The Afghan Study Group (ASG), composed of a bipartisan group of leading scholars and experts on Afghanistan, released a report yesterday stating that "the mission to stabilize Afghanistan is faltering". The report recommended the "decoupling" of Iraq and Afghanistan in both legislative and management processes, appointing a U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, and creating a group to develop a long-term, coherent international strategy for Afghanistan in coordination with the Afghan government."
ASG co-chairs Retired General James L. Jones and Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and to Jordan, testified in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday during which both Democrats and Republicans expressed frustration over the current situation in Afghanistan. Administration witnesses, including Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher and David Johnson head of the State Departmentís Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, tried to paint a rosier picture of Afghanistan. The Senators were not buying it.
Emphasizing the critical importance of increasing reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, Committee Chair Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) said "Weíve spent about as much in development aid in Afghanistan over the past five years as we spend on the war in Iraq every three weeks. What could more development aid do? As every military expert to testify before our committee has noted, the battle against the Taliban wonít be won with bullets and bombs. It will be won with roads, clinics, and schools."
While recognizing the need to address opium production, the report takes issue with the Administrationís policy on poppy eradication, stating that spraying herbicides "could prove extremely dangerous for Afghanistan."
Since the Afghanistan Study Groupís report was released Wednesday, two more reports have been issued by The Atlantic Council and international aid agency Oxfam both stating that international efforts are failing in stabilizing Afghanistan, the BBC reports.
Media Resources: BBC 01/31/08; New York Times 1/29/08
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .