Weekly News Roundup: Diplomacy, Detainees
GUY RAZ, host:
We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
National security and diplomacy dominated the headlines this past week. And to help us navigate through some of the stories we heard or may have missed, we turn to Jamie McIntyre, the former senior Pentagon correspondent for CNN who now blogs on the military and the media at TheLineofDeparture.com.
Jamie, good to have you in the studio.
Mr. JAMIE McINTYRE (Journalist, LineofDeparture.com): Thank you.
RAZ: Let's start with Afghanistan, Jamie. Earlier in the show, as you heard, the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen argued that the alliance is winning in Afghanistan. That's somewhat at odds with what we're hearing from U.S. commanders, right?
Mr. McINTYRE: You know, there are a lot of things that aren't clear about Afghanistan, but one thing that's crystal clear is the United States and its NATO allies are not winning. And you could certainly see that from the assessment from General Stanley McChrystal that became public.
RAZ: That assessment was sort of leaked earlier this week. How significant is that in the overall strategy that the White House is now considering?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, it's one of the, I think, three factors that has played into the White House having significant second thoughts about their strategy. One is McChrystal's clear-eye assessment that shows things are getting worse, not better; that the NATO alliance is completely ill-equipped to deal with the counterinsurgency mission. The other factor is that the Taliban have simply gotten much stronger. We keep talking about a resurgent Taliban…
Mr. McINTYRE: …but they have been much more effective in conducting attacks, in intimidating the civilian population, and in putting in place a shadow government in a lot of areas, where they really control sections of the country where they didn't hold sway before.
And the last factor is the United States had hoped that the election of Hamid Karzai would add some legitimacy to his government. And in fact, the debacle there with all of the fraud has served to just create more doubt about whether he's not in fact just a puppet of the United States.
So all of those factors combined show that Afghanistan is going in the wrong direction and has given the White House significant second thoughts about whether they should continue with this strategy.
RAZ: Jamie, if General Stan McChrystal requests up to 40,000 more troops, are those numbers available to him?
Mr. McINTYRE: They are, but not easily. And the first troops probably wouldn't even arrive until some time next year. The U.S. is still pretty tapped out. And I'm hearing the number could be as high as 45,000 additional troops. They could do it. It's not going to be easy because Iraq, despite the fact that all the attention has shifted to Afghanistan, Iraq isn't working out much better either.
RAZ: Moving on to Iran, Jamie. We learned this week that Iran has been building another secret nuclear facility. Is there a sense now, Jamie, that Iran has passed the point of no return?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, I think they passed the point where the United States really has any sort of effective military options, so they're putting all of their eggs in this diplomatic basket. And they're hoping that now that this acknowledgement has been made by the Iranian government, that they'll be able to coalesce world opinion around some really more effective sanctions.
But, you know, history shows us that that's - it's very difficult to do that. And the Iranian regime has done a pretty good job of trying to inoculate itself against the economic pressure.
RAZ: Finally, Jamie, as we heard in a report by Ari Shapiro a few minutes ago, the Obama administration has declared this week that it has the right to indefinitely detain prisoners at Guantanamo. Has the White House boxed itself in, in a sense, over how to deal with so-called enemy combatants, particularly in light of the fact that they want to close Guantanamo?
Mr. McINTYRE: Well, you know, everybody wanted to close Guantanamo before. This is clearly one of those things that was easier said than done. A lot of people at the Pentagon were shaking their heads when they announced a firm timetable for closing it because they haven't solved that problem.
Now, they're blaming it on the Bush administration didn't have files for all of the detainees.
Mr. McINTYRE: But the sense you get is that there's no easy solution there and they're going to have to move that deadline.
RAZ: That's Jamie McIntyre, a familiar voice who covered the Pentagon for CNN and who now blogs about the military at TheLineOfDeparture.com.
Jamie, thanks for coming in.
Mr. McINTYRE: Thank you.