web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "September 11 (2001)"

Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s.

For 18 years and four presidential elections, Democrats running for president have felt compelled to lay out comprehensive plans for the future of Afghanistan, vowing to never again let the country become a breeding ground for terrorists who could strike the United States as they did on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, the candidates are racing one another — and President Trump — to demonstrate how quickly they would end the long-running conflict. In the debate on Thursday night, there was almost no discussion of American goals for the country, like building a democracy or protecting the rights of women — objectives that were staples of past Democratic campaigns.

It is a striking change. Even while deeply opposing President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, Democrats saw Afghanistan as the good war, prompted by a direct attack on the United States. President Barack Obama ordered a surge in American forces by the end of his first year in office. But as the years went by, he had growing doubts, and now Democrats have fully embraced those misgivings and want out.

Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are so eager for the United States to depart that they say they would pull out combat troops even in the absence of an agreement with the Taliban.

“What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States,” Ms. Warren said during the debate. “It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan.”

“We cannot ask our military to keep solving problems that cannot be solved militarily,” she added.

A foreign policy adviser to Mr. Sanders, who has said he would withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan in his first term as president, echoed that argument in an interview on Friday, saying that while Mr. Sanders supported negotiations with the Taliban, the next president should be “modest about what we, the United States, can actually achieve given that we’ve been there for almost two decades.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and the only candidate to have served in Afghanistan, acknowledged during an interview over the weekend that what the Democrats missed last week was any discussion of what the United States still wanted or needed to achieve in Afghanistan — the first step toward determining what kind of presence to have on the ground.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 12debate-a1-swap-articleLarge Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Senator Bernie Sanders, left, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Elizabeth Warren say they would pull American combat troops out of Afghanistan even in the absence of an agreement with the Taliban.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

“I will say I agree that didn’t come through in the debate,” said Mr. Buttigieg, who has pledged to withdraw the troops within a year of taking office, but only with a substantive peace deal with the Taliban. “It almost came across as if the candidates think there is no point to being there, which is not how I view it.”

Mr. Buttigieg said that could be a reflection of wariness over “endless war,” and the confusion generated by a conflict in which the American goals have often seemed to shift. He recalled that when he exercised at the gym at the headquarters of the international security force in Kabul, he would stare at a large graphic that had “eight lines of effort on it, and it was very hard to understand what the scope of the mission was.”

Yet even the central goal of protecting the American homeland from another attack, a staple of John Kerry’s run for the presidency in 2004 and Mr. Obama’s in 2008, barely gets a mention now. Mr. Kerry told The New York Times in 2004 that any effective Afghanistan plan “requires destroying terrorists. And I’m committed to doing that. But I think I have a better way of doing it.”

Five years later, Mr. Obama overruled warnings from his ambassador in Kabul that his administration’s plan to surge troops into the country, then depend on the Afghan government to defend itself, would probably not work. Speaking at West Point, Mr. Obama said he had “determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.” Quietly, his White House set up an “Afghan Good Enough” committee to find an exit.

The current presidential candidates seem uninterested in revisiting those decisions. Instead, they race to reassure voters about how quickly they would bring the remaining 14,000 troops home.

To some Democrats who devoted years to stabilizing Afghanistan, the candidates are losing an opportunity to take on Mr. Trump for what they view as a feckless foreign policy, one in which the president is trying to rush through a bare-bones peace agreement with the Taliban so that he can announce major troop withdrawals before the 2020 election.

“It would be unworthy of the U.S. to leave the Afghan people and government to the mercies of the Taliban in an unequal agreement,” R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state for policy and now an adviser to Mr. Biden, said over the weekend.

Pete Buttigieg, the only candidate to have served in Afghanistan, said his competitors overlooked any discussion of what the United States still wanted or needed to achieve in Afghanistan. CreditElizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

As ambassador to NATO in the early years of the war, Mr. Burns took allies to Afghanistan to persuade them to join the coalition, declaring that it was in their own interest to stabilize the country, where 2,400 Americans have died in combat, along with 1,000 troops from NATO and other nations. “Trump has displayed astonishingly weak negotiating skills by signaling to the Taliban his desperation to withdraw American forces ahead of the 2020 election,” he said.

But if the Taliban were tuned into the recent debates, or were reviewing the positions the candidates have posted on their websites, they would most likely conclude that no matter who gets elected, they are on the verge of achieving their central goal: getting American forces out of the country.

Mr. Biden himself, a voice for more rapid withdrawal during the Obama administration, now advocates keeping an intelligence presence — though in the debate he said it would be across the border in Pakistan.

“We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to airlift from and to move against what we know,” Mr. Biden said after one of the moderators quoted Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that Afghanistan still needed military support to prevent violence. “We don’t need those troops there. I would bring them home.”

Mr. Biden’s longtime national security adviser, Antony Blinken, refined that on Sunday, saying the candidate would “draw down our combat forces and narrowly focus the mission on counterterrorism, with small numbers of special operators and intelligence assets in and around Afghanistan. He would rally the world to support Afghans’ human rights and continued development efforts.”

Senator Kamala Harris of California said in an interview with The Times this year that while she supported withdrawing troops, she believed the United States needed some sort of continued presence in Afghanistan to support the government and stop terrorists from regrouping.

“The question is the type of presence,” she said. “I think that it is completely appropriate that we would give support to the Afghan government in terms of helping them train their troops and thinking about how we can provide assistance so that they can have their own people up and running in a way that they keep their country secure, and in particular prevent it from becoming a haven” for terrorists.

One of the curious elements of the presidential campaign is that Afghanistan has been the only foreign policy issue actively debated among Democrats. There has been little to no debate about the far bigger strategic questions raised by the revival of superpower tensions with Russia and China. The growing confrontation with Iran and the president’s dealings with Kim Jong-un of North Korea have barely been mentioned.

Senator Kamala Harris said that the United States needed some sort of continued presence in Afghanistan to support the government and stop terrorists from regrouping.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Perhaps that is because the Afghan conundrum is so familiar to voters, and goes to a central question: When would these aspirants for the Oval Office use traditional military force?

Mr. Buttigieg — noting that Congress’s 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force has allowed the war in Afghanistan to continue for so long that, very soon, the soldiers fighting it will include people who were not born when the law was passed — said that as president, he would put a three-year limit on such authorizations and require a congressional vote to renew them for longer.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Afghanistan,” he said, “it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place.”

None of the candidates seem particularly impressed by the argument that withdrawing troops would create a vacuum in Afghanistan for the Taliban and other terrorist groups to fill.

