The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Sunday, August 26, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shi'ite pilgrims walk on a road in Najaf, 160 km (99 miles) south of Baghdad, August 26, 2007, as they trek to Kerbala to attend next week's ceremony marking the 9th century birth of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the last of 12 imams Shi'ites revered as saints. Thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims set off for Iraq's holy city of Kerbala on Sunday, demonstrating their political power but aware of the threat of bomb attacks ahead of one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest days. REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish (IRAQ)

Security Incidents

DoD announces previously undisclosed deaths of U.S. forces

Two Army Special Forces Soldiers died Aug. 23 from wounds sustained when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device near Al Aziziyah, southeast of Baghdad, Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Adrian M. Elizalde, 30, a Special Forces engineer sergeant, and Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Tully, 33, a Special Forces medical sergeant, assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Lewis, Wash., were fatally wounded while conducting a combat patrol.

Elizalde and Tully were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as members of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula.

Pfc. Edgar E. Cardenas, 34, of Lilburn, Ga., died Aug. 22 in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.


Drive-by shooting in Doura district kills one female pilgrim, injure six as they were heading toward Karbala.

In what appears to be a separate incident, three pilgrims are injured in the Al- Mehdiyah neighborhood, but no further details are given.

Around 5 till 6 a.m., an American patrol opened fire ( a machine gun ) on people in Za’faraniya neighborhood (east Baghdad) killing one person injuring other six residents. No further information of incident as the American troops blocked the area there. This dispatch is from Iraqi reporters for McClatchy, hence the imperfect English.

Police find ten bodies dumped in various parts of Baghdad.

Khanaqin (in Diyala province, near Iran)

Four Iraqi policemen killed by "accidental" US fire. Four Iraqi policemen were killed and eight were wounded by US fire Sunday in what was called a 'mistake,' police sources from the north-eastern city of Khanaqin said. According to Sirwan Shukr, a local official, four US helicopters struck a police center 'by mistake.' 'Perhaps the US forces suspected that the center belonged to terrorist groups,' said Shukr, who added that the US military had not provided an explanation yet. The victims are all policemen belonging to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. (Note: This is a historically Kurdish city which, like Kirkuk, was subjected to an Arabization campaign by Saddam Hussein. That peshmerga are acting as local police is a sign that Kurdistan is trying to reclaim this region. -- C)


Saturday night, one citizen of Ba’aj neighborhood near the petrol station in Kirkuk city was injured during a control explosion of a car bomb which was parked in front of a house belongs to an employee of the fire brigade’s department. Police had found the bomb and were detonating it deliberately, but apparently a bystander got too close.

Around 8.15 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded at Sari Taba village (outskirt of Kirkuk city) killing a woman shepherd who was with her sheep in the area.

97 individuals arrested in a security raid. It appears this was pretty much a general round-up. Only four "wanted" individuals were among those detained, the dispatch says the raid was a search for "unlicensed weapons." Of course most Iraqis carry weapons. -- C)


Escapees lead U.S. forces to a makeshift prison, where they find 8 bodies.


Body of a kidnapped literature professor is found.

Iraqi forces say they foiled three suicide bomb attempts, identify at least two of the bombers as Saudi nationals. Intelligence reports had indicated that suicide bombings were imminent.

Other News of the Day

Security is extremely tight as an estimated million plus Shiite pilgrims converge on Karbala for the commemoration of the birth of the 12th Imam. Excerpt from AP coverage:

More than a million Shiite faithful from throughout the world were expected to converge on the Shiite holy city for the celebrations, which reach their high point late Tuesday and early Wednesday. The Shabaniyah festival marks the birth of Mohammed al-Mahdi, the 12th and last Shiite imam who disappeared in the 9th century.

Religious Shiites refer to al-Mahdi as the “Hidden Imam,” believing he was spared death and will return to Earth to bring peace and justice.


To prevent a repeat [of violence that occurred last year], Iraqi authorities Saturday banned motorcycles, bicycles and horse-drawn wagons from the streets of Baghdad indefinitely. Earlier in the day, state television announced that the ban applied to all vehicles, including cars and trucks. Later, the chief military spokesman for Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi, said cars and trucks would be allowed but other forms of transport that could slip into smaller places were banned until further notice.

