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, September 2, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, September 2, 2007

U.S. Army troops at a vehicle checkpoint, wade through empty bottles after searching the Red Crescent truck on its way to deliver the water canisters to the Amariyah neighborhood in west Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Wisam Samy) (Tough luck if you're in Amariyah and you're thirsty. -- C)















Casualty Reports

DoD has announced two previously unreported deaths of U.S. military personnel in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel E. Scheibner, 40, of Muskegon, Mich., died Aug. 30 in Al Noor, Iraq, of wounds sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Striker Brigade Combat Team, 2d Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash. Whisker informs that "The Muskegon Chronicle is reporting that Scheibner had planned to retire from the military last April after 20 years of service, but agreed to postpone retirement for one more mission to Iraq. In fact, recently he had been told that he was slated to move into a noncombat position in Iraq. Sadly, that didn't happen soon enough. Scheibner was a veteran of the First Gulf War. He is survived by his wife and 12-year-old son, as well as his mother, a sister and a brother."

Staff Sgt. Andrew P. Nelson, 22, of Moorhead, Minn., died Aug. 29 in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. Whisker informs us that "The Fargo/Moorhead Forum reports that Nelson enlisted in the Army right out of high school in 2003, where he was known as a compassionate young man who was heavily involved in Eagle Scouts and church activities. All total he had been deployed overseas four times: once to Afghanistan, three times to Iraq. He is survived by his mother and sister.

VOI reports Iraqi police have said a Marine was killed in Anbar Saturday, but as far as I can tell this is unconfirmed. See below.

Security Incidents

Baghdad

On Saturday, gunmen stormed a house in the Dora district, seizing three women and a man. The gunmen killed two of the women about yards away and fled with the two other victims. Note: This is buried in the AP story about the overall security situation. See below, "Other News of the Day, for an excerpt.

Police find 15 bodies dumped in Baghdad on Saturday. That's about the norm lately.

Reuters also reports:

  • U.S. forces caught seven suspected weapons smugglers during pre-dawn raids around Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
  • A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three policemen in Baghdad's western Yarmouk district, police said.
  • Gunmen killed four people in random shooting in the northern district of Shaab on Saturday, police said.
  • A mortar round killed one person and wounded another in Zayouna district in eastern Baghdad, police said.


Separate mortar attack wounds two in al-Mahmoudiyah district.

Bomb in Aden square in al-Kazhimiya kills four, injures eight. Several cars set ablaze. Police cordon off the area and deny access to reporters.

Babel

Officer of a U.S.-funded Iraqi special operations force survives an assassination attempt. (Now this is obviously news in more ways than one. I am reprinting the VOI story in full. Interesting that the U.S. corporate media have not picked up on the existence of this program, as far as I know. Read between the lines and draw your own conclusions. -- C)

Brig. Abbas al-Juburi, the commander of the special Scorpion Force, survived an attempt on his life when three gunmen in a civilian vehicle showered his house with bullets on Sunday, killing one civilian inside, police said.

"Gunmen attacked Juburi's house in al-Karama neighborhood in central Hilla on Sunday morning and escaped, but 30 minutes later the house security guards chased the culprits' vehicle and managed to arrest them," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "Arms and ammunition in the gunmen's possession were seized," he added.

The U.S.-funded Scorpion Force comprises more than 850 soldiers in five companies, two of them specialized in aerial landings. The contingent, whose commander Col. Sallam al-Maamouri was assassinated last year by an explosive device planted in his office, is assigned to raid gunmen hideouts, not only in Hilla but also in all Iraqi provinces.

The special force has taken part in operations to eliminate the extremist Jund al-Samaa, or Soldiers of Heaven, movement and settling the recent incidents in Karbala during the holy Shiite rituals of a pilgrimage called al-Ziyara al-Shaabaniya, or the mid-Shaaban visit, to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Messiah-like Imam al-Mahdi, the 12th holiest figure for Shiite Muslims.


Official of the Dawa Party survives an assassination attempt. (This is the party of PM al-Maliki.)

An official of SIIC is beaten by a mob, rushed to the hospital. Politics as usual in Iraq these days.

Anar Province, near Fallujah

Unconfirmed: A U.S. soldier (They mean a Marine -- C) was killed and a Hummer vehicle destroyed on Saturday when an explosive charge went off near a U.S. patrol in al-Saqlawiya, 8 km north of Falluja, police said. This is unconfirmed, but the source gives further details. ""The vehicle was boarding five U.S. Marines. One of them was killed and the others wounded in the attack on the five-vehicle U.S. patrol," a Saqlawiya police source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI)."

Iskandariya

A bomb killed one person when it exploded near a bus on Saturday.

Hilla

Police arrested three insurgents who attacked the house of a police chief. A civilian was wounded in the attack.

Kut

A policeman was killed and another wounded in clashes with gunmen. Reuters also reports that The bodies of six people were found shot in different areas of Wasit province.