“It’s a false choice to say we need an enduring combat presence in Afghanistan or we open ourselves to an unmanageable terrorist threat,” a spokeswoman for Ms. Warren said. “International terrorism is a worldwide challenge, and it is best confronted not with boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but instead with diplomacy and intelligence and through coordination with partners and allies.”

Mr. Sanders would continue the United States’ intelligence presence in Afghanistan, according to his campaign, but focus on humanitarian and developmental incentives, not military pressure, to bring the Taliban to the table and reach a peace deal. He and Ms. Warren made very similar arguments.

“I was in Afghanistan with John McCain two years ago this past summer,” Ms. Warren said at the debate. “We talked to people on the ground and asked the question, the same one I ask on the Senate Armed Services Committee every time one of the generals comes through: ‘Show me what winning looks like. Tell me what it looks like.’ And what you hear is a lot of ‘Uh,’ because no one can describe it. And the reason no one can describe it is because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military.”

More coverage of the war in Afghanistan
How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart

Sept. 8, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-prexy-1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v3 Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
Will a New Plan End the War in Afghanistan?

Aug. 9, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_156994566_cf6d3d6a-fb03-4af3-b1e4-abca58ee96ba-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
U.S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree.

Aug. 2, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-intel1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
‘What Kind of Peace Talks Are These?’: On the Front Lines of a 17-Year War

July 17, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 00afghan-voices-top-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Declares Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban ‘Dead’

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-trumpafghan1-facebookJumbo Trump Declares Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban ‘Dead’ United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Camp David (Md) Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Trump declared that peace talks with the Taliban were “dead, as far as I’m concerned,” saying he called off a meeting at Camp David after the militant group in Afghanistan killed 12 people, including one American soldier.

Speaking to reporters on Monday as he left for a political rally in North Carolina, Mr. Trump said he did not intend to try to revive efforts to reach a peace accord with the Taliban that could accelerate the removal of American troops from the country.

“They are dead — they are dead. As far as I’m concerned they are dead,” Mr. Trump said of peace talks, accusing the group of the attack that killed an American soldier from Puerto Rico. “You can’t do that. You can’t do that with me. So they are dead as far as I’m concerned.”

The president’s declaration was the latest evidence of difficulty in the nine-month effort to negotiate an exit of American troops from Afghanistan after America’s longest war, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But it was unclear whether Mr. Trump’s angry denunciation would mean a permanent end to the talks. The president has demonstrated a willingness to swing from one extreme to the other in the conduct of foreign policy, for example alternately condemning and then praising Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea.

The long-running effort to negotiate peace in Afghanistan has split the administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supporting it, but with John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, opposing the talks.

Mr. Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to withdraw American troops from endless wars around the world, and has pushed to bring soldiers home from Afghanistan and Iraq. The president defended the idea of finalizing a peace agreement at Camp David, saying the famous presidential retreat had been used before to host people who “would not have been considered politically correct.”

But he said that it was his decision — and his alone — to cancel the meeting after word of the Taliban attacks.

“It was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it,” Mr. Trump said. “I didn’t discuss it with anybody else. When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said ‘There is no way I’m meeting on that basis.’”

To underscore that the peace talks with the Taliban were off, Mr. Trump asserted, without providing any evidence, that the United States military had “hit the Taliban harder in the last four days than they’ve been hit in over 10 years. So that’s the way it is.”

Today, though, the American military presence in Afghanistan is far lower than it has been in prior years, when tens of thousands of troops from the United States were engaged in much more aggressive and frequent engagement with the Taliban.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

After Trump Calls Off Talks, Afghanistan Braces for Violence

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision to break off peace talks with the Taliban, at least for now, left Afghanistan bracing for a bloody prelude to national elections this month, while the administration declined on Sunday to rule out a withdrawal of American troops without a peace accord.

In a round of television interviews, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed an attack by the Taliban for the cancellation of talks at Camp David this weekend that the administration had expected would lead to the signing of a peace agreement.

Mr. Pompeo said that the Taliban had “tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country,’’ resulting in the death of an American soldier in Kabul. “We’re going to walk away from a deal if others try to use violence to achieve better ends in a negotiation,’’ he said.

But after abruptly scrapping a diplomatic process that appeared to be inching toward a conclusion, it was unclear where Mr. Trump would go from here.

The administration continued to face questions about what led to Mr. Trump’s sudden renunciation of the talks, including whether the sticking point was his desire to seal the deal himself in a dramatic summit meeting at Camp David.

Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials left open the door to a resumption of negotiations, and so did the Taliban. But any new talks may not happen for several months, with each side feeling that an agreement that seemed within reach was sabotaged by the other, Afghan officials said.

And there was a consensus in Kabul and Washington that the sudden derailment of what had seemed like a carefully orchestrated effort for a deal could lead to a surge of violence before the Sept. 28 election. The Taliban have opposed holding the election, which President Ashraf Ghani is seen as a front-runner.

Despite a series of car bombings and attacks, there has been a sense that the Taliban have been hanging back, hoping a deal would delay the election. Now, the Taliban have more of an incentive to disrupt the election, and make clear that after an 18-year war they remain a potent political and military player.

Mr. Trump’s aides said they were mystified about whether the president had a new strategy for fulfilling his promise to withdraw American troops or preventing escalating violence.

There were also questions about the accuracy of his assertion that the Taliban had accepted his invitation to Camp David on Sunday, and that he was the one calling off the meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160419840_17e888ce-f72a-40ea-a2cd-b45ae3d46026-articleLarge After Trump Calls Off Talks, Afghanistan Braces for Violence Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Pompeo, Mike Khalilzad, Zalmay Ghani, Ashraf Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

The remains of the American soldier killed in the Taliban attack, Sgt. First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday.CreditCliff Owen/Associated Press

Taliban negotiators said Sunday that they had agreed to come to the United States only after a deal was announced and only to meet with the American side, suggesting that Mr. Trump may have canceled a meeting that the key participants were not planning to attend.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo cited the Taliban attack that killed an American soldier on Thursday as the reason for calling off the talks.

But the death of the soldier, Sgt. First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, was the 16th this year, one of many since talks with the Taliban began nearly a year ago. And Mr. Pompeo undercut the argument by acknowledging that the United States, too, has continued to fight, claiming “over a thousand Taliban killed in just the last 10 days alone.”

On Sunday, some of Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans expressed outrage at the thought of the Taliban coming to Camp David, where President George W. Bush gathered his war cabinet days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to plan a military campaign against Afghanistan to wipe out Al Qaeda and kill its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said “no member of the Taliban should set foot’’ in the presidential retreat. “The Taliban still harbors Al Qaeda,” she said on Twitter. “The President is right to end the talks.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger, another Republican and a former Air Force officer who served in Afghanistan, said that “never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER.”

