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Category Archives: Civil Liberties

CRS – Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated May 19, 2017. [Via FAS]

“The United States, partner countries, and the Afghan government are attempting to reverse recent gains made by the resilient Taliban-led insurgency since the December 2014transition to a smaller international mission consisting primarily of training and advising the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The Afghan government has come under increasing domestic criticism not only for failing to prevent insurgent gains but also for its internal divisions. In September 2014, the United States brokered a compromise to address a dispute over the 2014 presidential election, but a September 2016 deadline was not met for enacting election reforms and deciding whether to elevate the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) position to a prime ministership. The progress of the Afghan government in reducing corruption and implementing its budgetary and other commitments was assessed by an international meeting on Afghanistan during October 4-5, in Brussels, as sufficient to merit continued international assistance. The government has adopted measures that would enable it to proceed with new parliamentary elections, but no election date has been set. The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which peaked at about 100,000 in 2011, is about 9,800, of which most are assigned to the 13,000-person NATO-led “Resolute Support Mission” (RSM) that trains, assists, and advises the ANDSF. About 2,000 of the U.S. contingent are involved in combat against Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups, including the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State organization (ISIL-Khorasan), under “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel” (OFS). Amid assessments that the ANDSF is having difficulty preventing insurgent gains, in June 2016 President Obama amended prior troop reduction plans in order to keep 9,800 U.S. forces there through 2016, and to decrease to 8,400 as of the beginning of 2017. That replaced a plan to reduce the force to 5,500 by the end of 2016, which in turn superseded a 2011 plan to reduce to about 1,000 U.S. personnel by that same time frame. However, in the early stages of the Trump Administration, U.S. commanders assess that about 3,000-5,000 more U.S. forces are required to help Afghan forces break a “stalemate” in combat against insurgent groups. U.S. officials assert that insurgents control or contest about 40% of Afghan territory, but still are not positioned to overturn the government. In May 2016, the vulnerabilities of the Taliban were exposed when the United States tracked and killed with an unmanned aerial vehicle strike the head of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. However, the successor Taliban leadership has continued to produce battlefield gains and rejects new settlement talks with the government. One small insurgent group reached a settlement with the government in late September 2016, but the agreement has not, to date, broadened to other groups. Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups assert concerns that a settlement with the Taliban might erode post-2001 human rights gains. A component of U.S. policy to help establish a self-sustaining Afghanistan is to encourage economic development and integration into regional trading patterns. However, Afghanistan will remain dependent on foreign aid for many years. Through the end of FY2014, the United States provided about $100 billion to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about 60% has been to equip and train the ANDSF.About $5.7 billion was provided in FY2015, including $4.1 billion for the ANDSF and, for FY2016, $5.3 billion, including $3.8 billion for the ANDSF. The FY2017 appropriation for the ANDSF is $4.2 billion; allocations to Afghanistan from economic assistance account appropriations have not yet been finalized. These figures do not include funds for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.”

The State of Racial Justice in Chicago Report

Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy (MC 347) University of Illinois at Chicago: “The State of Racial Justice in Chicago Report provides a comprehensive picture of the changing conditions of racial and ethnic groups in Chicago during the last half century. The report provides accessible data and analysis on how racial and ethnic groups… Continue Reading

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Investigations of the Executive Branch by the Executive Branch

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Investigations of the Executive Branch by the Executive Branch, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 11, 2017. “Under constitutional principles and authorities, Congress has no direct role in federal law enforcement and is limited in its ability to initiate appointments of any prosecutor for any particular matter in which there… Continue Reading

Syria executing up to 50 “prisoners” each day using crematorium

The Washington Post – “At least 50 prisoners a day are being executed at the notorious Sednaya military prison outside Damascus, State Department officials said. Russia and Iran were accused of complicity in “atrocities.” The United States released aerial photos of the facility and said the information came from “intelligence assessments” and human rights groups.”… Continue Reading

Despite Hiring, Immigration Court Backlog and Wait Times Climb

“During the past 18 months, a total of 79 new judges have been appointed to the Immigration Court. Despite this spurt in hiring, it has not made a dent in the court’s mountainous backlog. Instead, the backlog along with wait times have steadily increased. As of the end of April 2017, the number of cases… Continue Reading

Freedom of the Press 2017 – Press Freedom’s Dark Horizon

Key Global Findings 2017 “Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 amid unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders. Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a Free press—that is, a… Continue Reading

Trends in Prevailing Wage Laws, 2017

Council of State Governments: “Prevailing wage laws are laws created by state governments or local municipalities to set a rate of pay that is thought to be standard for a labor group contracted to do public-sector projects in that area. The standard rate of pay is oftentimes determined by analyzing local wage data and identifying… Continue Reading

Americans’ Attitudes About the News Media Deeply Divided Along Partisan Lines

“Democrats and Republicans, who already tend to place their trust in different news sources and rely on different outlets for political news, now disagree more than ever on a fundamental issue of the news media’s role in society: whether news organizations’ criticism of political leaders primarily keeps them from doing things they shouldn’t – or… Continue Reading

Voting Rate for the Black Population Dropped in the 2016 Election

“According to new U.S. Census Bureau data, voter turnout increased to 65.3 percent for non-Hispanic whites, but decreased to 59.6 percent for non-Hispanic blacks in the 2016 presidential election (Figure 2). This compared to 2012, when more non-Hispanic blacks (66.6 percent) voted than non-Hispanic whites (64.1 percent) for the first time in this series. In… Continue Reading

Cardozo School of Law Trains Students as Advocates For Shifting Legal Landscape

“In response to unprecedented legal uncertainty in the first weeks of the Trump administration, Cardozo School of Law is offering new classes to prepare future lawyers for a shifting legal and political landscape…Cardozo School of Law is offering students a 10-week course called The First 100 Days: The Trump Administration and the Rule of Law.… Continue Reading

TRAC Sues ICE on Withholding Data on Detainers

“The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) filed a suit today under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) charging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with unlawfully withholding records related to ICE’s immigration enforcement actions and its interaction with other law enforcement agencies. At issue are ICE’s use of detainers. These are requests from ICE to federal,… Continue Reading