Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on April 24 called for the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to be repealed. "I'm convinced that if we do not repeal this authorization to use force that I voted against in 2001, we are going to see this state of perpetual war forever," she told Current TV. Congress approved the AUMF just days after the 9-11 attacks, giving the president authority to wage war "against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks." Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against it, calling it a "blank check" for war. The Obama administration has used the AUMF as a legal justification for its targeted drone strike program in Pakistan and Yemen. "The use of drones in many instances creates more hatred, more anger, more hostility toward our country," Lee added, citing the recent congressional testimony of a young Yemeni activist. (Raw Story, April 24)
India is protesting what it calls an incursion by some 30 Chinese troops from across the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas. New Delhi says the troops entered from Tibet on April 15, and established an encampment 10 kilometers within India-controlled territory, in Depsang valley of Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir state. Chinese helicopters also reportedly entered India's airspace. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid is to visit Beijing next month to discuss the border tensions, but China denies its troops have entered Indian territory.
As the Friends of Syria summit opened in Istanbul April 20, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans to provide $100 million in new "non-lethal" aid to the Syrian opposition—and the Syrian National Coalition demanded actual weapons, threatening to break off talks with the international group if they are not forthcoming. The Coalition also called for drone strikes on the Syrian army's missile sites, and the imposition of no-fly zones. The "non-lethal" package is to include body armor, night-vision goggles, vehicles and other aid with military applications. Kerry nonetheless said the aid "underscores the United States' firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition's advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria." The new package brings total US aid to the Syrian opposition to $250 million since the fighting began.
Pakistan on April 15 strongly condemned a US drone attack in North Waziristan tribal region that killed four people a day earlier, urging Washington to "stop such attacks based on mutual respect and established international norms." The US craft fired missiles on a house in Datta Khel town, bordering Afghanistan, officials said. "Such unilateral attacks are in contravention of international law and counterproductive to the stability of this country," the foreign ministry said. "The government of Pakistan has maintained its position that drone strikes are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty."
The UN Security Council on March 28 unanimously approved the first-ever "offensive" UN peacekeeping brigade, to fight rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to "neutralize" and "disarm" rebel forces in the resource-rich east of the country. The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution states that it will be established for one year "on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent" to the principles of UN peacekeeping. The force, to be deployed in July, will include troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. The UN currently has some 18,000 troops in the DRC, and has been widely accused of doing little to stop the violence in the eastern region. The latest rebellion flared a year ago, and has forced some 800,000 from their homes.
Accused Burmese drug lord Naw Kham was executed in China on March 1 along with three accomplices in the murder of 13 Chinese merchant sailors on the Mekong River in 2011. The executions were carried out by a court in Kunming, Yunnan province. Thai national Hsang Kham, Lao national Zha Xika, and Yi Lai, who was named as "stateless," were executed by lethal injection along with Naw Kham. In an unusual move, authorities allowed state media to film Naw Kham during his transfer from a detention center to the court's execution area. China Central Television showed police removing Naw Kham's handcuffs and binding his arms behind his back with rope, a standard ritual before executions in China. The executions themselves were not broadcast, as cameras were not allowed in the death chamber. But the spectacle still sparked dissent on the Internet within China.
President Obama announced Feb. 22 that about 100 US troops have been mobilized to Niger to help set up a new base for supposedly unarmed Predator drones to conduct surveillance in the region. The new drone base is to be located for now in the capital, Niamey. The only permanent US base in Africa is in Djibouti, but Niamey may now constitute a second. (NYT, Feb. 22) Also Feb. 22, Chad announced that 13 of its soldiers and 65 Islamist rebels were killed in a fierce battle in the mountain region of Adrar des Ifoghas, on Mali's border with Algeria. In other fighting that day, at Tessalit, on the edge of the mountains, two vehicles carrying civilians and members of the MNLA Tuareg rebel group exploded, killing three and wounding several others. (VOA, Feb. 22) A second car bomb attack in Khalil, on the Algerian border, left five MNLA fighters dead. (Reuters, France24, Feb. 22)
The media are suddenly abuzz with reports that the CIA has been operating a secret airbase for unmanned drones in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, from which it has launched numerous strikes on purported militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in neighboring Yemen—including those that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citizens who had never been charged with any crimes by the US government. The relevation follows the leaking to NBC this week of a confidential Justice Department memo finding that the US can order the killing of its own citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaeda or "an associated force"—even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the US.