Weekends with Alex Witt | February 24, 2013
>>> another controversial development for the u.s. military . president obama announced that 100 troops have been deployed to niger in north africa where they will establish a drone base to aid in the fight against islamic mill tans in the region. joining me now, p.j. crowley, former assistant secretary of state and a fellow at the george wa university institute for public diplomacy and global communications. p.j., always a pleasure. glad you're here.
>> this just the beginning, is it, for the u.s. military presence there in africa? is that going to be our primary focus after the afghan drawdown?
>> no. we've had drones in djibouti for some time. what's crucial about a difference, say, between what what's happening in niger and what might be happening in a place like yemen , these evidently will be unarmed and part of an intelligence and surveillance, you know, support for french and african troops that have intervened in mali.
>> so any indication that islamic militants in niger or elsewhere in northern africa have the capabilities to attack the u.s.?
>> well, there certainly is concern about the spread of extremist fighters throughout starting with libya and then moving west towards nigeria. so i think part of the u.s. policy is to try to help stabilize and improve the capabilities of governments in that region. obviously, libya is a work in progress , mali you had unfortunately a coup by some troops that have received u.s. training in previous months. and obviously the effort in nigeria to pose a group is of great, you know, long-term concern for the united states and otherses.
>> i want to pick up further on the drone strikes because you wrote recently in an op-ed that pakistan is actually undermining any developments we might be making in the region beyond just pakistan . are drones having a net positive or neg impact on our national security ?
>> well, it's a little bit of both. obviously, if we're able to bring effective lethal force without putting 100,000 troops on the ground, that's a net positive . i mean, in niger you have a situation where they're unarmed but the government of niger has signed a status of forces agreement and acknowledged that u.s. forces will be there, obviously the president has done the same. that's the way the system is supposed to work. you have drones operating in yemen . again, the yemeni government has on the one hand acknowledged that droeps are there, on the other hand occasionally it has been deceptive in suggesting that operations that were conducted by the united states were actually conducted by yemen . so there's some disinformation there. the situation in pakistan is really unsustainable where you have a very significant drone campaign under way, it's evident, you know, to the pakistani public. it's reported widely in the news media and in the united states has not overtly acknowledged that -- what's happening there. as a result the pakistani government claims drones are a violation of its sovereignty and has not acknowledged what might be known in pakistan 's government about, you know, cooperation that might be going on with that program.
>> let's talk about the other big foreign policy news today. secretary of state john kerry on his first overseas trip as a newly sworn in secretary of state. he's hitting a bunch of countries across europe and the middle east . so is there a uniform message that he's going to send?
>> well, he's going to be talking about several issues. obviously, what's of great note is, you know, john kerry 's going to i think nine countries in ten days, but his first stop is in europe. and that's in contrast to hillary clinton , his predecessor predecessor, whose first stop was in asia. i think he's there to reassure european countries -- lots of talk in terms of the european financial crisis , the fee future of the eu and the eurozone as well as developments happening in north africa . then as he moves across into the gulf where he'll talk in turkey and to leading gulf nations there, the topics are likely to be syria and also what's happening with respect to iran. there's a very important negotiating meeting this week where the so-called p-5 plus 1 lead negotiators will get together with iranian officials and see if something can be negotiated on iran's nuclear program .
>> p.j., i want to ask you also what yesterday was. it marked bradley manning's 1,000th day in custody without a trial. he of course the army private accused of leaking the classified materials to wick leaks. you left the state department after getting in a little bit of hot water after saying the pentagon was treating manning unfairly. three years later, what are your thoughts on him now?
>> for a caveat, the formal trial has not begun, but there is a legal proceeding under way, you know, regarding the charges and a potential, you know, plea-bargain. so this is a very open and transparent legal process , so it's not as if he's being held without charge. that said, obviously, two years ago i was concerned that it was punitive confinement at quantico. eventually the army moved him to ft. leavenworth, and he received more suitable pretrial confinement which is consistent with, you know, our norps both in the military and civilian justice system . he stands accused of very serious crimes, and the legal case will get under way late they are spring.
>> p.j. crowley, always a pleasure. thanks.