This Week in D.C. August 31-Sept. 3

This week, people are slowly coming back from their August vacations and gearing up for a well-rested Congress and a President determined to make his mark in the Middle East. Tonight, Obama will give his second-ever speech in the Oval Office on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq starting in September. On Wednesday, The White House will host the first of many Middle East peace talks with both leaders of Palestine and Israel. Will it only take a year? Probably not, but it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of negotiations come from these talks and how the world will react–especially in light of our activity in Pakistan, the recent “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy and increased terror plots.

For Tuesday

*8:00 tonight: President Obama addresses the nation on Iraq from the Oval Office

From 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute will hold a briefing on the hill on “Muslims in America: Myths and Realities” organized by the Congressional Muslim Staff Association in 2325 Rayburn.

From 12:00PM-1:00 PM, the Federation for Defense Democracies’ Jonathan Schanzer hosts a lunch discussion on how the  “under-reported Palestinian civil war undermines President Obama’s Mideast Agenda” at the Capitol, room H-137.

12 p.m. – 2 p.m. WORLD BANK – WATER — The World Bank Group Water Strategy Review holds a panel discussion and presentation of Sustaining Water for All in a Changing Climate, hosted by Inger Andersen, the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development.

Location: World Bank Headquarters, 1818 H Street NW; Room MC 13 – 121

Contacts: Christopher Neal (Cneal1@worldbank.org), 202-473-2049

From 12:30 PM-2 PM, Africa Action, the TransAfrica Forum and IPS’ Foreign Policy in Focus host a debate on “Globalization: Threat or Opportunity?” between Rick Rowden and Eugene Kyambal at the IPs Conference Room, 1112 16th St. NW

at 2:00 PM, the National Democratic Institute will hold a discussion on Kenya’s new constitution with guest speaker Elkanah Odembo, the Kenyan ambassador to the U.S.  The event will be held at the National Democratic Institute at 2030 M. st. NW.

From 2:00 PM-3:30 PM, CSIS will hold a talk on “North Korea and the U.S. Nuclear Umbrella: Extended Deterrence in East Asia” with Dr. Patrick Morgan from UC-Irvine, Jofi Joseph, senior advisor to the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and CSIS experts. The event will take place at CSIS on 18th and K st.

The Heritage Foundation will hold a discussion on former President Carter’s trip to North Korea and its impact from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM at 214 Mass Ave NE.

ALSO at 2 PM-3:30 PM, the USIP will hold a panel discussion on “Haiti: Security after the Quake? Addressing Violence and Rape in Haiti.” The panel will feature speakers from the UN Humanitarian Response, Global Consortium on Security Transformation and USIP experts.

After the State Department briefing at 1:15 with Assistant Secretary Crowley, Sec. Clinton will hold a bilateral meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and later at 3:00 with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

At 6:15 PM, Clinton will meet with Quartet Representative Tony Blair at the State Department and then launch the first in a series of bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 7:45 PM.

For Wednesday

Brookings will hold a discussion on the recent floods in Pakistan from 10:00 AM-11:30 AM with panelists Michael Young of the International Rescue Committee and Gen. Jehangir Karamat.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in Washington, D.C., to launch a national public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring Muslim 9/11 first responders and designed to challenge the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric sparked by opposition to the planned Park51 project in Manhattan at the National Press Club Zenger Room at 10:30 AM.

There will be a telephonic press conference with faith and military leaders at 11:00 AM urging the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque as a community center Notes: 888-674-0222, call ID: Values and Security RSVP.

From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, Egyptian Americans for Change will hold a press conference to discuss Egypt’s political future and regional stability at the Press Club’s Murrow Room.

The Hudson Institute will host a discussion from 12:00 Pm to 2:00 PM on the impact of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on Taiwan’s standing with China.  Professor William Rowe of Johns Hopkins University a leading historian of late imperial China will give a historical perspective and address Taiwan’s socio-economic relations with Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event is located at the Hudson Institute at 1015 15th St. NW.

For Thursday

The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on “Borders and Bridges: Recent Shifts in North American Relations,” and changes in security relations with Canada, the US and Mexico at 12:00 PM.

The International Monetary Fund will hold a book forum on “Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy” at 4:00 PM at the IMF Headquarters (720 19th st. NW).


The George Washington University Ambassadors Forum will be held at 5:00 PM with Ambassador Erlan Idrissove, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the U.S. who will speak on Kazakhstan’s Emerging Leadership Role and Its International Implications. The event will take place at Linder Family Commons on 1957 E St. NW.
WHERE: George Washington University, Lindner Family Commons, Room 602, 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC.
CONTACT: RSVP to dpe.gwu.publicity@gmail.com; web site: www.gwu.edu

Ambassador Erlan Idrissov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United States

Topics will include Kazakhstan’s emerging leadership role, particularly now that the country holds the 2010 rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The discussion will center on both Kazakhstan’s recent achievements and the various challenges that the country still faces.

