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Daily Archives: 06/24/2010

Barack O'Clock: Russian President Medvedev Here for Meetings



June 24, 2010

(POLITICSDAILY)   In advance of this weekend’s G-8 Summit in Canada, President Obama is expected to spend the day with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, working out the kinks on international issues (including nuclear proliferation and that pesky Iranian government) and discussing U.S.-Russian relations. Here’s what’s also on deck for Thursday, June 24:

9:30 a.m. The president receives the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office.

10:30 a.m. Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Medvedev in the Oval Office.

11 a.m. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hold expanded bilateral meeting with Medvedev in the Cabinet Room.

1:45 p.m. The president and Medvedev hold a joint press conference in the East Room.

3:05 p.m. Obama and Medvedev attend the U.S.-Russia Business Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Afghan President Respects Decision to Replace McChrystal


June 23, 2010

(KATAKAMI / VOA) President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman says the Afghan leader respects U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to replace the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.

Waheed Omar told reporters Wednesday that President Karzai looks forward to working with McChrystal’s replacement, General David Petraeus, who has been the head of U.S. Central Command.

President Obama announced McChrystal’s resignation Wednesday after the U.S. general was summoned to the White House to explain disparaging comments he made about the president and other top administration officials in an article published in Rolling Stone magazine.

Earlier in the day, President Karzai and other Afghan officials pledged support for McChrystal, warning that his removal would hurt counter-insurgency efforts.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said there have been many positive changes since McChrystal took command, including a decrease in civilian casualties.

Profile: General David Petraeus


US President Barack Obama announces the resignation of US commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his successor Gen. David Petraeus (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington,DC on June 23, 2010.


June 23, 2010


(KATAKAMI / BBC)  General David Petraeus, who has been nominated as the top US commander in Afghanistan, is one of America’s best-known military figures.

He is expected to step down as head of US Central Command, a role he has held since October 2009, to take up his new post.

US President Barack Obama appointed Gen Petraeus as the top US commander in Afghanistan in June 2010, replacing Gen Stanley McChrystal, who was fired after making controversial comments in a magazine interview.

Gen Petraeus is best known for his handling of the Iraq war in 2007.

The Afghanistan job is actually a step down from his current post.

In his role as head of US Central Command, he was responsible for overseeing US military operations and strategy in Central Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Middle East.

He took up the post in October 2009 after 20 months at the helm in Iraq, during which time his name became inextricably linked with the Bush administration’s military “surge” – widely credited with helping to reduce the sectarian violence that has plagued the country since 2003.

Gen Petraeus noticeably stepped back from the public debate while President Barack Obama decided whether to send reinforcements to Afghanistan in late 2009, but his advisers say he was a strong advocate of the move in private.

This change in approach fuelled speculation in Washington about whether the general might seek the presidency in 2012.

However, those close to the general dismissed the idea as absurd and said he is wary of being portrayed as a politician, rather than a military leader.

Mr Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, rejected talk that he is worried about such aspirations and insisted that the president “values his insights in helping to turn around an eight-year-old war that has been neglected”.

Intense, ambitious and hugely competitive – though not without detractors, even within the military – Gen Petraeus has a reputation as one of the brightest US commanders, correspondents say.


U.S. Senator Barack Obama listens (L) as Gen. David Petraeus (R) discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him an aerial tour of the city, in this July 21, 2008 file photo.

Cheating death

Born in 1952, Gen Petraeus grew up in New York state before going to the West Point military academy, from which he graduated in 1974 before being commissioned in the infantry.

He then served as an officer in airborne, mechanised, and air assault infantry units in the US, Europe and the Middle East, but until the invasion of Iraq six years ago had not been involved in real combat.

He was, however, accidentally shot in the chest when one of his soldiers tripped and accidentally fired a round during a training exercise in 1991.

Gen Petraeus spent five hours in surgery, during which he was operated on by Bill Frist, who later became a Republican Senate majority leader.

He cheated death again nine years later, when his parachute collapsed 18m (60ft) from the ground during a training jump and he broke his pelvis.

In 2003, he commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the advance on Baghdad, but it saw little fighting because of the swift collapse of the Iraqi armed forces.

The division was later moved to Mosul, where it was charged with restarting the economy, building local security forces and establishing democratic institutions.

There, Gen Petraeus first experimented with a strategy that would be revived during the “surge”. Troops were told to use less aggressive tactics and to make a sincere effort to win over and protect the local population.

If the rest of the US military had adopted this “hearts and minds” approach, his supporters say, Iraq would not have descended into such chaos. In reality, however, shortly after the 101st went home in 2004, Mosul was overrun by Sunni insurgents.

