and there are indications that even the Taliban want to speak now because most of them are in exile, their leadership in exile in Pakistan where they're becoming increasingly fed up with the kind of manipulation that they have to undergo there.
RASHIDAnd really, I think, the main task of President Obama has to be a withdraw, an orderly withdraw, but leaving Afghan at peace. In other words, ending the civil war before you leave. Now, that means you have to end to the civil war before 2014. Now, how does he do that except by talking to the Taliban or trying to talk to the Taliban.
RASHIDNow, the U.S. military is still talking about some kind of military success. They've watered down their military victory a bit to military success. They don't want to be seen to be leaving as it were in retreat. But I think what we need to focus on right now is a political deal and a political strategy and not a military strategy necessary. The military should take second seat for the diplomats from the State Department etc who are trying to negotiate. These talks have been going on for one year. They haven't gone very far yet but partly that is because not the entire Obama Administration is on board. Just as in Kabul not the entire Kabul Administration is on board.
REHMAhmed Rashid, he's a Pakistani journalist, Financial Times contributor. He's the author of the new book, "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Ahmed, how is this Kandahar massacre being viewed in Pakistan?
RASHIDWell, very badly because there, you know, right across the region now you have the growth of such anti-Americanism, which of course is not just related to anti-Americanism. It creates anti-democracy, anti-modernization. You know, it hurts the rights of women. So it's being treated, you know, there have been three incidents in the last few weeks. The burning of the Korans, this incident and the soldiers urinating on Taliban bodies.
RASHIDNow, all three have had a huge impact in the -- in Afghanistan we've had rioting, of course, after the burning of the Korans. In Iran you've had Iranian generals calling on the Afghan people to rise and kill the Americans. So Iran is directly tried to take advantage of this issue of the burning of the Korans and the killings carried out by Sergeant Bales. And in Pakistan you've had just yesterday a massive rally in Karachi, anti-American and, you know, protesting these riots. So it's been a very big impact.
KUBEAnd he's absolutely right and then the Taliban of course last week pulled out of talks, peace talks. And interestingly enough they did not site all of these incidents that Ahmed just mentioned. Instead they said that if the U.S. continues to change their positions and that they haven't followed through on promises, one of them being of course transferring five detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatari detention.
KUBEBut what's interesting is that they did not site these recent things. They did not site these recent incidents and what makes it clear is that the Taliban really didn't have much of a need. They didn't really need much of an excuse to pull out of these talks because all they needed was a little bit of hope that number one, there was anti-Americanism in the region as Ahmed mentioned and that because of that perhaps the collation, NATO collation, would either pull out early or that it would give the Taliban a chance to just hold on long enough for them to leave in 2014 and they wouldn't need to reconcile.
GJELTENWell, Ahmed made clear how this has to be seen within the political context in Afghanistan and Pakistan but it also has to be seen in the political context in the United States. This is an election year, there is very great opposition, political opposition on Capitol Hill from Republicans and even from some Democrats to this idea of negotiating with the Taliban and as Courtney knows, Secretary of Defense Panetta, basically vetoed this idea at least for now of transferring these five Taliban leaders to Qatari jurisdiction because he was concerned that there was no guarantee from the Qatari authorities to control their movements.
GJELTENAnd without a kind of a guarantee like that the opposition to this move which is critical to the future of these negotiations, I mean, this is (unintelligible) for the Taliban, but without those safeguards, President Obama would face such opposition, even including from within his own party, they really couldn't proceed.
RASHIDTom is absolutely right and I think this is critical, the idea that, you know, could President Obama's policies especially talking to the Taliban and other things be held hostage to the American political agenda and to the November elections. Now, obviously I mean, I think there's -- of course, there's a very strong element of truth in that.
RASHIDI mean, the Democrats don't want the Republicans accusing them of being soft and releasing prisoners and, you know, all the old sort of diatribes that the Republicans have always had against the Democrats, that they're weak on national security and all that. But imagine how this is playing back home in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, that you know, this is a president whose got, you know, 150,000 troops in Afghanistan and is hostage basically to, you know, people like Mitt Romney who people -- people don't even know who he is back in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
RASHIDSo it's very confusing for the Afghan, even for President Karzai to understand. Look you're the President of the United States, I mean, you know, why are you having this agenda which is against, you know, our interests.
