May 18, 2017
BY REPS. TED POE (R-TEXAS) AND MIKE ROGERS (R-ALA.), OPINION CONTRIBUTORS - 05/18/17 10:05 AM EDT
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowed for too long to get away with lawless behavior without serious pushback from the U.S. and its allies. He has spent well over a decade doing everything in his power to undermine the security system put in place at the end of the Cold War, threatening international security and stability.
First he invaded Georgia in 2008. Then Moscow illegally seized and annexed Crimea in 2014 and invaded portions of eastern Ukraine. Putin’s troops are still illegally occupying territory in these sovereign countries.
But the kleptocrat of the Kremlin did not stop there: Under his watch, Russia has been systematically cheating on important arms control agreements, first and foremost the 1987 Intermediate-Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; this violation directly threatens the security of the American people and calls into question Russian adherence to other treaties like the 2011 New Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty.
In 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the INF Treaty, which prohibited the flight, production or possession of all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The signing of the treaty was a monumental and unique accomplishment in arms control: It was the first, and is still the only, treaty to not simply reduce or limit the number of a class of weapon but to actually prohibit a category of weapons outright. It marked a crucial step toward ensuring European stability and securing U.S. interests in the region. And it marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War on terms dictated by the United States and the West.
April 2, 2017
March 21, 2017
March 9, 2017
Successive U.S. administrations haven’t found a way out of this, playing instead the theater of “shared interests” with Islamabad, even when Pakistan’s links with insurgents imperil American lives in Afghanistan while feeding wider instability in central Asia.
February 21, 2017
December 14, 2016
With Russia to its north looking to reestablish its empire and terrorists to its south bent on creating an Islamic caliphate, Turkey should have every reason to look west. But under the reign of President Erdogan, Turkey has undergone massive shifts in its foreign policy that NATO has yet to respond appropriately to or even fully appreciate.
If you’re wondering what Erdogan’s current thinking is on Turkey’s relationship with NATO, look no further than his reaction to a failed coup attempt against him in mid-July. In the immediate days that followed the coup attempt, Erdogan spread rumors that the U.S., a fellow NATO member, was behind it and cut off power to the Incirlik Airfield, an airfield that has been critical to U.S. efforts to stage air campaigns against ISIS. Power was eventually restored, but the relationship between these two NATO countries has not recovered as quickly. In the months that followed, Erdogan, who has led the country either as president or prime minister since 2003, suspended or fired over 100,000 judges, police, teachers and soldiers. Erdogan also recalled 149 of Turkey’s military envoys to NATO, most of whom were arrested and imprisoned upon their arrival back in Turkey. Ostensibly, these envoys’ very association with NATO made them guilty of treason in Erdogan’s mind. Such is the lack of trust he has for the NATO alliance.
Over the last few years, one of the biggest threats to NATO members has been ISIS. As a NATO partner on the frontlines of Iraq and Syria, Turkey, perhaps more than any other member of the alliance, has the ability to effectively reduce the strength of ISIS, but Turkey’s actions against ISIS have been frustratingly slow. For years, Turkey was known as the key transit point for foreign fighters who wanted to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS. It was not just people that Erdogan let through, but weapons too. According to a prosecutor and court testimony, during late 2013 and early 2014, Turkey’s state intelligence agency helped deliver arms to ISIS. After four trucks full of rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were seized by police in southern Turkey, intelligence officials accompanying the cargo threatened police and physically resisted the search, forcing the police to allow three of the trucks to continue into Syria. Erdogan later would comment that the trucks were carrying aid and had those who conducted the search detained. Launched this past August, “Operation Euphrates Shield” was supposed to be Turkey’s way of showing NATO that it was finally serious about fighting ISIS. But beyond clearing a town controlled by ISIS on the Turkish border, the military operation has been more focused on slowing the progress of Kurdish forces who have been beating back ISIS rather than truly targeting ISIS. Turkey, it turns out, still does not view ISIS as a significant threat, regardless of the effect ISIS is having on its fellow NATO members.
There is more troubling news. Just ten months after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that had encroached upon Turkey’s airspace, Erdogan and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on August 9 and seemed to have buried the hatchet as they emphasized their desire to rebuild ties and called each other “dear friend” and a “valued ally”. If this summit meeting does indeed presage a real rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, it would represent a dangerous new threat to NATO. After all, it is no secret that Putin wants to weaken Turkey’s attachment to NATO.
Turkey is its own sovereign nation. It has the freedom to pursue whatever alliances and foreign policy objectives it sees fit. However, NATO must be clear to Erdogan about the consequences of his decisions. From military cooperation to intelligence sharing to having a seat at the table about the future of the region, there are still many ties that bind NATO and Turkey together. But Erdogan has frayed these ties, and NATO must wake up to the fact that someday soon Erdogan could cut them altogether. Before that day comes, NATO must be ready. And that’s just the way it is.
December 12, 2016
With its gruesome beheadings, control of broad swaths of territory, inspiration of attacks on the West, and ability to recruit thousands of foreign fighters, it is no wonder that ISIS has been the terrorist group getting all the attention in the media. But there is a cold, hard reality that we must recognize: al-Qaeda is back.