Unknown gunmen shot dead a contractor and wounded a translator working with the U.S. forces.

Diwaniya

The bodies of six people were found shot in different districts.

Mosul

A woman was killed and three wounded, two girls and a child, by a cluster bomb left from the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Cluster bombs: the gift that keeps on giving. -- C

Other News of the Day

Maliki raps his U.S. critics, claims they give a false impression that the security situation in Iraq is "not good," takes credit for "stopping" the civil and sectarian war. I could comment but I'll leave it to the reader to fill in whatever colorful expressions may come to mind. -- C Excerpt:

By BASSEM MROUE; The Associated Press
Sunday, September 2, 2007; 7:21 AM

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's beleaguered prime minister lashed out Sunday at his U.S. critics, saying they don't appreciate the country's achievements and fail to understand how difficult it is to rebuild after decades of war and dictatorship.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said some of the criticism from Washington in advance of this month's progress reports has been counterproductive.

"Such statements sometimes cross the limits and send signals to terrorists luring them into thinking that the security situation in the country is not good," al-Maliki told reporters without offering a specific example.

He said U.S. critics may not know "the size of the destruction that Iraq passed through" and do not appreciate "the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war."


Fallout from the fighting in Karbala during the pilgrimage continues, with al-Sadr implying that the government investigation will be rigged or delayed. Sadrists accuse government forces of rounding up their members at random and labeling them suspects. Excerpt:

KARBALA, Iraq -- Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr Sunday warned the Baghdad government of retaliation if it delays a probe into a deadly firefight in Karbala, this week, that left 52 people dead.

Karbala police, meanwhile, said they had arrested 269 people allegedly involved in Tuesday's clashes that turned a major Shiite pilgrimage in the shrine city south of Baghdad into a bloodbath. Sadr's warning comes just days after he ordered a freeze on the activities of his Mehdi Army militia, after it was widely accused of fomenting the bloodletting.

"After the procrastination we have seen over the past two days, we warn the Iraqi government and authorities in Karbala if they don't conduct a fair, neutral, and fast investigation, the Sadr office will be left with no choice but to take unspecified measures," Sadr's spokesman Sheikh Saleh Al Obeidi told reporters in Karbala.

The firefight near the shrine of Imam Abbas shook Iraq's Shiite community and forced Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, who initially blamed Sunni insurgents, to order a probe into the events.

Karbala police chief Brigadier General Raed Shaker said the roundup of those involved in the fighting was continuing. "The security forces detained more than 269 people in operations over the past two days. We are still conducting search operations in the city and its outskirts," he said.

Sadr spokesman Obeidi said those arrested were members of the Sadr movement. "The security forces have arrested a large number of Sadrists ... more than 200 in the past three days, and also killed around 150, randomly, during raids," Obeidi said.


AP count finds U.S. claims that violence is down in Iraq thanks to the "surge" are false. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD Civilian deaths rose in August to their second-highest monthly level this year, according to figures compiled Saturday by The Associated Press. That raises questions about whether U.S. strategy is working days before Congress receives landmark reports that will decide the course of the war.

At least 81 American service members also died in Iraq during August — an increase of two over the previous month but well below the year's monthly high of 126 in May. American deaths surpassed the 80 mark during only two months of 2006.

U.S. military officials have insisted that the security plan launched early this year have brought a decrease in attacks on civilians and sectarian killings, especially in the Baghdad area, which was the focus of the new strategy.

The top American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is expected to cite security improvements when he and Ambassador Ryan Crocker submit reports on progress toward stability and national reconciliation to Congress during the week of Sept. 10.

However, figures compiled by the AP from police reports nationwide show that at least 1,809 civilians were killed across the country last month compared with 1,760 in July. That brings to 27,564 the number of Iraqi civilians killed since AP began collecting data on April 28, 2005.


GAO report finds that, as U.S. "reconstruction" of Iraq comes to an end, Iraq needs $50 billion to fix its energy infrastructure. Heckuva job, Rummy. Excerpt:

By Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 2, 2007; Page A01

Iraq's crucial oil and electricity sectors still need roughly $50 billion to meet demand, analysts and officials say, even after the United States has poured more than $6 billion into them over more than four years.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration has focused much of its $44.5 billion reconstruction plan on oil and electricity. Now, with the U.S.-led reconstruction phase nearing its close, Iraq will need to spend $27 billion more for its electrical system and $20 billion to $30 billion for oil infrastructure, according to estimates the Government Accountability Office collected from Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Even with the funding, the GAO notes that it could take until 2015 for Iraq to produce 6 million barrels of oil a day and have enough electricity to meet demand. A commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers says it could have enough electricity sooner -- 2010 to 2013.

"The U.S. money was intended to get those industries started on recovery," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, who is charged with finding waste, fraud and abuse in the multibillion-dollar effort. "We were working with a dilapidated, run-down system. It still has a long, long way to go."