‘Petraeus Doctrine’

On a second tour, he became head of the Multi-National Security Transition Command, where he was tasked with building a new Iraqi army and police force virtually from scratch. The forces continued to be ineffective, though, and Gen Petraeus was criticised.

In 2005, he took over the army’s officer school at Fort Leavenworth, where he led the military’s effort to rewrite its counterinsurgency doctrine, known as Army Field Manual 3-24. The doctrine called for protecting the population from violence even at the risk of taking additional military casualties.

Two years later, Gen Petraeus took over command of Multi-National Force – Iraq, just as President George W Bush revamped his strategy in order to combat the insurgency and stabilise the country enough to allow a withdrawal.

Testifying to Congress in September 2007 alongside the then US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, the general warned Democrats calling for an early withdrawal date that such a move might have “devastating consequences”.

The subsequent deployment of nearly 30,000 additional troops and the application of the so-called “Petraeus Doctrine” saw the security situation in Iraq improve markedly, with less violence and fewer deaths, and progress on the political front.

The general is also credited with helping bring about the forging of successful alliances between US forces and Sunni tribes in Anbar province, in opposition to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Shortly before his term in office ended, President Bush announced that troops would begin to be withdrawn from February 2009. He also said combat troops would pull out by August 2010, ahead of a full withdrawal in 2011.

While Gen Petraeus backed the proposed drawdown, he warned that progress in Iraq remained “fragile” and “reversible”.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Pope says Faith in God is Reasonable


June 23, 2010

(23 Jun 10 – RV) It is not foolish to have faith in God, on the contrary it is reasonable, because, as St Thomas Aquinas taught, human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything. For a third week Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday audience to the Angelic Doctor, in particular to his master work in theology, the “Summa Theologiae”.

In comments in Italian the Pope said : “To those who object that faith is foolish because it makes us believe something that does not enter into the experience of the senses, St. Thomas offers a very detailed response, claiming that this is an inconsistent objection because human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything”.

The Pope said “In his ‘Summa’ St. Thomas starts from the fact that God exists in three different ways: God exists in Himself, He is the principle and end of all things, so all creatures come from and depend upon Him. Secondly, God is present through His Grace in the life and activity of Christians, of the saints. Finally, God is present in a very special way in the person of Christ, and in the Sacraments which derive from His work of redemption”.

The Holy Father went on: “What St. Thomas explained with academic rigour in his main theological works such as the ‘ Summa Theologica’ was also expressed in his preaching”, the content of which “corresponds almost in its entirety to the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Indeed, in a time such as our own of renewed commitment to evangelisation, catechism and preaching must never lack the following fundamental themes: what we believe, i.e., the Creed; what we pray, i.e., the Our Father and the Ave Maria; and what we live as biblical revelation teaches us, i.e., the law of the love of God and neighbour and the Ten Commandments”.

“In his brief ‘Devotissima expositio super symbolum apostolorum’, St. Thomas explains the importance of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God, … life is given a clear direction and we can easily overcome temptations. To those who object that faith is foolish because it makes us believe something that does not enter into the experience of the senses, St. Thomas offers a very detailed response, claiming that this is an inconsistent objection because human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything.

“Only if we were able to have perfect knowledge of all things visible and invisible would it be foolish to accept truth out of pure faith”, said the Pope. “Moreover, as St. Thomas observes, it is impossible to live without entrusting ourselves to the experience of others, when our personal knowledge does not extend far enough. Thus it is reasonable to have faith in God Who reveals Himself, and in the witness of the Apostles”.


Gillard becomes Australia's first female PM


June 23, 2010

(Reuters) – Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister on Thursday when Kevin Rudd stepped down, as the Labor government sought to avoid election defeat later this year by changing leaders.

Gillard is expected to present more of a change of leadership style than substance, but investors hope she will soften a controversial “super profits” mining tax, which is threatening $20 billion worth of investment and has rattled voters.

The Australian dollar briefly jumped after the leadership change, while shares in BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, and Rio Tinto rose around 2 percent, on hopes of a mining tax compromise.

“The market is going to assume that the (mining) tax is going to be amended, and hence the worst case outcome they were staring at is not going to eventuate,” said Richard Schellbach an equity strategist at Citi. 

Rudd become the shortest-serving Australian prime minister since 1972, with his leadership falling apart after a string of poor opinion polls showed him losing ground over recent decisions to shelve a carbon-reduction scheme and impose a new mining tax.

Government lawmakers believe Gillard has a better chance of winning back voters ahead of an expected October poll because she is a warmer personality who can sell policies more effectively.


Miners have launched multi-million dollar advertisements warning of widespread job losses, spooking voters, if the 40 percent tax goes ahead in its current form in 2012.