Several pointed to a tweet Mr. Trump himself had written in 2012, criticizing President Barack Obama for “negotiating with our sworn enemy, the Taliban, who facilitated 9/11.”

Mr. Pompeo and other officials offered the same argument on Sunday that Mr. Obama offered seven years ago: To achieve peace, you have to talk with your enemies.

That is a view, though, that has encountered resistance by some in the administration, including John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, who opposed the emerging pact and argued internally that Mr. Trump could keep his campaign pledge to draw down forces without a signing a deal with the Taliban, a group he said could not be trusted.

Mr. Pompeo said that the president had not yet decided whether to go ahead with a reduction in the forces now in Afghanistan.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul last month.CreditAfghan Presidential Palace

Mr. Trump has vowed to reduce the number of American forces there, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600, from a current level of about 14,000. That is far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war.

Mr. Trump has never set conditions on his decision to withdraw — a step many experts see as a mistake, since it has encouraged the Taliban to simply wait out the Americans, guessing they might begin a withdrawal with no agreement.

But Mr. Pompeo laid out two conditions for a withdrawal on Sunday: that violence be reduced and that another terrorist attack on the United States from Afghanistan never be permitted. “We’re not going to withdraw our forces without making sure we achieve President Trump’s twin objectives,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The attempt to broker a deal came at one of the most precarious moments in Afghanistan since 2001.

Many of the hopes that President Bush once had for a transformation of Afghanistan have long since been abandoned; with the resurgence of the Taliban, the early efforts to assure the education of girls, protect the rights of women and transform villages with agricultural technology and American aid have faded.

But Afghans saw in the negotiations a chance to regain some sense of control, by engineering some kind of political accommodation between Mr. Ghani’s government and the Taliban, a form of power-sharing that a decade ago would have been unthinkable.

In an interview on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, argued that it had been clear for years that the only lasting peace would come from some kind of political process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

He said that his idea of a successful negotiation would be one that “reduces the level of violence” and sets up an intra-Afghan dialogue.

That was the goal of the negotiations that Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy for Afghanistan, had been painstakingly negotiating in Doha, Qatar, for nearly a year, and seemed on the verge of achieving. On Thursday, Mr. Khalilzad was in Doha again with Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, who has also said that he believes the battle between the Afghan government and the Taliban would never be resolved militarily.

“The fight will go until a political settlement,’’ he said.

At the core of the tentative agreement between the United States and the Taliban were assurances from the group that it would not support international terrorist groups, and that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West.

“We had the Taliban’s commitment to do that,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday. “We had their commitment to break from Al Qaeda, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. So we’ve made real progress, but in the end the Taliban overreached.”

Soldiers near the United States Embassy in Kabul on Thursday after a Taliban attack that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

American and Western officials said that until Mr. Trump’s announcement on Saturday, they expected direct talks would start between the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government. In return, Mr. Trump would announce a withdrawal schedule for American troops.

With the negotiations overshadowing electoral politics, the country had two national processes — peace talks and presidential elections — in a race with each other, each casting doubt over the prospects for the other.

Mr. Ghani, a 70-year-old former anthropologist and World Bank official who returned to Afghanistan after the American-led invasion that ousted the Taliban government, has been insistent that the election go ahead at any cost. He believes that his re-election would give him leverage with the Taliban, who have threatened violence if they do not regain significant political power.

Yet the Afghan government was not a party to the talks, and only recently did the United States government start briefing Mr. Ghani about the details, his aides said. Even then, American officials would not leave him a copy of the draft agreement governing the fate of his country.

Mr. Ghani has reached out to the Taliban at various moments, offering passports to Taliban negotiators and urging them to engage in peace talks. But the Taliban has refused to recognize his government as legitimate, and Mr. Ghani has questioned whether, even if the United States announced a peace deal, the Taliban would negotiate an acceptable accord with any elected government.

But he was apparently willing to travel to Washington, at Mr. Trump’s behest, and attend the Camp David talks. And he was planning to do so, his aides said, though wary of not knowing what would transpire there.

He was also deeply worried about Mr. Trump’s insistence on reducing American forces, fearing a rushed process that could bring about a repeat of the chaos that gripped the country a generation ago when Soviet troops left Afghanistan, paving the way for the Taliban and, ultimately, Al Qaeda.

Mr. Pompeo did little on Sunday to alleviate his concern. Asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan was “where it stays for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Pompeo hedged.

“I can’t answer that question,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s the president’s decision.”

Military and intelligence officials say that the American forces are chiefly there to provide intelligence to the Afghans, who are shouldering most of the fighting. General Dunford said Thursday that the planned reduction to 8,600 troops was based on a Pentagon estimate of how many it would take to assure that terrorist groups were not exploiting the power vacuum in the country.

Mr. Trump, like Mr. Obama before him, has made no secret of his desire to bring American troops home from the country’s longest war. But some experts believe Mr. Trump was rushing the diplomatic process for his own political purposes, to make good on a 2016 campaign promise.

“In the short term, the disruption is beneficial — we were demoralized by the process, we were in complete uncertainty,” said Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of Afghanistan Center at Kabul University.

“The Taliban were on the one hand blowing things up here and on the other hand gaining advantage in the talks in Doha,’’ he said. “I don’t think either side has shut the door completely. Until they resume again, the Taliban will throw everything they have — with explosions, and with even more pressure on cities under siege. And the U.S. military can pressure back too.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Taliban Failed to Live Up to ‘Commitments’ in Peace Talks, Pompeo Says

Westlake Legal Group 08diplo-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Taliban Failed to Live Up to ‘Commitments’ in Peace Talks, Pompeo Says Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Pompeo, Mike Khalilzad, Zalmay Ghani, Ashraf Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that President Trump ended peace negotiations with the Taliban because the group had “failed to live up to a series of commitments they had made,” but he left open the possibility that American troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan even in the absence of a deal.

“The Taliban overreached,” he said, apparently referring to the escalation of car bombings and other violence around Kabul as negotiators closed in on an agreement. Mr. Trump said a peace deal was supposed to have been sealed at a meeting at Camp David attended by Taliban leaders and then, separately, with Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan.

A car bombing on Thursday killed one American soldier, which Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets Saturday night had led to his decision. “President Trump said, ‘Enough,’” Mr. Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.” The lead American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been recalled to the United States, Mr. Pompeo added.