After 9/11, the target fell squarely on al-Qaeda’s back. The US and its allies brought the full force of their military power down on bin Laden and his henchman, immediately putting them on the run in the mountains of Afghanistan. Knowing he could no longer run al Qaeda like he had in the past, bin Laden flattened the organization out, giving more sovereignty to its affiliates in places like Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. But in 2011, bin Laden’s luck ran out when US Special Forces eliminated him in his hideout in Pakistan. Without its founder and leader, many speculated the organization would no longer pose a threat to the United States. In fact, President Obama himself said as much in a May 2013 address to the nation, arguing that America was at a “crossroads” and the time for “continual warfare” had come to an end.
Soon thereafter, the world’s gaze shifted off of al Qaeda an on to ISIS, an old al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq that broke off because it did not believe al Qaeda was aggressive enough. ISIS was set on establishing the Islamic caliphate now, while al Qaeda thought that doing so was premature. When ISIS gained more and more land in Iraq and Syria and began bringing in millions of dollars of revenue from oil and extortion, recruits flocked to it, believing the caliphate was here to stay. For radical Islamic terrorists, ISIS was the new, cool kid on the block. Al Qaeda, it seemed, was destined to irrelevance if not strategic defeat.
This played right into al Qaeda’s hands. With the spotlight no longer on it, al Qaeda took advantage of being able to operate much more openly than before. In Afghanistan, al Qaeda worked with its longtime ally the Taliban to take advantage of the complete withdrawal of foreign combat troops. Today, it controls more territory than at any time since 2001. Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, known as AQAP, successfully seized and held territory for the first time in years. Al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, al-Shabaab decimated its ISIS rivals in the country and continued to wage war against the government. Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, is completely entrenched in the Syrian civil war, where it holds territory and is one of the most lethal fighting forces in the country, ensuring its presence and relevance for the foreseeable future. In Libya, the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia is quietly building durable alliances with various tribes and extremist groups while enjoying safe haven thanks to a lack of government control of the country.
Al Qaeda also used ISIS’ rise as an opportunity to rebrand itself as the ‘reasonable’ organization compared to the more ‘extremist’ ISIS. It has started focusing more on winning over local populations and even engaging governmental authorities about how they could work together to counter ISIS. Al Qaeda was successfully becoming more mainstream.
Today, the trend lines have shifted. ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria. With less people under its rule to extort, its revenue stream is falling, as is the rate of foreign fighters coming into ISIS’ ranks. It turns out, ISIS may be the flash in the pan compared to the slow boil of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is playing the long game.
Whatever may be the future fate of ISIS or al Qaeda, what is clear is that al Qaeda is not decimated or even on the run, as the President has claimed. The events over the last five years have exposed the President’s tactic of “decapitation” of al Qaeda’s leaders to be a woefully insufficient strategy to defeat al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is back. We better get ready.
November 14, 2016
By Congressman Ted Poe
One hot summer day in Houston, a single mother (we will call her Amy) met a man. At the time, Amy was lonely and struggling to make a life for her young children. He was charming, funny and a talented member of the music industry. He told her he loved her and it made her feel valued and safe.
This man promised her a better life, saying that with her help, the two of them would start a thriving record label together, but in order to do this they would need to move away for awhile. He said this would be good for her future and, more importantly, her children's future. She was vulnerable, financially hurting, looking for a better life, and she trusted him. The plan was to move away for three months, and so they went.
Once they moved, the man immediately changed his tune. He isolated Amy from her family and friends and became hostile and abusive. It quickly became clear to Amy that that there was no record label. Instead, she had found herself in a dangerous situation. She spent her days trapped in a dark room where men would come in one by one. She was used and abused, treated like a prostitute. She was no prostitute. She was a victim of human trafficking being held against her will. The "appointments" with men continued to increase. It became clear quickly to this mother that she was now a sex slave.
One day, one of Amy's fellow captives being held by this man had a nervous breakdown to the point where she could no longer be physically controlled. She was a threat to his secretive business. The trafficker became distracted, and Amy was able to escape back to Houston. Her family picked her up and she returned home, but she was not the same woman that left months before. Her life was forever changed.
Amy was one of the lucky ones who got away, but her story of captivity is all too common in America. Traffickers prey every day on vulnerable women, from the insecure teenager at the mall to mothers like Amy looking for a better life for their children. This modern-day slavery happens right here in Texas in plain sight at our motels, cantinas and massage parlors. The victims live among us in our communities, but behind closed doors, they are slaves living in fear. They totally lose their identity. Meanwhile, their slave traders are able to keep their lives, committing this horrendous crime anonymously and continuously. Buyers and sellers of humans want to remain anonymous because they can. Those days need to end.
As a former criminal court judge in Texas, I successfully used public punishment for two purposes. First, I wanted to make sure defendants did not end up back in my courtroom. Second, I wanted to instill fear in would-be criminals to deter them from committing crimes in the first place.
I believe this form of public shaming can be successful in combatting human trafficking. That is why I have introduced The SHAME Act in Congress. This legislation will give federal judges the ability to publish both the names and the photographs of both convicted human traffickers and buyers of trafficked victims.
The second part of that is important — in order to effectively combat trafficking, we must go after the customers. The bill is designed to allow the public to easily access the pictures and information of those living among them in society who have purchased sex from victims. That way the buyers will no longer be able to hide in plain site under the cloak of anonymity.
Furthermore, I hope the SHAME Act strikes fear in those who think about purchasing young women for sex. Perhaps the fear of having their face on a billboard will make them think twice about participating in the modern day slave trade.
Traffickers and sex abusers run a global business second only to the slave trade. Like any business, this trade is successful because of its customers and the continuous demand they provide. It is time to SHAME these horrible humans out of the business.
Our children are not for sale.