REHMAhmed Rashid, Financial Times, author of the book "Pakistan on the Brink." Short break here and when we come back, more conversation, your calls.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international hour of our Friday News Roundup. This week with Ahmed Rashid of the Financial Times, Courtney Kube of NBC and Tom Gjelten of NPR. Courtney, the UN Security Council agreed to support a presidential statement on Syria. Number one, what does it say and number two, did Russia and China agree to go along?
KUBEThey did. It's a presidential statement, which means it's legally nonbinding. It's sort of a step down from a Security Council resolution. It's significant in that, well, number one, it was put forward essentially under the tenants of Kofi Annan who's the special envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League. But it was unanimously backed, including by Russia, after it was watered down a bit, which included – they would not sign onto it if it included any ultimatums or anything that could potentially lead to additional sanctions or military actions against Syria.
KUBESo it's significant in that Russia signed on to it despite the fact it wasn't as strong as it could've been. It calls for a ceasefire. It calls for allowing humanitarian aid into the region and for immediate talks between both sides. And it also -- it calls for a ceasefire from both sides. That's the opposition.
REHMBut Syria's response?
KUBESyria has sloughed it off. I mean, already today there was shelling, there were mortars, machinegun fire in the north from Syrian forces against the opposition near the border with Lebanon -- I'm sorry, with Turkey.
REHMAnd, Tom, today the EU apparently approved sanctions against President Assad's wife and other family members, everybody except...
GJELTENExcept the United Kingdom.
GJELTENAnd, you know, this is potentially effective because Bashar al-Assad's wife is British born, very cosmopolitan, very European. And I'm sure it's very important to her to be able to travel outside Syria, particularly even what that country has to look forward to in the coming months. Now the big loophole here is, as you say, Britain has not said whether it will allow Mrs. Assad to return to Britain.
GJELTENI think the British position is that it's premature. I don't know why it's premature to make a decision on that except it does suggest that they may want to use this as some kind of bargaining chip, some kind of leverage against the Assad regime because you can be sure it's very important to her to be able to travel to Britain. They're leaving that little door open for now.
RASHIDYes. I mean, if you remember, Diane, when Mubarak in Egypt was replaced, his two -- his sons' wives and children, who had British passports, were allowed to go to Britain. And they have lived there. And there were a couple of stories about these wives doing excessive shopping at Herod's and stuff like that. But anyway, they have been allowed to live there. Now it is possible that Britain is kind of offering Bashar al-Assad, you know, that if -- a refuge for his wife and their children. Possibly even Bashar al-Assad himself, if he wants to get out. Although, I mean, that would be very controversial obviously.
REHMIt just sounds so unreal that the UK would take in Bashar al-Assad.
RASHIDYes, I mean, it does. It does. More likely it would be perhaps suggesting that his family could come out, you know.
REHMBut might these sanctions succeed where others have failed, Tom?
GJELTENWell, I think the big development this week is not the fact that the European Union has come up with some new sanctions. I think the big development, as Courtney suggested, is the fact that Russia has for the first time put some significant distance between itself and the Assad regime. Some very pointed criticism from the Russian foreign ministry against the Assad regime. And they have now endorsed this six-point plan, this United Nations plan that Kofi Annan proposed. Russia has endorsed that plan. The Assad regime has rejected it. That puts Russia and the Assad regime on opposite sides.
GJELTENAnd up until now, of course, Russia has been Syria's most important backer, not only backing the government diplomatically, but continuing to provide military aid to that regime. So this is a significant development. Now on the other hand we're seeing that the opposition movement is really running into some hard times. The momentum we saw a couple of weeks ago when it really looked like they were making progress has all but disappeared.
KUBEIt's absolutely right. I mean, they are running out of ammunition, out of weapons. They're really being battered by the Assad regime. And what's scary about it is that Assad hasn't even really pulled out much of his air force on the opposition. He really hasn't pulled out the quote unquote big guns yet so that's, you know, a definite turn in this.
KUBEAlso, Kofi Annan, as Tom was saying about Russia -- the significance of Russia signing on, Kofi Annan is traveling to Moscow this weekend presumably to talk the Russians into stop providing weapons to the Syrian regime. So that may be a new development.
REHMWhich they've been doing right along.
KUBEAbsolutely, $6 billion worth of weapons.