Despite Mr. Trump’s tweet, it was not clear that the Taliban leadership had ever agreed to come to the president’s official Camp David retreat in Maryland for the meeting, a hastily organized effort by Mr. Trump to replicate past peace deals and declare that America’s longest war was being ended. The timing certainly would have been awkward — it was scheduled to take place just days before the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were planned on Afghan soil by terrorists under Taliban protection.

Comments Mr. Pompeo made in a separate appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” made it clear that even if the Taliban had shown up, the outcome was not certain. The deal would have committed the Taliban to reducing violence, but not ending violence. And it would have incorporated an agreement for the Taliban to then negotiate with Mr. Ghani’s government over the political future of the country.

[Taliban talks hit a wall over deeper disagreements, officials say.]

The attempt to broker a deal came at what may be among the most precarious moments in Afghanistan since 2001. Mr. Trump has vowed to reduce the number of American forces there, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600, from a current level of about 14,000. That is far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war. But Mr. Trump has never set conditions on his decision to withdraw — a step many experts see as a mistake, since it has encouraged the Taliban to simply wait out the Americans, guessing they might begin a withdrawal with no agreement.

It remains unclear why Mr. Trump canceled the meeting; while he linked it to the death of the American serviceman in a car bombing, other Americans have died in similar attacks while negotiations were underway in Doha, Qatar.

But it is possible that Mr. Trump began to fear the negative reviews of the agreement, which came even from many of his Republican colleagues. The agreement called for a reduction in violence but not a complete cease-fire. It left unclear what role the Taliban would play in future politics.

And the Afghan government has objected both to the terms of a possible agreement and to how it was negotiated with the Taliban.

Only recently did the United States government brief Mr. Ghani about the details of the negotiations, and even then would not leave him with a copy of the agreement about the fate of his country. Mr. Ghani has met several times with Mr. Khalilzad, the American envoy who is in charge of the peace negotiations. The two men have known each other for years.

Mr. Ghani fundamentally does not believe that the Taliban will reach an acceptable accord with the elected government, and it appears he was not willing to travel to Washington if he felt he would be cornered into signing an agreement that would be hard to enforce. Mr. Ghani’s concerns are deeply rooted in history, as the withdrawal of the Soviet Union resulted in the Afghan state collapsing into anarchy. Mr. Ghani is cautioning against a rushed process that could bring about a repeat of that chaos.

The United States’ deal with the Taliban was to include a schedule for the withdrawal of the remaining American and NATO troops in the country, who number more than 20,000 all together. In return, the Taliban would provide assurances that they would not support international terrorist groups, so that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West, and they would open direct talks with Afghan officials.

American and Western officials say they had prepared for an immediate start to direct talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, once the withdrawal schedule was announced. Before the cancellation, some officials said they hoped momentum in the talks would result in the elections being delayed.

That hope is now dashed, and it seems likely the election will go forward. But American officials fear it could be deeply marred by violence if the Taliban believe the negotiations are over.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Republican Mainstay, Is Set to Retire

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-sesenbrenner-facebookJumbo Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Republican Mainstay, Is Set to Retire Wisconsin Voting Rights Act (1965) USA PATRIOT Act United States Politics and Government September 11 (2001) Sensenbrenner, F James Jr Law and Legislation Immigration and Emigration House of Representatives

WASHINGTON — Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a Republican mainstay who found his way to the center of many of Washington’s most divisive political debates over the past four decades, said on Wednesday that he would not run for re-election next year.

“When I began my public service in 1968, I said I would know when it was time to step back,” Mr. Sensenbrenner, who has represented Milwaukee’s northern and western suburbs in Congress since 1979, said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I have determined at the completion of this term, my 21st term in Congress, it will be that time.”

The announcement adds to what appears to be a growing exodus of House Republicans this summer that promises to change the character of the chamber for years to come, regardless of whether the party wins back control next year. Sixteen lawmakers, including Mr. Sensenbrenner, have said they intend to retire or seek another office in 2020. Just hours earlier, Representative Bill Flores of Texas, said that he, too, would not seek re-election, citing a commitment to term limit himself. And more lawmakers are expected to follow suit.

By contrast, Democrats have seen few retirements so far, though on Wednesday, Representative Susan A. Davis, 75, Democrat of California, said she would not seek re-election in her solidly blue district of San Diego.

Unlike the departures of some other Republicans, that of Mr. Sensenbrenner is unlikely to shift the political balance in the House. Republicans have carried his suburban and exurban district by comfortable margins in recent years, and political handicappers say there is little reason to believe his retirement would change that.

Still, few departing lawmakers have been as central to the party’s identity in the House as long as Mr. Sensenbrenner, 76, who cast more than 23,000 votes. A past chairman of two committees, including the influential Judiciary Committee, he played starring roles in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, in the drafting and passage of the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and in persistent immigration debates that have roiled Washington in the past decade or so.

An heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, Mr. Sensenbrenner famously won $250,000 in the D.C. lottery in the late-1990s.

He earned a reputation as equal parts conservative and cantankerous. His views on illegal immigration, among other issues, often irked Democrats, and as an impeachment manager, he helped prosecute the case against Mr. Clinton in the Senate’s trial of the president.

But Mr. Sensenbrenner also frequently teamed up with the opposing party on other major policy issues.

As Judiciary Committee chairman, he helped shepherd an extension of the Voting Rights Act. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he steered the bipartisan Patriot Act into law in 2001 to bolster the American national security apparatus in the fight against terrorism. And more than a decade later, after disclosures that the National Security Agency was using the law to collect phone metadata on millions of Americans without proper justification, Mr. Sensenbrenner helped lead a legislative fight to rein in certain provisions of the law.

Paul D. Ryan, the former House speaker from Wisconsin, said on Wednesday that he counted Mr. Sensenbrenner as a mentor.

“Jim has spent the last 50 years protecting our constitutional rights, ensuring the U.S. led the way in science and space and fighting tirelessly for conservative principles,” Mr. Ryan said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Republican Mainstay, Is Set to Retire

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-sesenbrenner-facebookJumbo Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Republican Mainstay, Is Set to Retire Wisconsin Voting Rights Act (1965) USA PATRIOT Act United States Politics and Government September 11 (2001) Sensenbrenner, F James Jr Law and Legislation Immigration and Emigration House of Representatives

WASHINGTON — Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a Republican mainstay who found his way to the center of many of Washington’s most divisive political debates over the past four decades, said on Wednesday that he would not run for re-election next year.

“When I began my public service in 1968, I said I would know when it was time to step back,” Mr. Sensenbrenner, who has represented Milwaukee’s northern and western suburbs in Congress since 1979, said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I have determined at the completion of this term, my 21st term in Congress, it will be that time.”