All vehicles were banned from the Karbala city center and each pilgrim entering the district was subjected to a security pat-down by the thousands of police on duty.

“I was hesitant to come because I feared a terrorist attack, but when I saw these strict security I felt safe,” said Haji Sabeeh Raheem, a 61-year-old pilgrim from Najaf, another Shiite holy city to the south.

During an interview with government television Saturday night, Baghdad chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawial-Mousawi said U.S. and other international troops would provide water to pilgrims along the route to Karbala. U.S. aircraft would provide surveillance to prevent extremists from firing on the crowds. He also said pilgrims would be forbidden to carry mobile phones, which can be used to detonate bombs, and large bags which could conceal weapons.

“These measures will provide the right basis for the success of the security plan,” al-Mousawi said. “We have taken into consideration all possible threats.”

In Karbala, police asked hotel owners not to accept guests who have no passports or residency papers as protection against Sunni extremists infiltrating the crowds. Police said vehicles would be banned from the city center to prevent car bombings near the two mosques that are the focal point of the commemorations.

British move out of Basra police center, Shiite militia moves in:

BASRA, Iraq (AP): Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.

Police left the building when the militiamen, loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, arrived. The militia was still controlling the facility as of late afternoon.

The British military had maintained a small number of soldiers at the command center to help train Iraqi police. However, the British withdrew Saturday night "in the framework of the plan for the handover" of British positions in the city to Iraqi control, said British spokesman Maj. Matthew Bird.

Maliki meets the press, knocks his foreign critics, but also criticizes U.S. military actions in Shiite areas. (Note that he shows no comparable concern for actions in Sunni areas. Just sayin'. --C) Excerpt:


Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's beleaguered prime minister on Sunday lashed out at American critics who have called for his ouster, saying Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Carl Levin need to ``come to their senses.''

Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to hold his government together, issued a series of stinging ripostes against a variety of foreign officials who recently have spoken negatively about his leadership. But those directed at Democrats Clinton, of New York, and Levin, of Michigan, were most strident.

``There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses,'' al-Maliki said at a news conference.

Al-Maliki launched the verbal counteroffensive in the final days before the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due in Washington to report to Congress on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more America troops.

The Shiite prime minister said a negative report by Petraeus would not cause him to change course, although he said he expected that the U.S. general would ``be supportive of the government and will disappoint the politicians who are relying on it'' to be negative.

Al-Maliki also criticized some U.S. military actions. ``Concerning American raids on Shula (a northern Shiite neighborhood) and Sadr City (the Shiite slum enclave in east Baghdad). There were big mistakes committed in these operations. The terrorist himself should be targeted not his family. ``When they want to detain one person, they should not kill 10 others. These are mistakes which we have to deal with. We will not allow the detaining of innocent people. Only the criminals should be detained,'' the angry al-Maliki declared.

Two nights ago the U.S. military raided the Shula neighborhood and said it killed eight ``terrorists'' who had attacked an American patrol from rooftops. Some Iraqis reported many civilians were killed and wounded.

U.S. forces also are routinely raiding Sadr City, often calling in helicopter fire. The U.S. says it targets only Shiite militia fighters. Iraqi officials regularly report civilians killed in the raids.

In-depth Reporting and Analysis

The Great Iraq Swindle, from This is a killer snarkfest, no excerpt can do justice to this avalanche of sarcasm. Excerpt:

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.

British journalist Abdul Bari Atwan, who interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1996, talks with Australian television. He explains that by invading Iraq, the U.S. fulfilled bin Laden's plan. (I might quarrel with his current assessment of al Qaeda as a single organization with global reach. Most observers believe that the organizational link between bin Laden's band in Waziristan and people who use the name elsewhere is tenuous. -- C) Excerpt:

ABDUL BARI ATWAN: It seems Osama bin Laden had a long-term strategy. He told me personally that he can't go and fight the Americans and their country. But if he manages to provoke them and bring them to the Middle East and to their Muslim worlds, where he can find them or fight them on his own turf, he will actually teach them a lesson. It seems the invasion of Iraq fulfilled Osama bin Laden's wish. That's why the Americans are losing in Iraq, financially and on a human basis, and even their allies, including Australia, are really losing patience, losing money, losing personnel, losing reputation in that part of the world.