RASHIDI think the other really disappointing thing for the West is that is the political fragmentation of the opposition. They've been active for a year or more. They've not been able to get together a common leadership agree on terms and conditions, you know, for the regime. And, you know, in the case of Libya for example, you know, you had this very divided society. But finally, you know, they did come together with the help perhaps of the CIA and some MI6 and people -- intelligence going in.
RASHIDBut of course, in the case of Syria, the Turks have been largely responsible for housing the political opposition. And the Turks have been responsible for trying to get, you know, these people together on one platform. And so far, it hasn't worked.
GJELTENThere's one other point that needs to be emphasized that distinguishes the uprising in Syria from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. And that is that Al-Qaida clearly has a presence in the Syrian opposition. There've been a number of suicide bombings that are probably attributed to the opposition. And U.S. intelligence officials say they have all the characteristics that we associated with Al-Qaida in Iraq. And there does seem to be clear evidence that the group that we used to think of as Al-Qaida in Iraq is now active on behalf of the opposition. That makes this uprising different and scarier.
REHMAnd certainly those who have called for the U.S. to get in and help the opposition, that is likely to go nowhere, Courtney.
KUBEAbsolutely, especially with -- if Al-Qaida and Iraq is behind some of these attacks, like Damascus and Aleppo, as Tom was talking about, then that's going to just destroy any Western support for that opposition. And it's not surprising that this fight has taken a more of a guerrilla warfare or insurgent type tactics because, as we were saying, they've run out of weapons. They're desperate at this point. They need to make as big a splash as they can.
KUBEBut what's terrifying about it is something like suicide attacks in Damascus, suicide car bombs against intelligent centers and whatnot, that really bears the hallmarks of Al-Qaida. And that just proves that this opposition is not only fragmented but no one knows who's behind it.
REHMExactly. All right. Let's talk about what's happened in France this week. The tragic killing of seven individuals by, apparently, a French Algerian citizen who finally, in a standoff with police, was killed. A terrifying incident.
RASHIDAbsolutely. A terrifying incident and reinforces how, if this young man who perpetrated these killings, went to Afghanistan and Pakistan, got training with Al-Qaida, as he claimed to do before he was shot dead. That shows how Al-Qaida since 9/11 has been able to penetrate in Europe. We know very well that Al-Qaida has cells in Britain and Germany and Sweden and Norway, in the Netherlands.
RASHIDAnd really the threat from France up 'til now had been the North Africans, people coming in from North Africa and some of the groups based there. Not French Arabs who had gone to Pakistan or Afghanistan. And the French -- you know, the whole argument for the stay -- there are about 1500 French troops in Afghanistan. Sarkozy has said that they will be pulled out next year. So this comes as a double whammy for him. He's pulling out of Afghanistan just as there seems to be now terrorists in France who have trained in Afghanistan.
KUBEYeah, there's a lot that's still unknown about this man. He was 23 years old and the portrait that's painted by his friends of him is not necessarily of a fundamentalist. He claims that he went to Afghanistan and Pakistan but his claims of ties to Al-Qaida have not been verified by French authorities, by U.S. authorities. There were some rumors that maybe he had been detained at one point. He was fighting against the French forces in Southern Afghanistan, that he was detained and then broke out in 2008 in the big Kandahar jailbreak. No one's been able to really verify that either.
KUBESo it's still unknown whether this guy was in fact a lone wolf actor, sort of a proxy that was operating in France that was fighting on behalf of Al-Qaida or if in fact he was sort of a social outcast that maybe used this as some kind of an outlet for his aggression and anger.
GJELTENAnd, you know, Diane, he claimed to be carrying out these acts in revenge for the killing of Palestinian children in addition to protesting French restrictions on Muslim women in France wearing veils. But when he raised the issue of the Palestinian children there was a very important and inspiring comment from the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who said it is time for these criminals to stop exploiting the name of Palestine through their terrorist actions and stop pretending to stand up for Palestinian children who only seek a decent life for themselves and for all children of the world.
GJELTENThat is one of the most powerful statements that I have seen from a Palestinian leader condemning terrorist actions.
REHMI agree. You know, the other thing is that the French authorities are coming under criticism for not having had closer access to this man. He was already on the U.S. no-fly list, Ahmed.