The announcement adds to what appears to be a growing exodus of House Republicans this summer that promises to change the character of the chamber for years to come, regardless of whether the party wins back control next year. Sixteen lawmakers, including Mr. Sensenbrenner, have said they intend to retire or seek another office in 2020. Just hours earlier, Representative Bill Flores of Texas, said that he, too, would not seek re-election, citing a commitment to term limit himself. And more lawmakers are expected to follow suit.

By contrast, Democrats have seen few retirements so far, though on Wednesday, Representative Susan A. Davis, 75, Democrat of California, said she would not seek re-election in her solidly blue district of San Diego.

Unlike the departures of some other Republicans, that of Mr. Sensenbrenner is unlikely to shift the political balance in the House. Republicans have carried his suburban and exurban district by comfortable margins in recent years, and political handicappers say there is little reason to believe his retirement would change that.

Still, few departing lawmakers have been as central to the party’s identity in the House as long as Mr. Sensenbrenner, 76, who cast more than 23,000 votes. A past chairman of two committees, including the influential Judiciary Committee, he played starring roles in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, in the drafting and passage of the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and in persistent immigration debates that have roiled Washington in the past decade or so.

An heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune, Mr. Sensenbrenner famously won $250,000 in the D.C. lottery in the late-1990s.

He earned a reputation as equal parts conservative and cantankerous. His views on illegal immigration, among other issues, often irked Democrats, and as an impeachment manager, he helped prosecute the case against Mr. Clinton in the Senate’s trial of the president.

But Mr. Sensenbrenner also frequently teamed up with the opposing party on other major policy issues.

As Judiciary Committee chairman, he helped shepherd an extension of the Voting Rights Act. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he steered the bipartisan Patriot Act into law in 2001 to bolster the American national security apparatus in the fight against terrorism. And more than a decade later, after disclosures that the National Security Agency was using the law to collect phone metadata on millions of Americans without proper justification, Mr. Sensenbrenner helped lead a legislative fight to rein in certain provisions of the law.

Paul D. Ryan, the former House speaker from Wisconsin, said on Wednesday that he counted Mr. Sensenbrenner as a mentor.

“Jim has spent the last 50 years protecting our constitutional rights, ensuring the U.S. led the way in science and space and fighting tirelessly for conservative principles,” Mr. Ryan said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Administration Officials at Odds Over C.I.A.’s Role in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Senior White House advisers have proposed secretly expanding the C.I.A.’s presence in Afghanistan if international forces begin to withdraw from the country, according to American officials. But C.I.A. and military officials have expressed reservations, prompting a debate in the administration that could complicate negotiations with the Taliban to end the war.

Some administration officials want C.I.A.-backed militia forces in Afghanistan to serve as part of a counterterrorism force that would prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda as American military troops prepare to leave — in effect, an insurance policy.

But others are skeptical that the shadowy militias, many of which face accusations of brutality, can serve as a bulwark against terrorism without the support of the American military.

The C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, has raised logistical concerns about the plan with other administration officials, emphasizing that the agency operatives — who marshal the militias to hunt Taliban, Qaeda and Islamic State militants — largely depend on the military for airstrikes, overhead surveillance, medical support and bomb technicians.

Skeptics have also noted that American intelligence agencies do not believe the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan justifies a vast increase in resources given limited budgets. The Islamic State’s affiliate there is not an immediate threat to the West, despite its regular attacks on Afghan civilians and continuing fight with the Taliban, according to intelligence officials.

The disagreement about the future of the C.I.A. in Afghanistan underscores the fault lines within the administration between those who want a final withdrawal and those who fear it would expose the United States to terrorist threats. This article is based on interviews with a half-dozen current or former officials briefed on the administration’s discussions. The C.I.A. declined to comment, and the White House declined to respond on the record to a request for comment.

The issue could pose an obstacle as American and Taliban negotiators seek a deal to end the longest war in United States history. The Taliban have made clear that they see little difference between American military troops and C.I.A. officers, and they have insisted in the current peace talks in Qatar that the C.I.A. must leave along with international military forces in the coming months or over the next few years.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_150651867_c1dc0239-2c74-41a6-a73f-16bb18165ece-articleLarge Trump Administration Officials at Odds Over C.I.A.’s Role in Afghanistan United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan) Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services central intelligence agency Al Qaeda Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

American military advisers and Afghan soldiers last year in Maidan Wardak Province. The Taliban have insisted in the current peace talks that the C.I.A. must leave Afghanistan along with international military forces.CreditJames Mackenzie/Reuters

The top American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said over the weekend that the two sides were on “the threshold of an agreement” after the latest round of negotiations. They have broadly covered the fate of the Afghan security forces but have not dealt directly with the militia groups, or American support for them, said a person familiar with the negotiations.

The Afghan government is not part of the negotiations, but the deal is expected to open a path for talks between the government and the Taliban.

Supporters of the plan to expand C.I.A. support for the militias believe it could address the most potent critique of the peace talks: that a withdrawal of American forces would leave the United States with little ability to prevent terrorist groups from once again using Afghanistan as a base of operations.

“The high-end forces, including C.I.A.-supported forces, are not going to win any war for you, but they may degrade the capability of terrorist groups,” said Seth G. Jones, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former adviser to the commanding general of American Special Operations forces in Afghanistan.

But like other former officials, Mr. Jones said that ramping up the operations of the militias while drawing down the American military would be impractical and ineffective.

A peace deal that pulls out American forces but does not disarm the Taliban would give it control of larger parts of Afghanistan, effectively creating a safe haven for terrorist groups that no increase in C.I.A. support to the militias could counter, Mr. Jones warned.

C.I.A.-supported militias operate across Afghanistan and are used by the United States and the Afghan government to target terrorist and insurgent cells.

These militias have taken on increasingly dangerous missions in Afghanistan in the past year, seeking out hard-to-find and well-defended terrorist leaders, a former senior Defense Department official said.

The C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, has highlighted logistical problems with expanding the agency’s work in Afghanistan.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

They trace their roots to the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the C.I.A. began assembling a patchwork alliance of warlord-led fighting groups to topple the Taliban and pursue Qaeda fighters.

After the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a new Afghan government, the C.I.A.’s shadowy paramilitary arm, known as Ground Branch, began transforming the fighting groups. Some developed into large, well-trained and equipped militias that initially worked outside the auspices of the Afghan government. The militias were used for sensitive and covert missions, including pursuing terrorist leaders across the border into Pakistan’s lawless frontier territory.