A former top-level Pentagon official who was involved in rebuilding the oil and electricity sectors put it more bluntly. "People said the money was to rebuild the country, but it was just a down payment," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he still works for the government. "The money was never enough to handle all that was there. It was merely a Band-Aid."


A second high-ranking British general comes forward to slam U.S. conduct of the occupation. After former chief of the British army Sir Mike Jackson publishes his autobiography and attacks Donald Rumsfeld as "intellectually bankrupt," Maj. General Tim Cross -- who was responsible for post-war planning -- comes forward to back up Jackson's assertions. He was interviewed by the tabloid the Sunday Mirror. Excerpt;

General Cross, 56, said: "Right from the very beginning we were all very concerned about the lack of detail that had gone into the postwar plan - and there is no doubt that Rumsfeld was at the heart of that process.

" I had lunch with Rumsfeld in Washington before the invasion in 2003 and raised concerns about the need to internationalise the reconstruction of Iraq and work closely with the United Nations.

"I also raised concerns over the numbers of troops available to maintain security and aid reconstruction. He didn't want to hear that message. The US had already convinced themselves that Iraq would emerge reasonably quickly as a stable democracy.

"Anybody who tried to tell them anything that challenged that idea - they simply shut it out." The general, who was deputy head of the coalition's Office Of Reconstruction And Humanitarian Assistance in 2003, added: "Myself and others were suggesting things simply would not be as easy as that.

"But he ignored my comment. He dismissed it. There is no doubt with hindsight the US post-war plan was fatally flawed - and many of us sensed that at the time." General Jackson calls Mr Rumsfeld's postwar plan "intellectually bankrupt" in an autobiography. And he described Mr Rumsfeld's flippant claim that "US forces don't do nation building" as "nonsensical".

Yesterday General Cross, who retired from the Army earlier this year, said he backed everything General Jackson had said. And that view was shared by Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, who said: "There was no plan for what was to happen after a military victory. British military personnel are paying with their lives for that lack of foresight"

Former Tory defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Major General Patrick Cordingley, who led the Desert Rats in the 1991 Gulf War, also backed the general.


In response to the general's assertions, British Conservative politician, "shadow" foreign secretary Michael Hague, calls for a parliamentary inquiry.

Sheikh Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi, speaking for the Association of Muslim Scholars (a Sunni clerical organization) condemns both the U.S. occupation and Iranian ambitions in Iraq, not to mention the current Iraqi security forces. Excerpt:

he Association of Muslim Scholars has never had any dialogue with the U.S. administration, a spokesman for the Sunni AMS said on Sunday. "The AMS, however, does not mind having this dialogue provided that Washington would show genuine intentions about leaving Iraq through a serious and clear timetable," Sheikh Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.
"We are in favor of the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq but first of all the current security agencies, which proved a failure and perpetrated heinous crimes against the Iraqi people, have to be dismantled," said Sheikh Faydi.

He said the AMS would joint "the political process and will have a key role to play on the same day a guaranteed pullout timetable is laid." On Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's statements about plans to send Iranian forces to Iraq to replace the U.S. troops if they withdrew, Faydi replied that the statements were "frustrating for us. We don't want to get rid of occupation just to have another. In both cases the Iraqi people would be stripped of their will."

On Saturday, the AMS condemned statements by Ahmadinejad in which he said his country was ready to fill the security vacuum in Iraq in case U.S. forces withdraw. "Iranian President Ahmadinejad's statements have caused concern to all groups of the Iraqi people," according to an AMS statement published on its web site on Friday. "These statements would not be understood by the Iraqi people as a form of help. Iran's interference in Iraq since the (U.S.) invasion was negative and not in line with good neighborliness," it read.

The AMS, the largest organization for Sunni Muslims in Iraq, is outspokenly opposing foreign military presence in Iraq and the governments that ruled the country successively since the U.S.-led invasion in march 2003. The AMS also supports armed operations targeting foreign troops in Iraq.


Report that British troops are preparing to leave Basra entirely next month.

Quote of the Day

Petraeus is a four-star general, by all accounts a brilliant man, and a professional student of counterinsurgency. He's keenly aware of the value of both the media and public opinion, and he did what any counterinsurgency expert would have counseled in his circumstances: he unleashed a hearts-and-minds campaign aimed at opinion makers and politicians. For months the military transports to Baghdad have been stuffed with analysts and congress members, and every one of them has gotten a full court press of carefully planned and scripted presentations, tightly controlled visits to favored units, and assorted dollops of "classified" information designed to flatter his guests and substantiate his rosy assessments without the inconvenience of having to defend them in public.

And it's worked. Even though there's been no discernable political progress, minimal reconstruction progress, and apparently no genuine decrease in violence, he's managed to convince an awful lot of people that the first doesn't matter, the second is far more widespread than it really is, and the third is the opposite of reality.


Kevin Drum

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