RASHIDYes. I mean, certainly but, you know, I think there have been so -- so many people have been to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the border regions for training. A lot of the European intelligence agencies who are based in Pakistan have not been able to track them down. They can track their coming in but they can't track their going back because many of them don't go back by air. They go back on this route through Iran and the Middle East, literally with smugglers and by foot. And they enter their home country illegally, even though they have passports of their home country.
RASHIDThis has been the case in Norway and Holland and Germany. So, you know, intelligence is not perfect in these things.
REHMIndeed. A lot of people are giving French President Sarkozy a lot of credit for his handling of this particular crisis. How does this figure into the French elections?
KUBEWell, it's gonna certainly increase the sense of nationalism, the rally around the president. So the timing for Sarkozy, it sounds awful to say this, but the timing's actually politically favorable for him. The election comes up in a couple of weeks and he's in a pretty tight fight with the socialist candidate right now.
KUBEThere have been some criticisms. The French Prime Minister just this morning was defending against these accusations that there were intelligence failures. And he said that, you know, they were monitoring this guy. They were aware of him, but in the end, they had nothing to substantiate the claim that perhaps his words would be moved into actions at any point.
KUBEBut that being said, there's already been this wave of, I mean, anti-Muslim feeling, the sentiment that's starting to sweep through France. It's been there since the burqa law was passed last year. And Sarkozy has now said that he's going to arrest people who frequent terrorist websites in France.
REHMCourtney Kube, a producer for NBC News and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Tom, you wanted to add something.
GJELTENWell, Courtney mentioned how this is sort of giving rise to some nationalist fervor. But nationalist feelings are very volatile and can backfire. Sarkozy's opponents are not only the socialist candidate Francois Hollande, but also the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far right figure from the '80s and '90s in France. Marion Le Pen, I think her name is. And so if she is able to ride this anti-Muslim sentiment that Courtney was mentioning, that could lift her in the polls.
GJELTENSo even though this sort of new interest, new concern about security may work to Sarkozy's benefit and detract from the economic issues that previously had been dominant, you know, it's not that Sarkozy alone would benefit from that.
REHMAll right. And today is the deadline for the White House to nominate someone to head the World Bank. And indeed, President Obama has announced his choice. It's Dartmouth's president Jim Yong Kim. Tom, tell us about him.
GJELTENJim Kim, as he is known. Totally surprising choice. His name was not -- you know, we've seen a number of names floating...
GJELTEN...in the last few days. His name is not there. And I guess that, you know, he's probably one of the most obscure candidates to be put forward for a World Bank president. I mean, that has been a high profile position in the past and he does not exactly come to this nomination from a position of high profile. On the other hand, in many ways his background seems perfect. He is a physician. He has devoted his career to development work. He's an expert in global health. He headed the AIDS department at the World Health Organization. He's seen in Africa as a friend of Africa. He was born in Korea so it's not as though President Obama's nominating some old white guy, you know, which I think that would've generated a lot of opposition.
REHMDrawn some -- yeah, right.
GJELTENSo it actually seems like quite a clever move.
REHMHe's also a MacArthur Fellowship winner in 2003. So it'll be interesting because there was some push to have someone outside of this country named to that post, Courtney.
KUBEAbsolutely. And there had been some talk with other nominees that -- names that were out there. It included Lawrence Summers the former economic advisor of President Obama. There was some sort of a spark, a fire lit under some of the countries around the world to put forward other nominees and that this might be an actual contest. The United States has, of course, held the position since, you know, right after World War II when the World Bank was created.
KUBESo I think that it was a surprising pick, as Tom said, but it will probably ensure that the United States' pick does, in fact, take over the World Bank.
REHMAll right. And finally before our break and before we go to the phones, what new evidence do we have in the 75-year mystery about Amelia Earhart, Courtney?
KUBEWell, this is one of those fun stories that you love to read about amidst all the war that we cover. A photograph came forward recently that seems to show the landing gear from Amelia Earhart's -- well, from a plane, a Lockheed plane that could have been Amelia Earhart's plane. So it sort of renewed this interest in the conspiracy theorists who have been out there -- I realized this week, have been out there with saying everything from she was a CIA spy at the time spying on Japan and was taken into custody. Now they think that she may have actually landed on a small desert island and perhaps even survived for several days.