Please send RSVP to: dpe.gwu.publicity@gmail.com.

Progress in Afghanistan: Will the U.S. Strategy Succeed?

Many apologies for the delayed posts. August is a bit of a lazy month in Washington–especially in terms of the Hill and think tanks. This week, there weren’t too many events to cover, seeing as Obama has been on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Next week, we kick things off with some action in the Middle East–Obama is set to start peace talks again b/w Palestine and Israel, and he’s going to make a big speech on the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Brookings held an interesting discussion on success in Afghanistan from the perspective of a former Pakistani general and a State Department official. Also, one of my favorite speakers on foreign policy, Steve Coll, spoke at the widely-attended event.

Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, said that the U.S. has had more success in Pakistan because the interactions have been between the two governments with limited military and civilian interaction. In Afghanistan, the U.S. has been accused of causing high numbers of civilian causalities and not mingling well with the Afghans who either see the troops as saviors or invaders.

“Overall, we are doing well. The strategy is still moving forward,” he said. “we’re seeing much more impact of our efforts to change our relationship with Pakistan.”

This assessment came around the same time that reports were released of Taliban members plotting to attack aid workers who are assisting in flood relief efforts. An interesting article also came out this week on why fewer people are donating to Pakistan than the crisis in Haiti. Essentially, people aren’t as heartbroken over the Pak floods because they are less catastrophic than the massive earthquake in Haiti and the Haitians are seen as entirely helpless and “innocent” compared to people in Pakistan, where some of the population is associated with the Taliban (this is from the article, not my personal assessment). Because of tension between Pakistan and the U.S., some people feel less inclined to donate. But with that being said, the U.S. has donated so much to Pakistan because if radical Islamic groups donate more, it could have a great outcome on our “war against terrorism.”

“Obviously we are very concerned that this does not have a long-term impact on stability and institutions,” Nasr said of the floods. “But the way in which the U.S. has reacted in some ways shows the importance of the strategy. The U.S. reacted quickly because of the interagency teams it had put together. It made for a much quicker turnaround.”

Gen. Jehangir Karamat (ret.) said that the U.S.’s efforts in Pakistan will have a great impact on its success in Afghanistan.

“I really think there’s no real alternative to what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan,” he said. He said a lot of the negativity towards the U.S. in Pakistan is linked to the public’s ignorance of the intricacies of the relationship.

Right now, the government is heavily reliant on the U.S. to take care of the floods. “I think what happens between Pakistan and the U.S. on the positive side doesn’t come up in Pakistan media and in discussions. That is driving the opinion.”

He said the biggest issue to the people of Pakistan in the coming months will be recovery efforts and the rebuilding of their economy.

Coll concluded the discussion with a fundamental question he felt would dictate the path of the U.S/Pakistan relationship in the midst of flood relief and potential talks with the Taliban.

“We need to ask whether as partners with the state of Pakistan, as provisioners of generous aid, is the Pakistani state doing EVERYTHING it could be reasonably asked to do to contain and break down the historical relations with these groups?”

Debate inside the U.S. continues over this very issue, but Karamat asserted that “without unraveling the state, Pakistan is doing everything possible to support the US strategy in Afghanistan and to work things out with India.”

This Week in D.C. August 9-13

This week, Russia and the U.S. will continue to hold anti-terror drills from August 6-14. The exercise will be based in Russia and Colorado Springs. Military personnel will practice operations that involve saving airplanes hijacked by terrorists.

The floods in Pakistan continue to plague the millions of people who have lost their possessions and loved ones. The State Department will still rally to the cause and ask people to text 50555 to help. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani said upon visiting the flood-stricken land: ““The nation should be in high spirits during this difficult time. We should help our brothers, sisters and children in these hard times.”

Thousands of Muslims in D.C. will be celebrating Ramadan, which starts on August 10.

For Monday

The Department of Homeland Security will hold a briefing at 9:15 on Monday morning on cyber defense technology. Director of the Science and Technology branch of Cyber Security Doug Maughan will deliver remarks on the Cyber Security Experimentation and Test 2010 workshop at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel on 2660 Woodley Road NW

For Tuesday

The Stimson Center will hold a talk on the lessons learned from chemical and biological events in Japan featuring Tomohiko Makino of the Global Health Security Program and Akihito Fukui of the Ministry of Defense in Japan. The event will take place at the Stimson Center between 11:00 AM and 12:30 PM

For Wednesday

update:

From 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM, Brookings will hold a web event with Kenneth Pollack on the status of Iraq based on his recent visit. He says conditions are “improving.” Questions can be submitted in advance ScoutingReport@brookings.edu

From 1 PM to 2 PM, the Wilson Center will hold a talk on “Mexico in the Global World” with the governor of the state of Mexico. Notes: This presentation will be in Spanish.

