Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Afghan Journal:
The Daily Telegraph reports that the status of forces agreement that the United States and Afghanistan are negotiating may allow a U.S. military presence in the country until 2024 . That's a full 10 years beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
The negotiations are being conducted under a veil of security, and we have no way of knowing, at this point at least, if the two sides are really talking about U.S. troops in the country for that long. ( The very fact that a decade after U.S. troops entered the country there is no formal agreement spelling out the terms of their deployment is in itself remarkable)
But it does seem more likely than not that there there will be a U.S. military presence, however small, in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and that is going to force the players involved in the conflict and those watching from the sidelines with more than a spectator's interest to rethink their calculations.
Indeed, the talk of an extended force deployment may be an attempt to reverse the perception that America was in full retreat following President Barack Obama's announcement of a drawdown that many in the military believe has only hardened the resolve of the Taliban insurgents and their backers in Pakistan to wait out the departure.
from Afghan Journal:
One of the reasons the big U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan's Marjah area has slowed down is because the Marines are trying to avoid civilian casualties at all costs, according to military commanders. So use of air power, the key to U.S. battle strategy, has been cut back because of the risk of collateral damage from strikes.
Lara M. Dadkhah, an intelligence analyst, in a New York Times op-ed says troops under heavy attack in Marjah have had to wait for an hour or more for air support so that insurgents were properly identified. "We didn't come to Marjah to destroy it, or to hurt civilians," Dadkhah quotes a Marine officer as saying after he waited 90 minutes before the Cobra helicopters he had requested showed up with their Hellfire missiles.
from Tales from the Trail:
Barack Obama went to a gym at a military base in Hawaii the other day and did something positively Reaganesque -- he returned a Marine's salute.
In so doing, he wandered directly into the middle of a thorny debate: Should U.S. presidents return military salutes or not?
Longstanding tradition requires members of the military to salute the president. The practice of presidents returning that salute is more recent -- Ronald Reagan started it in 1981.
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time. Dwight Eisenhower, a former five-star general, did not return military salutes while president. Nor had other presidents.
John Kline, then Reagan's military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.
Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with Gen. Robert Barrow, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute -- or any sign of respect he wished -- to anyone he wished, Kline wrote, adding he was glad for the change.
Every president since Reagan has followed that practice, even those with no military experience. President Bill Clinton's saluting skills were roundly criticized after he took office, but the consensus was he eventually got better.
The debate over saluting has persisted, with some arguing against it for protocol reasons, others saying it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency.
"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform," author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The New York Times in 2003.
"But there is more to this than a decline in military manners," he added. "There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president's military role."
Garry Wills, the author and Northwestern University professor, echoed those remarks in the Times in 2007.
"The glorification of the president as a war leader is registered in numerous and substantial executive aggrandizements; but it is symbolized in other ways that, while small in themselves, dispose the citizenry to accept those aggrandizements," he wrote.
"We are reminded, for instance, of the expanded commander in chief status every time a modern president gets off the White House helicopter and returns the salute of Marines."
What do you think? Is returning a salute a common courtesy? Or should Obama reconsider the practice?
For more Reuters political news, click here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Hugh Gentry (Obama waves after leaving a gym at a Marine Corps base in Hawaii Dec. 23); Reuters/Pool (Bush salutes at a ceremony in New York Nov. 11)