KUBEAnd there were also little tidbits that came over the years. There was part of a bone found at one point, a lady's button. So this summer, they're going to renew the search.
REHMCourtney Kube, a producer for NBC News. Short break here and when we come back, time to open the phones.
REHMWelcome back, time to open the phones, first let's go to Little Rock, Ark. to Lesley, good morning to you.
LESLEYGood morning, Diane, thanks for the interaction. My question revolves around more the gentleman saying that not all of the president's administration was on board with the political solution. And I want to know which part of the administration is not on board with the president?
REHMYou mean as far as Afghanistan is concerned?
RASHIDWell, it seems to me that the military, the CIA and even some elements in the State Department are not fully on board, whereas certainly I would say that the White House and the State Department are leading the charge on this political strategy. But they are being cautious because of, you know, as Tom said, because of the political agenda inside the U.S. and because of the divisions in Kabul, Islamabad and elsewhere.
RASHIDBut, you know, it would help a great deal. I think these negotiations would move forward much quicker and better if the U.S. side was fully united.
REHMYou had General Allen testifying this week Tom?
GJELTENYeah, and General Allen, one of the things that he said just yesterday is that he thinks there should basically be no reduction in U.S. troops in Afghanistan throughout 2013. There will be U.S. troops coming out this year, but he thinks next year, they should stay put so that certainly suggests some skepticism about this. But there's another point, which is that Hilary Clinton was talking about the situation in Afghanistan this week.
GJELTENAnd she emphasized the gains that Afghan women have made, the increase in life expectancy for Afghan women, the more schooling opportunities for girls, more business employment opportunities for women and she had Laura Bush at her side. And the two of them made a very strong case that Afghan women have made some gains and we don't want to see those lost. So simply turning over the government to the Taliban would put those in jeopardy.
REHMOn that very question, let's take a call from Stephanie here in Washington, good morning.
STEPHANIEGood morning, Diane, thank you so much. Ahmed Rashid, first of all, I want to say I admire your writings. I wouldn't have gotten through my year working in Pakistan without reading your books first, very insightful and should be a required primer for anyone going to that region. Ahmed Rashid, how would you recommend in negotiations to end this impossible war? How would you recommend that we negotiate with the Taliban to secure basic human rights for women, education and healthcare?
RASHIDLook I think, I think the Taliban have moderated their position a lot from what they were even a few years ago. They have allowed full education now in the areas that they control. They're not burning down girls' schools anymore and they've allowed girls' education. In fact it's the Pakistani Taliban that are acting much more viciously right now than the Afghan Taliban.
RASHIDThe Pakistani Taliban are burning down girls' schools, the Afghans are not. Now obviously this doesn't satisfy, you know, everything and they're still demanding that the constitution should be more Islamic and there should be restrictions. But, you know, what I'm saying is that, look, once you enter into a process of negotiations, you are going to be moderating their position because as Tom said, you've had ten years of gain here.
RASHIDI mean, there's a whole new middle class or an urban sector in Afghan society, which includes women, of course, which is educated which is not going to allow all their rights to be taken away from them. So I'm hoping that the process of negotiations which, after all, could take one or two years to happen, is going to be changing their position, moderating their position and Karzai has to do a lot here.
RASHIDKarzai has to bring women to the fore of these negotiations. In other words, if there's a negotiating team down the road with the Taliban to discuss power-sharing, women must be in that group.
REHMDo you expect that to happen?
RASHIDI really do, I really do. I think once we can get over these hurdles of lack of trust between the Americans and the Taliban, and measures should be taken, you know, on both sides to develop a trust, then you will get into a power-sharing negotiation, hopefully, between Karzai and the Taliban, you know, brokered by the Americans.
RASHIDAll this needs to be done, of course, before 2014, but in that power-sharing, obviously women must be presented to the Taliban and say, look, this is part of the -- these women are part of our negotiating team.
REHMCourtney you look skeptical.
KUBEWell, there's already been some criticism that women weren't brought into the peace talks so that's one of the concerns. I hope that Ahmed is right. And he brought up a critical point, which is that it's not just the Taliban, but it is President Karzai. You know, he approved this new code of conduct in Afghanistan that says it's legal for men to beat their wives.
KUBESo the Taliban is not the only one who needs to change their views on women in the society, it's the society at writ large. And I hope that Ahmed is right that women are able to stand their ground.