In more recent years, the agency’s hold over militant groups and other regional counterterrorism forces and strike teams has waned some, former officials said. Many of the militias now fall under the command of Afghanistan’s own intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security. But there is little doubt they are still advised, and often directed, by the C.I.A.

The Taliban’s disdain for the C.I.A.’s Afghan counterpart has been apparent in recent months. In July, a bomb targeting the Afghan covert service killed eight members and six civilians, and wounded hundreds more. In January, Taliban fighters infiltrated an Afghan intelligence base in Wardak Province, killing dozens in one of the deadliest attacks on the service during the nearly 18-year war.

Fighting in Afghanistan has increased since peace discussions began as both sides try to strengthen their positions. Taliban fighters mounted two attacks over the weekend, including one in the northern city of Kunduz that killed the top police spokesman and wounded the police chief, according to local officials.

In a Fox News interview last week, President Trump alluded to keeping American forces, and perhaps the C.I.A., in Afghanistan after any deal with the Taliban is reached. “We are reducing that presence very substantially and we’re going to always have a presence and we’re going to have high intelligence,” he said.

Mr. Trump said that the troop level in the country would be reduced to 8,600, down from roughly 14,000. The military has pushed a plan to gradually draw down forces, but administration officials have fiercely debated the precise timeline.

The president has been vague about his preferred outcome on the current peace proposal or the plan to expand the C.I.A. role, and Ms. Haspel has also withheld her opinion in meetings. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been driving the peace negotiations forward. John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, opposes the current peace deal, largely on worries about whether Afghanistan can keep terrorists at bay on its own.

Afghan security forces inspecting the site of a suicide attack in 2016 on the National Directorate of Security.CreditHaroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

Senior military leaders are divided. Some believe the peace talks are worth trying, but many remain worried that a troop drawdown that moves too quickly will lead to a collapse of the country.

Increasing the C.I.A.’s role in Afghanistan as troop numbers decrease is not a new idea. In 2014, as the Obama administration considered withdrawing all American troops from the country by 2016, policymakers weighed using the agency-sponsored militias as an Afghan counterterrorism force.

But the C.I.A.-backed militias are deeply controversial within the wider Afghan population. Afghans have charged that they are responsible for attacks that left many civilians dead and use brutal tactics that have turned large swaths of Afghans against the forces. Last month, tribal elders said that a raid by the Afghan-intelligence-backed forces killed 11 civilians in Paktia Province, prompting the Afghan government to begin investigating.

While the C.I.A.’s precise footprint in Afghanistan is unclear, the agency invested more resources into the country at the start of the Trump administration in an effort to pursue Taliban fighters. Now, agency paramilitary officers — working often from an annex near the American Embassy in Kabul — team up with militias and other small Afghan intelligence teams across the country to go after Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Haqqani Network and often various factions within the Taliban, current and former officials said.

But small groups of the American military’s Special Operations troops also provide critical support and training for the militias. (C.I.A. teams supported by American commandos, long known as Omega Teams, are now mostly composed of soldiers drawn from the Army’s elite Ranger regiment.)

For the C.I.A. militias to serve as an effective counterterrorism force, those American military teams would need to remain, even if only with a few dozen people, in different parts of the country, current and former officials said.

The exact size and nature of the agency’s presence in Afghanistan are closely guarded secrets, and details about the militia groups the C.I.A. advises are also murky.

Even with continued military support, expanding the agency’s work would mean extending one of the deadliest missions in the agency’s history.

At least 20 C.I.A. members have been killed in Afghanistan during the war, according to current and former officials. In July, an Army bomb disposal technician was severely wounded during a C.I.A.-led mission, and an agency contractor was killed over Memorial Day weekend.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trial for Men Accused of Plotting 9/11 Attacks Is Set for 2021

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — Moving toward a final reckoning as the nation approaches the 20th anniversary of the day that led to the longest war in American history, a military judge on Friday set a date for the death penalty trial at Guantánamo Bay of the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen of the Air Force, set Jan. 11, 2021, for the start of the selection of a military jury at Camp Justice, the war court compound at the Navy base in Cuba. It is the first time that a judge in the case actually set a start-of-trial date.

The case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men, should it proceed, would be the definitive trial tied to the Sept. 11 attacks. Up until now, only foot soldiers of Al Qaeda have been tried at Guantánamo, and many of their convictions have been overturned.

Mr. Mohammed and the four others face the death penalty in a conspiracy case that describes Mr. Mohammed as the architect of the plot in which 19 men hijacked four commercial passenger planes and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center towers and one into the Pentagon. The fourth, which was believed to be aimed for the Capitol, crashed into a Pennsylvania field instead. The other four men are described as helping the hijackers with training, travel or finances.

The charge sheets lists the names of the 2,976 people who died in the attacks.

“We’ve been wanting a date for a very long time,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom, a corporate bond broker and partner with Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the World Trade Center. “This is good news. I certainly hope nothing will happen between now and then to change this. The families have suffered long enough.”

Kathleen Vigiano, whose husband, Joseph Vigiano, a New York police detective, and brother-in-law, John Vigiano Jr., a New York firefighter, were both killed at the World Trade Center, said she was relieved after the years of delay. “People say, this is still going on?’’ she said. “No, it hasn’t started yet.”

The delay is in part a reflection of the difficulty the military has had in carrying out prosecutions in a judicial system that was created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is still unclear if the trial will actually occur. A judge has yet to rule on whether crucial F.B.I. agents’ descriptions of the defendants’ confessions are admissible because the defendants were tortured in C.I.A. prisons. Defense lawyers have said they will go to federal court closer to the trial start date to try to stop the proceedings.

Another outstanding issue is the need for magnetic resonance imaging scans of the five defendants to see if they suffered brain or other physical damage from torture. Defense lawyers might use the M.R.I.s to argue against the men’s executions if they are convicted.

Guantánamo itself is not yet ready for a trial that is expected to last as long as nine months. A judge has ordered prosecutors to give him written updates throughout 2020 on how the government will provide work spaces, lodging and food for trial participants, including the judge and his staff, the jury, lawyers, paralegals, court reporters, translators and reporters at a small Navy base of about 6,000 residents in southeast Cuba. He has also ordered a plan for how to sequester the military jury and how to get participants on and off the island during judicially approved breaks in the trial. For now, reporters and other observers live in tents.

The war crimes trial by military commissions — a hybrid of federal and military courts — will be held in a special courtroom allowing people sitting behind the court in a spectator’s gallery to watch live. But because it is a national security case with the potential to inadvertently make public classified information, the proceedings will be heard on a 40-second delay. Some of the tens of thousands of people who are victims or relatives of the Sept. 11 victims will also be able to watch the proceedings through video broadcast to military bases in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.