Global miners such as Rio Tinto, BHP, and Xstrata are expected to campaign strongly against the tax, if it is not changed, at the next election and help a resurgent conservative opposition’s bid to oust Labor.

“If they’ve gone to the trouble to put a new leader in to get their re-election chances up, then obviously they’re going to water down the mining tax as well — all part of that strategy to shore up voter support,” said Mark Taylor, senior resources analyst at Morningstar.

“I think you’ll find that they might do something fairly radical. They might either say they’re going to put it on the backburner and look at the whole thing all over again from a fresh start, or they’ll make a fairly large concession on the uplift rate or the headline rate.”

Despite investor hopes that a leadership change might spell a major backdown on the mining tax, left-winger Gillard’s backers expect her to mount a much more effective defence of it.

Some economic analysts expressed concern over Gillard’s left-wing, trade union background.

“Clearly this is a positive for the Australian dollar and stocks in the short and medium term,” said Su-Lin Ong, senior economist at RBC Capital Markets.

But Ong cautioned: “She has been more left-wing than Rudd; she favours more regulation and spending. So maybe it means the budget deficit shrinks more slowly than otherwise.”


Barack Obama says “Rock me, Petraeus”


WASHINGTON – JUNE 23: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks as U.S. General David Petraeus looks on in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 23, 2010 in Washington, DC.

June 23, 2010

(KATAKAMI / THEGLOBEANDMAIL.COM)  President Barack Obama is right to have replaced one advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, with another, General David Petraeus.

President Barack Obama is right to have replaced one advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, with another, General David Petraeus – the very commander who in Iraq led such a strategy to considerable success.

Gen. McChrystal was brought down by a profile in Rolling Stone magazine, which, paradoxically, was on the whole favourable to him. He and his staff were too lively and articulate for their own good, too free with quotable quotes. His command was compromised by his frankness about his disagreements with civilian officials of the United States, including Karl Eikenberry, a retired general who is the ambassador to Afghanistan; Richard Holbrooke, the special representative in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Joe Biden, the Vice-President.

The disclosure of divided counsels, if tolerated much longer, could have seriously harmed the NATO mission in Afghanistan, encouraging the Taliban and hostile warlords. Gen. McChrystal must have known better; he should have kept his arguments inside the military and the administration.

Counterinsurgency is not a rapid solution, but one that requires patience and time – the motto attributed by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace to Mikhail Kutuzov, the general who defeated Napoleon in Russia. The Rolling Stone article quotes Gen. McChrystal’s chief of operations, Major-General Bill Mayville, as saying of his commander’s hoped-for success, “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win.”

Such words are not inspiring, but Western countries should by now have learned not to accept splendid triumphs in Afghanistan. Gen. Petraeus, a more staid figure than Gen. McChrystal, may yet prove more enduring and more successful. Mr. Obama was right to say on Wednesday, “This is a change of personnel but it is not a change in policy.”


Photostream : General Stanley McChrystal, Old Soldiers Never Die They Just Fade Away …


Above: This March 15, 2010 image provided Tuesday, June 22, 2010 by Rolling Stone magazine shows a layout from the magazine’s latest issue with a US Navy/NATO photo of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on board a C-130 aircraft over Afghanistan. McChrystal was fighting for his job Tuesday after being summoned to Washington to explain his extraordinary complaints about President Barack Obama and his colleagues in the Rolling Stone article. McChrystal, who publicly apologized Tuesday for using “poor judgment” in the interview, has been ordered to appear at the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Rolling Stone, US Navy/NATO, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald)  


WASHINGTON – JUNE 23: Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of the U.S. Force in Afghanistan, arrives at the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama June 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. McChrystal was summoned to the White House by the President after a controversial article quoting the general disparaging the Obama Administration was published in Rolling Stone magazine.


WASHINGTON – JUNE 23: Gen. Stanley McChrystal (L), the top commander of the U.S. Force in Afghanistan, arrives at the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama June 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. McChrystal was summoned to the White House by the President after a controversial article quoting the general disparaging the Obama Administration was published in Rolling Stone magazine.


U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, listens to a question from a reporters in the briefing room of the White House in Washington in this May 10, 2010 file photo. The White House has summoned McChrystal to Washington to explain controversial remarks critical of the Obama administration, CNN reported on Tuesday. The move comes a day after McChrystal apologized for comments by his aides insulting some of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers in an article to be published in Rolling Stone magazine.


Gen. Stanley Mc Chrystal

President Barack Obama meets privately with General Stanley McChrystal, 2009

Barack Obama meets Gen. McChrystal in the Oval Office, 2009 (Photo: Getty)


FILE – In this March 28, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama is greeted by Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal as he arrives at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)