REHMAll right, to Shaker Heights, Ohio, good morning, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETHGood morning, Diane, what a treat to be able to speak with you.
ELIZABETHI'm calling regarding Staff Sergeant Bales and the comment that was made by one of your panelists early this morning about moral judgment and certainly that involved his behavior. But I wanted to point out that Sergeant Bales' vehicle in Iraq in one of his deployments was hit by an IED and rolled over and there's no question that he had a TBI or a brain injury that came out of that, that apparently was not diagnosed and properly recorded in his records.
ELIZABETHIf so, it's quite probable he never should have been sent back for a fourth deployment so in other words, there's a medical issue to consider here not just moral judgment.
KUBEElizabeth, you're right. He was in a vehicle rollover in Iraq, but it was not an IED, it was an accident. It doesn't make it less significant obviously and he was treated for a traumatic brain injury. But you have to keep in mind that there's a wide spectrum of brain injuries here. Everything from a concussive event is considered TBI in the military and that's what he was diagnosed with having.
KUBEAnd you're absolutely right, you know, there have been cases in the past where soldiers and sailors have been misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress, traumatic brain injury and they have been sent forward. But I just caution you on this case because there is no medical evidence that proves that a traumatic brain injury leads to violent behavior.
KUBEThat's just not the case. It can lead to, you know irritability. It can lead to balance problems, actual medical issues, but generally that's often something that is a prior problem. He had a string of offenses of assaults and problems with alcohol in the past. Now, where I definitely agree with you, Elizabeth, is that, you know, he has senior NCOs, non-commissioned officers, he's got his buddies. He's got his medical doctors that he meets with pre and post-deployment, even during deployments and someone should have flagged something.
KUBESomeone should have said this guy has anger issues. He was treated for anger management and this could be a potential ticking time bomb. There was a break in the system there.
REHMAll right, let's go to Kalamazoo, Mich. Santiago, you're on the air.
SANTIAGOGood morning. I understand the concern of the media and the government with the people being killed in territories that are either under government control or occupied by the government and I'm thinking specifically of Syria. I understand that. But I was wondering why the media and the American government doesn't pay the same attention to other places like Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Spain, Ethiopia, Uganda, The Congo, Yemen or Bahrain where the governments are also killing people in the territories that they either control or occupy.
RASHIDWell, obviously, you have a very correct point there and this is all to do with global politics and national power politics and national interests, you know. A lot of these countries that you name are not in the realm of America's national interest, you know, to turn into democracies in a hurry or anything else.
RASHIDA lot of these countries, most people, you know, have not even heard of. So I think, you know, that is the problem. There is, you know, even in North Africa in the Arab Spring, we've seen a very selective approach to where, you know, the United States will put its weight, where the Europeans will put their weight. It's been very selective.
RASHIDAs you said, Bahrain, for example, nobody is supporting he opposition in Bahrain.
REHMAll right, to Cazenovia, N.Y. good morning, Aaron.
AARONGood morning, Diane. I wonder why China is entirely left out of the conversations about Afghanistan? It's a straight line from China's Xinjiang Province to Afghanistan to Iran. Then there's the issue of water supply, the Chinese, like, controlling Tibet, control all the water for Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, China and Tibet itself and the last three rivers in Central Asia are in Afghanistan.
AARONThen there's this oil deal that the Chinese just made with Afghanistan. You know, our media is drunk with self-recriminations because our war effort isn't immaculate, but I think, as a nation, we're overdue to sober up. Today's costs in Asia are nothing compared to what they're going to be when China solidifies its further expansion.
GJELTENWell Aaron's got a really strong point there. You know, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where the United States basically limps out of Afghanistan, beaten down, you know, worn down and leaves Afghanistan. And China comes in and cleans up and really makes out like a bandit. I mean, as Aaron said, China's already got some oil deals. It's poised to be in a position to exploit the great mineral wealth that's in Afghanistan.
GJELTENI think they already have rights to a copper field. You know, China has been sort of sitting on the sideline and is in a position to do very well.
REHMHow do you see it, Ahmed?
RASHIDYou're right, absolutely, you know. China's aid to Afghanistan in ten years has been something like $400 million, you know, which is like a drop in the bucket. I mean, India's aid has been five times that, for example, and India is a much poorer country than China.