For now, the general public would be able to see the live proceedings only through a video feed shown at Fort Meade, Md.

Westlake Legal Group 18guantanamo-bay-photos-h-slide-V2OO-articleLarge Trial for Men Accused of Plotting 9/11 Attacks Is Set for 2021 United States Defense and Military Forces September 11 (2001) Mohammed, Khalid Shaikh

A Look Inside the Secretive World of Guantánamo Bay

Take a tour of the base and its military prison, which has been housing detainees for more than 17 years.

If the 2021 start date holds, jury selection would start eight months before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The trial date was included in a 10-page scheduling order that set deadlines toward jury selection.

[Read the order.]

Mr. Mohammed and the four other men were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003. The C.I.A. then held them incommunicado in its secret prison network of black sites, where the United States tortured its prisoners with waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other abuse before delivering them to Guantánamo in 2006. That period has complicated the path to a trial.

The men were initially charged during the George W. Bush administration at Guantánamo. President Barack Obama stopped that case and suspended the military tribunals in order to add more protections for due process. The result was the hybrid war court that exists today.

The case was also delayed by an Obama administration plan to try the five men in federal court in New York City. But protests and then legislation in Congress prevented it.

Besides Mr. Mohammed, two of the other men charged are Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, described as deputies in carrying out the attacks. Prosecutors say Mr. bin al-Shibh organized a cell of hijackers in Hamburg, Germany. The final two men charged are Ammar al-Baluchi, Mr. Mohammed’s nephew, and Mustafa al Hawsawi.

All five were arraigned in May 2012. Since then, judges have held more than 30 pretrial hearing sessions to work out questions of law and evidence that would apply at the trial.

In July, a prosecutor, Ed Ryan, urged the judge to set a date saying, “Our client, this nation, deserves a reckoning.”

In a lengthy exchange with the judge, Mr. Ryan argued that “dates energize and mobilize” people to prepare.

On Friday, defense lawyers on the case said that many of the judge’s milestones toward trial were dependent on the prosecution meeting a series of deadlines.

“For a January 2021 trial date to happen, the government would have to drop its obstructionism and produce a lot of important evidence and witnesses,” said James G. Connell III, the lead defense counsel for Mr. Baluchi. Mr. Connell said he had received more than 25,000 pages of case-related documents since July and expected that many more were coming.

Selection of the jury — 12 members and four alternate members — is expected to last months, with American military officers shuttled by air to and from the base in groups, because of the limited housing at Guantánamo.

Besides conspiracy, the men are charged with committing murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians and terrorism. Should the men be convicted and sentenced to death, it is up to the secretary of defense to determine the method of execution.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trial for Men Charged With Plotting 9/11 Attacks Is Set for 2021

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — A military judge on Friday set Jan. 11, 2021, as the start of the joint death-penalty trial at Guantánamo Bay of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four men charged with plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,976 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The date set by the judge, Col. W. Shane Cohen of the Air Force, signals the start of the selection of a military jury at Camp Justice, the war court convening at the Navy base in Cuba. It is the first time that a trial judge in the case actually set a start-of-trial date, despite requests by prosecutors since 2012 to two earlier judges to do so.

If the 2021 timeline holds, jury selection would start nine months before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. One major issue the judge has yet to resolve is what evidence will be used at trial. He begins a series of hearings next month with witnesses in an effort by the defense teams to exclude confessions the defendants made to F.B.I. agents in early 2006 as tainted by the years of C.I.A. torture.

The judge’s instructions were included in a 10-page scheduling order that set deadlines toward reaching that trial date. As the first step, the prosecutors must provide the defense teams a list of materials by Oct. 1.

[Read the order.]

The five men are charged in a conspiracy case that describes Mr. Mohammed as the architect of the plot in which 19 men hijacked four commercial passenger planes and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center towers and one into the Pentagon, with one crashing into a Pennsylvania field. The other four men are described as helping the hijackers with training, travel or finances.

The charge sheets lists the names of the 2,976 people who died in the attacks.

The five men were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003. The C.I.A. then held them incommunicado in its secret prison network, the black sites, where the United States tortured its prisoners with waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other abuse before delivering them to Guantánamo in 2006. That period has complicated the path to an actual trial.

Westlake Legal Group 18guantanamo-bay-photos-h-slide-V2OO-articleLarge Trial for Men Charged With Plotting 9/11 Attacks Is Set for 2021 United States Defense and Military Forces September 11 (2001) Mohammed, Khalid Shaikh

A Look Inside the Secretive World of Guantánamo Bay

Take a tour of the base and its military prison, which has been housing detainees for more than 17 years.

The men were initially charged during the Bush administration at Guantánamo. President Barack Obama stopped that case and suspended the war court, known as military commissions, to overhaul it with Congress by adding more protections for due process. The case was also delayed by an Obama administration plan to try them in federal court in New York City, a proposal that drew political protests and legislation to prevent it.

Besides Mr. Mohammed, the other men charged are Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are described as deputies to carrying out the attacks — Mr. bin al-Shibh is described as having organized a cell of hijackers in Hamburg, Germany — as well as Ammar al-Baluchi, Mr. Mohammed’s nephew, and Mustafa al Hawsawi.

They were arraigned in this case on May 5, 2012.

Since then, the judges have held more than 30 pretrial hearing sessions to work out questions of law and evidence that would apply at the trial by military commission.

Another issue yet to be resolved is what protocols will be used to conduct magnetic resonance imaging of the five defendants to see if they suffered brain or other physical damage that defense lawyers might use to argue against their execution, if they are convicted. The judge gave the prosecutors until Oct. 1 to establish those.

Selection of the jury — 12 members and four alternate members — is expected to last months, with American military officers shuttled by air to and from the base in groups, because of cramped and limited housing at Guantánamo. Under the current timetable, that would mean that the prosecution’s presentation of the case itself could begin as the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack approaches.

Because it is a national security case, the hearings are held in a special courtroom that lets people sitting behind the court in a spectator’s gallery watch live but hear the proceedings on a 40-second delay. Some of the tens of thousands of people who are victims or relatives of the Sept. 11 victims, including police officers and firefighters, have also been able to watch the proceedings through video broadcast to military bases in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.

The war court itself is a hybrid of federal and military courts. Prosecutors work for both the Justice and Defense Departments. The five suspects have both military and civilian lawyers who are paid by the Pentagon.