Busboys and Poets will host a viewing of “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet” hosted by Connecting Cultures at 6:00. The event will include an Iftar dinner with Hirrara soup, kabob, saffron rice and imported dates. $35 a plate including the film and discussion with the director.

For Thursday

The Hudson Institute will host a talk on “Russia’s Peacetime Demographic Crisis: Dimensions, causes, Implications” from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM

For Friday

National Defense University Foundation will hold a discussion on “Nuclear Deterrance and the Nuclear Defense” at the Capitol Hill Club at 8:00 AM. RSVP to Elma Rhu at rhuee.ndu.edu


Secretary Clinton Gives Remarks on Pakistan Flood: Text to Help

Floods in Pakistan have left millions displaced. Photo from RFE/RL

Sec. Clinton held a press conference this morning on the flood in Pakistan that has taken the lives of over 1500 people, left millions stranded and many more missing.

“Violence like this is abhorrent at any time, but especially at this time of crisis for the Pakistani people, and I want to convey the condolences of the American people to the Pakistani people on behalf of everything they are confronting,” she said.

The U.S. has promised 10 million in aid along with a number of humanitarian groups to provide food, critical supplies and “hundreds of Halal meals.” They’ve also sent boats to help with water purification, search and rescue and the construction of temporary bridges.

Clinton also said those wanting to help can text “SWAT” to 50555 for $10 donations similar to how donations were made to Haiti.

According to the AFP, members of Pakistan’s army have offered to donate one day’s salary towards flood victims.

RFE/RL reports that Pakistan could see more storms headed their way in the coming days. Despite the disaster, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is traveling to the United Kingdom for talks with senior British officials”despite pressure for him to cancel the trip and return home to oversee relief and rescue efforts.”

Record rains last week triggered floods and landslides that washed away entire villages and ruined farmland in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and central Punjab provinces.

At New America: In Pakistan, American image remains poor, concern of extremist takeover slipping

Report by Will Storey

Today, The Pew Research Center has published a report on the opinions of the Pakistani people regarding, among other topics, America, the Taliban, India and the issue of extremism.  The results indicate India is by and large the biggest threat to Pakistan, and that the American war on terror is anti-Muslim.  Pew President Andrew Kohut spoke at the New America Foundation to discuss the results.

“There is not a Muslim public in the world that supports the U.S. war on terror,” said Kohut to a room of a few dozen students, reporters, and government officials.  He explained that because the effort seems to be targeting only Muslims regardless of political ideology, it is “not legitimate” in the eyes of Pakistani people.  That sentiment contributes to the mere 17% of people who have a favorable view of the U.S., and the 8% that have confidence in President Obama.

This news comes just as U.S. officials are revamping their efforts to work with Pakistan to oust the Taliban from the region.

When asked about the greatest threat facing Pakistan, 53% named India.  The Taliban came in second with 23%.  Kohut commented that because of the strong ties between India and the U.S., the countries are viewed as virtually one and the same.  As concern over the Kashmir region of India grows, extremists such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda tend to fall by the wayside in the eyes of Pakistanis.  In a similar poll conducted last year, 69% of participants said they were “very/somewhat worried” about extremists taking control of Pakistan, compared to 51% this year.  30% stated they are “not too/not at all worried”.

In regards to the Pakistani government itself, the military, specifically General Kayani, had a much higher approval rating (61%) than President Asif Ali Zadari (20%).  Nawaz Sharif, Zardari’s political rival, boasted a 71% approval rating, one of the highest in the country.  The majority of Pakistani people expressed support for harsh criminal punishments, including stoning of adulterers (82%) and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim faith (76%).  Kohut commented that these figures contrast sharply with the people’s desire to modernize, a discrepancy that he could not explain.

Pew researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,000 Pakistani Muslims representing mostly urban areas.  The report is a part of the Global Attitude Project , which has spanned 57 countries in order to get a clear picture of issues affecting local citizens around the world.

