Friday, April 27, 2012

'United States seeks excuse to stay in Afghanistan'


US President Barack Obama has approved a new policy which allows the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen.

According to US officials, Obama has approved the use of "signature strikes", which will allow the CIA to launch strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed.

The move comes as the number of US assassination drone strikes in Yemen has already hit a record.

Critics of drone campaign believe that more innocent people will be killed if US strikes are expanded in Yemen.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Conn Hallinan, from Foreign Policy in Focus, to share his opinion on this issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: President Obama who is a noble lawyer has approved expanding targeted assassinations in Yemen through drone strikes even when the identity of the victims are not known and it does not take a rocket signs to figure that increased airstrikes will raise the numbers of civilian casualties which then leads to destabilizing Yemen even further. Why is Obama expanding this illegal drone war there?

Hallinan: I think it is a very good question. I think what it is, is that they are calling a situation in Yemen where they had made the issue sort of al-Qaeda, in other words we are fighting al-Qaeda.
In fact the situation in South Yemen is much more complex of that. There is a very strong native grown independence movement that always opposed the unification with North Yemen.

There are lots of different tribes there, there are lots of different political faction etc. and we were induced to down to this question of al-Qaeda which means that I think this is what is happening is that we mean why we are doing this, we are taking sides on the growing civil war in Yemen and that we are using the drones there to support the government in Sana and I think the fact of that is that we are now suddenly a participant in this civil war.
I think it is also important to understand that not even the Americans know exactly what the criteria is for choosing targets. The list of targets has now been expanded according to the Obama administration but the Obama administration never said what the specific criteria that it uses for targeting someone and so basically the American public is in the dark on this question and it certainly has not worked well in Pakistan and has made the situation in Pakistan infinitely worse.

Press TV: What are the accusations placed on the US that this threat of al-Qaeda is actually exaggerated?

Hallinan: I do not think there is any question that this al-Qaeda issue in Yemen is greatly exaggerated and they are exaggerating it in the area of the Sahara as well. I mean what they do is that they create these sort of straw man and then they go after the straw man but we know what they do is that they allow for a kind of a military footprint in Yemen, in Somalia, now in Uganda and increasingly in the area of the countries that surround the Sahara Desert.

There is no evidence that al-Qaeda really represents any kind of major threat at this point certainly in Yemen they do not and as a result this is just a way, this is kind of war on terrorism, it is a way to tell Americans well we are protecting you.

I do not think that is what the results are. I think that the results are that the American administration is becoming much more isolated in the Middle East at this point which cannot be certainly in the interest of the average Americans.

Press TV: Putting things into perspective, US troops had to leave Iraq-that was a decision Obama was forced into in some regards but the US has made a deal with Afghanistan to keep American troops in the country by some estimates through 2024. The US has expanded drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Somalia and the country we are talking about, Yemen.

Why is Obama pushing the US and what seems to be a permanent state of war?

Hallinan: Well I think the United States and I think in this regard-it does not matter what administration is in there--I think the United States has always wanted a military implant in Central Asia.

I mean if the United States had troops and they are talking about 15,000 Special Forces in Afghanistan then they would be on the border of Iran, they would be on the border of Pakistan, they would be on the border of China, Uzbekistan, they would be right next to the oil and gas resources of Central Asia.

This is strategically a very, very important area for the United States and that is really what this is about. It never was about fighting terrorism. The invasion of Afghanistan was never really aimed at al-Qaeda or even if that matter the Taliban. It was a kind of warm-up for the invasion of Iraq and also to finally put military units on the ground in Central Asia and that is what their policy is directed and continuing.

I do not think it is going to hold because I do not think you are going to get a peace agreement in Afghanistan as long as American troops are on the ground there. I do not think the Taliban will find that acceptable. 

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