Besides conspiracy, the men are charged with committing murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians and terrorism. Conviction can carry the death penalty, with the secretary of defense determining the method of execution.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Debate Flares Over Afghanistan as Trump Considers Troop Withdrawal

Westlake Legal Group 16dc-prexy-facebookJumbo Debate Flares Over Afghanistan as Trump Considers Troop Withdrawal United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Presidential Election of 2020 Muslims and Islam Khalilzad, Zalmay Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Al Qaeda Afghanistan War (2001- )

WASHINGTON — President Trump met with top national security officials on Friday to review near-final plans for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, a prospect that has already prompted fierce political debate but could offer Mr. Trump a compelling talking point for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The president and his advisers gathered at his golf club in New Jersey to assess a deal reached with Afghan insurgents by his special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, during several weeks of negotiations in Qatar. Mr. Trump is a longtime skeptic of the United States’ 18-year military presence in Afghanistan and campaigned against expensive foreign interventions.

His decision point on Afghanistan, and the widespread belief that he is impatient to begin a withdrawal before the next election, has already kicked off an argument in Washington about whether an exit would amount to a premature retreat or a crucial step toward long-overdue peace. That debate scrambles partisan lines, with some prominent Republicans warning that leaving would be reckless, while top Democrats applaud the idea of concluding the war in Afghanistan, a goal that eluded President Barack Obama.

For Mr. Trump, initiating a departure from Afghanistan would allow a president who once promised to “bomb the hell out of” terrorists and has spoken of wiping Afghanistan “off the face of the earth” to present himself as a peacemaker.

That could be particularly useful at a moment when his nuclear diplomacy with North Korea has achieved little tangible promise and his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has failed in its goal of bringing Tehran to the negotiating table, said Vali Nasr, a professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

“This is as close as Afghanistan has been to a political settlement to end this war,” Mr. Nasr said. “I do think if a deal is signed, Mr. Trump says that we can talk to our enemies and we can cut a deal with them. And to actually get a deal with the Taliban may domestically compensate for the lack of a deal with North Korea or Iran.”

But skeptics of the agreement — which has not been finalized and could still fall apart or be rejected by Mr. Trump — fear it is meant more for the American political calendar than for the complex realities of the Afghan conflict and the enduring terrorist threat against the United States, and warn that it could end in disaster for both countries.

“The withdrawal is coming. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when or how fast,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “My sense of it, though I can’t prove it, is that it’s all over with by Election Day 2020.”

Several people familiar with the agreement say that it provides for the phased withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Afghanistan, likely in a first step of 5,000, over a period of about two years or less. In exchange, the Taliban would renounce ties to international terrorism and promise not to harbor or assist groups like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. That would address what has long been the United States’ stated mission in the country: to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a home base for terrorists who want to strike the West.

Skeptics say it is naïve to trust Taliban assurances. Mr. Joscelyn insisted that a potentially fatal flaw would be a failure to ensure that the Taliban, which he said have perfected “weasel” language, specifically name groups that they will shun. Another person familiar with the draft agreement said that had been a sticking point in the negotiations. But defenders of the deal say any withdrawal would be conditioned on the Taliban delivering on their promises.

Among those meeting with Mr. Trump on Friday in Bedminster, N.J., where he is spending a working vacation, were Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Khalilzad presented the group his agreement with the Taliban, which would be only a first step toward peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban have demanded that the United States commit to leaving Afghanistan before their leaders begin negotiations with the country’s United States-backed government over its political future. Details of that process remain unresolved and could threaten the pace of American withdrawal.

Even if the Taliban reach an agreement with the Afghan government, current and former government officials fear it may be only a matter of time before they seek to reconquer the entire country, as they did in the 1990s, creating a radical religious government that provided safe haven to the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The United States now has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, a number that rose after Mr. Trump, pressured by top advisers and generals who wanted more leverage over the Taliban, reluctantly ordered more troops there in August 2017.

He had inherited a troop presence of 8,400 from Mr. Obama, who after approving a peak force of 100,000 in 2011 significantly lowered his expectations for defeating the Taliban and reshaping the shattered Central Asian country.

The Taliban are Sunni Muslim fundamentalists who for years have battled Afghan and American forces, and have mounted ruthless terrorist attacks on civilians. But even as they provided Al Qaeda with continued harbor, the Taliban did not seek to conduct terrorist attacks beyond Afghanistan, and they have battled openly with the Islamic State, whose presence has grown in the country in recent years.

Supporters of an extended troop presence in Afghanistan are trying to remind Mr. Trump of Mr. Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Iraq’s security forces were unprepared to fight on their own and, three years later, the Islamic State rampaged through the country, capturing major cities and plotting attacks against the West.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article last week, David H. Petraeus, a retired Army general who commanded United States forces in Afghanistan under Mr. Obama, warned that a “complete military exit from Afghanistan today would be even more ill-advised and risky than the Obama administration’s disengagement from Iraq.”

“President Trump should learn from President Obama’s mistakes,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who often advises the president, said Friday in a statement. “Any peace agreement which denies the U.S. a robust counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal.”

Democrats are sympathetic to the goal of wrapping up the war. In a Democratic presidential primary debate in June, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who served in Afghanistan, reflected on his party’s prevailing opinion when he declared: “We will withdraw. We have to.”

And a former senior Obama administration official who worked on Afghanistan policy offered positive reviews for the emerging plan as he understood it.

“It’s a very complex problem,” the former official said. “I’d have a hard time improving upon what they’ve come up with, and give them credit for making progress with something that has been years in the making.”

In a statement on Friday evening, Mr. Pompeo said that the United States was working closely with the Afghan government toward a “comprehensive peace agreement, including a reduction in violence and a cease-fire, ensuring that Afghan soil is never again used to threaten the United States or her allies, and bringing Afghans together to works towards peace.”

It is unclear when or where Mr. Trump might announce that he has reached an agreement with the Taliban, and Mr. Khalilzad may return to Qatar for still more talks before that happens. Mr. Joscelyn said on Friday that several government officials have told him they expect Mr. Trump’s initial decision to be delivered via Twitter.

The United States invaded Afghanistan weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which were planned and directed from the country by Bin Laden. In the nearly 18 years since, the war has killed tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 3,500 American and coalition forces, and its price tag is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Speaking to reporters alongside Pakistan’s prime minister last month, Mr. Trump sent clear signals of his desire to end America’s role in the conflict, complaining that the war’s duration was “ridiculous” and that the United States was “not fighting to win” but “building gas stations” and “rebuilding schools.”

“The United States, we shouldn’t be doing that,” the president said. “That’s for them to do.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com