This Week in D.C. July 26-30

Special thanks to Drew Herrick from RFE for contributing to list

For Monday

Rediscovering Preventive Diplomacy for Peace in the World’s Hotspots, Brookings Institution, 2:00PM to 3:30 PM

USIP will hold an event on verifying the START treaty with Rose Gottemoeller from 2:00-4:00

New America will hold a talk on Human Rights and Settlements in the Occupied Territories at their offices on 19th and K st 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

The Potomac Institute will hold a talk at 3:00 on intelligence management and oversight (most likely in response to last week’s Washington Post investigative story on “Private America”)

For Tuesday

A hearing on Considering Afghanistan’s Reconciliation Options will be held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 09:30 AM

A hearing on Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 9:30 AM –

A panel discussion on “Enforcing US and EU Sanctions Against Tehran” will be held in Rayburn 2252, sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM

At MEI, there will be a discussion on “US Military Approaches to Occupation in Iraq” from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Internet Activists and Authoritarian Regimes; Who’s Winning? will be held at the Foreign Policy Initiative for cocktails and a panel from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

For Wednesday

Counterterrorism in the Obama Administration will be hosted at the Heritage Foundation from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Brookings will hold a live webchat on the Middle East Peace Process: A Live Web Chat with Martin Indy from 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM

New America will hold a talk on “Digital District: Local News and Online Media Access in Washington, from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies will show a screening of “Voices of Palestine at The Jerusalem Fund, 2425 Virginia Avenue NW at 6:30

For Thursday

The Kashmiri-American Council will hold a discussion on India-Pakistan relations at 8 AM

The Wilson Center will hold a discussion at 8:30 AM on “African Growth and Opportunity Act Civil Society Forum 2010 “A Decade of Progress in Bridging the U.S.-Africa Trade Gap””

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Improving the Federal Gov’s Foreign Language Capabilities from 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM

The hearing, “Examining the Implementation of Iran Sanctions
will be held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee featuring Amb. Stuart Eizenstat and Mark Dubowitz  from the FDD event on Tuesday. 10:00 AM

Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism will be held at the  Heritage Foundation, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

CATO will hold an event on “Strategic Counterterrorism: The Signals We Send” from 12:00 PM –

MEI will hold a special presentation of “Photography through the Eyes of Saudi Arabian Woman” at 12:00 PM

New America will hold a talk on Public Opinion in Pakistan from 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM

CSIS will hold a talk on global public health at 4:00

For Friday

The Wilson Center will continue its Africa event from Thursday at 8:30 AM

The Kashmiri-American Council will continue its event on India-Pakistan at 9:00 AM

A Must See: Frontline’s Inside Look at Children of the Taliban

This video, by Al Jazeera, shows two teenage Pakistani boys who were abducted by the Taliban. They describe their experience at a Taliban training camp, where they are taught the Koran and how to use machine guns.

I saw a particularly fascinating documentary today produced by Frontline (couldn’t embed video, but click link to view) on the effect the Taliban is having on children in Pakistan. I was stunned at the interviews reporter Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was able to get–from young schoolgirls fighting for their education to wounded Pakistani soldiers to teenage boys currently IN the Taliban, saying on camera without covering that they would blow themselves up “God Willing.”

As a journalist, my first thought was, “how did she get these people, who knew she was part of an American organization and a woman, to speak so honestly on such controversial issues? Until this documentary I had never heard a 13-year-old boy publicly state his affiliation with the Taliban and his desire to perform a suicide bomb. I also have never heard the eerie declarations of Taliban leaders on the radio calling for more suicide bombs in the name of God. You have to watch and see for yourself.

A young girl talks about how the Taliban have been growing in numbers in her home town in Peshawar.

“Yes, I’ve seen them. They wear masks, they are scary,” she said.

The report also records a typical radio broadcast by the Taliban, which has a vibrant propaganda machine in the region. People listen so they avoid attacks:

“Sharia Law is our right, and we will exercise this right whatever happens. We will make ourselves suicide bombers! I swear to God if our leader orders me, I will sacrifice myself… and blow myself up in the middle of our enemies.“

According to the report, the Taliban have destroyed more than 200 government schools in Swat since they took control of the region. Of course, they have banned women from going to school.

She traveled to the SWAT valley that used to be the “Switzerland” of the east, now is ridden with Taliban. Women who used to not wear the burqa are now completely covered.

“Education is like a ray of light, and I want that light,” said one of the girls interviewed.

The fear is very alive among the people, who could lose everything at any moment, including their basic rights.

“If you look at people’s faces, you see a sadness. Our mouths are locked up. Our thoughts are chained,” said another man interviewed while they were hiding from the Taliban.

The most shocking part of the video to me was the interview with a current Taliban member who was 14. He talked about the growth of schools in the area and how their numbers have grown in the thousands.

“Would you like to carry out a suicide attack?” she asked.

“If God gives me strength,” he replies.

A part of the Taliban’s successful campaign is the Pakistani Army and US forces have bombed madrassas in villages and left people displaced while battling Taliban members.

Two male friends, one wanting to join the Taliban and one wanting to join the Pakistan Army, said they would kill each other if faced in battle. No hesitation.