TONY JONES: When bin Laden told you this back in 1996, the only thing he had that was close to what he was talking about was [former US president] Bill Clinton's intervention in Somalia. Bin Laden was evidently extremely disappointed the Americans had pulled out?

ABDUL BARI ATWAN: Yes. He told me, again, that he expected the Americans to send troops to Somalia and he sent his people to that country to wait for them in order to fight them. They managed actually to shoot down an American helicopter where 19 soldiers were killed and he regretted that the Clinton Administration decided to pull out their troops from Somalia and run away. He was so saddened by this. He thought they would stay there so he could fight them there. But for his bad luck, according to his definition, they left, and he was planning another provocation in order to drag them to Muslim soil.

And it seems President Bush did not actually give him a lot of hard work to plan for this. Immediately after the bombardment of Afghanistan - which actually destroyed 85 per cent of Al Qaeda infrastructure, personnel, deprived them of a safe haven - after that huge success against Al Qaeda, President Bush made terrible mistakes when he sent his troop to invade Iraq, one of the most difficult countries to be invaded, to be occupied, the worst land for democracy, human rights. And we can see the outcome.

Spencer Ackerman points out that, oh yeah, by the way, the Iraqi "national" intelligence service is controlled by the CIA, not the Iraqi government. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Excerpt:

Alleged billion dollar thief Hazem Shaalan isn't Ayad Allawi's only infamous friend. Allawi is also a close ally of the head of Iraq's largest intelligence service -- a man who takes his billions from Washington, not Baghdad.

On the ground in Baghdad is a sprawling intelligence operation called the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, or INIS. Only INIS isn't really "National" at all. To the great chagrin of the Maliki government, it's financed and controlled by the CIA. And its boss is a longtime Allawi friend and CIA asset, Muhammed Shahwani.

Who's Muhammed Shahwani? He's a former Iraqi military officer who, along with Allawi, helped plot a botched coup against Saddam Hussein in 1996. Despite the failure, the CIA considered him a valuable asset, largely on the strength of his considerable knowledge of Saddam's military apparatus. In his memoir, ex-CIA Director George Tenet writes that when Shahwani returned to Iraq as part of "the Agency-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary group known as 'the Scorpions'" he became "key to developing a strong network inside Iraq for the Agency."

As a result, Shahwani, a member of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party, was an obvious choice to lead the CIA-created INIS. Throughout the Coalition Provisional Authority era and the Allawi regime that followed it, Shahwani was a reliable fixture -- so much so that when the 2005 election saw Allawi's government replaced by a Shiite coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance, the agency decided that INIS was too valuable to hand over to the less-reliable UIA. (Concerns about sovereignty have their exceptions.) INIS had control over extensive files on Iraqis tied to the insurgency -- and many others not suspected of crimes -- and the UIA bristled when unable to get access to what it considered the rightful spoils of its electoral victory. "I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service," a Shiite parliamentarian and militia commander told reporters Hannah Allam and Warren Strobel.

Quote of the Day

This is very buttoned-down and rather morally dispassionate, but ultimately devastating about the current state of U.S. political culture. -- C

[O]ne thing already seems clear: neither the president nor the secretary of defense relied on structured debate and disciplined dissent to aid his decision-making. Under their leadership, both the White House and the Pentagon used management models that emphasized inspiration and guidance from above and loyalty and compliance from below. In such an atmosphere, individuals within the administration who doubted the wisdom of invading Iraq or the adequacy of plans to occupy and rebuild the country were not encouraged to articulate those concerns. By adopting such a top-down approach to decision-making, the president and the secretary of defense denied themselves the more carefully considered proposals and better analysis that a dialectical process of structured debate would have produced. . . .

There are undoubtedly costs to dependence on structured debate and disciplined dissent as aids to presidential decision-making. The process is time-consuming, the proceedings cannot be kept entirely confidential, and the ensuing public debate will be anything but disciplined. Yet a decision to go to war should be difficult, not easy. The Founding Fathers intended that these issues should be decided in open congressional deliberations. But current practice has departed so far from this model that the decision to go to war in Iraq was not even fully debated within the executive branch.

James Dobbins