RASHIDSo China's aid has been minimal, but on the other hand, China, of course, is always in this race for raw materials. Afghanistan is full of minerals, but, you know, developing these minerals in Afghanistan, first of all, requires peace to which, so far, the Chinese have not contributed, in the sense they are not helping the peace process go on.
RASHIDAnd secondly, it needs stability so that infrastructure can be built up. You need roads and railways to exploit all these minerals. And the Chinese will have to do far more nation-building, in fact, in order to get to these minerals.
REHMDo you see them interested in doing that?
RASHIDOh, yes, I think they are. I mean, they are because Afghanistan for them, one is a neighbor, it is very strategic for them. And secondly, Chinese Muslims are being radicalized by this war and a lot of Chinese Muslims, who are called Uighurs in Xinjiang Province, have been arrested, executed by the Chinese authorities for fighting with the Taliban, for getting training in Pakistan. And that's been one of the big, growing bones of contention, that the American presence in Afghanistan is undermining Muslim China just as it is, you know, there's a fifth column undermining Tibet.
RASHIDSo now, you know, the Americans are active in undermining Xinjiang Province. So they are very keen that the Americans move out, but they're not lifting a finger to actually help the peace process, help Afghanistan develop.
REHMWhat a complicated world we live in, Ahmed Rashid. His brand new book is titled "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan" and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And to Ahmed in Cleveland, Ohio, good morning. You're on the air.
AHMEDGood morning. President Obama, he sent a message to the Iranian people through the media telling them he's not in dispute with them, he's in dispute with the Iranian leadership. I'd like to ask your panel how do the Iranian people receive his message.
RASHIDWell, President Obama has done this every year on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. And his first job when he came in, his first international message, in fact, was to Iran when he was elected and became president. He's played an enormous role in trying to build bridges with the Iranian people, trying to bypass the leadership and go directly to the Iranian people and he's given many positive messages.
RASHIDAnd you know, I mean, obviously, the leadership doesn't like this. It doesn't like what he's doing. But there's very little information out of Iran as to what the public response is. But I'm sure, you know, a very large proportion of Iranians who don't like the present regime, who are in opposition to it, many of them in jail, will certainly appreciate this. This is not a big stick that he's wielding here. He's wielding, you know, a soft tongue, as it were, to try and woo the Iranian people.
REHMBut going back to politics here in this country, Tom, he's labeled as weak when he reaches out to the Iranian people.
GJELTENYou know, to try to sort of interpret foreign policy, you know, right now through the prism of the election campaign is a really frustrating exercise. You know, there is a legitimate debate about how the United States should be dealing with Iran. You know, it would be nice to see that debate proceed along rational and reasonable lines. It doesn't always occur that way.
REHMCourtney, just to close the program, I want to go back a little bit to the Amelia Earhart situation because $500,000 is being or is going to be allocated from private funds. What are they going to do? Who is going to do what?
KUBEWell, there's a historical group that's going to do much of the actual digging, the actual work there. It's in a small island in the Republic of Kiribati, which is why the State Department got involved because they had to help facilitate allowing...
REHMWhere is Kiribati?
GJELTENDiane, you've been doing this show over 25 years, you know the whole world. You tell us where Kiribati is.
REHMI don't know where Kiribati is. Tell me, Courtney.
KUBEI will admit that I Googled it and it looks lovely. It's in the Pacific Ocean, basically between Hawaii and Australia.
REHMOh, so you volunteered to go?
KUBEI have volunteered. I'm awaiting my flight. But Secretary Clinton got involved and, you know, she gave this very emotional and heartfelt speech. I have to admit, as a critical journalist, it was somewhat inspiring. She talked about being a little girl who wanted to be an astronaut and how she admired Amelia Earhart and her drive to be the woman who flies around the world by herself and her spirit and how she was so excited to be involved in searching for her plane 75 years later.
REHMAnd we have an email asking "whatever happened to the theory that Ms. Earhart was on an intelligence-gathering mission?"
KUBEWell, the records have proven otherwise. There was never any record. There were also some rumors that she actually did dispatches during World War II, that she was the American voice on some of the dispatches and it's all been disproven.
REHMCourtney Kube, she's national security producer for NBC News, Tom Gjelten, NPR national security correspondent and Ahmed Rashid, his new book "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan." Thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
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