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, October 21, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, October 21, 2007

Iraqi men chant anti-US slogans during a demonstration against recent raids by U.S. troops in the Hurriyah neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2007. The banner in the background reads, 'For the Christians and the occupying forces: did Jesus do as you are doing?' (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Note: I wanted to post two additional photos today -- one of Turks demonstrating in Instanbul against the PKK, another of Kurds demonstrating against Turkey, but blogger's image posting function crashed after I got the above photo up. Maybe I'll be able to add them later, but you get the point.

Security Incidents,

Baghdad

In three raids in Sadr City, U.S. claims to have killed 49 "criminals," assisted by Polish helicopters. As usual, Iraqis say otherwise. Police and hospital sources say the dead include numerous non-combatants, including women and children. The U.S. military says it is "unaware of any civilian casualties." This is getting extremely tiresome. -- C

Aswat al-Iraq has so far reported on only one of the raids. According to the Iraqi news service, while the U.S. claims that six "criminals" were killed in the raid, in fact 13 people were killed and more than 52 wounded, including, again, women and children. UK's ITN says that two toddlers were among the dead: "A visibly-upset man held up a photo of one of the dead children in a house where one of the toddlers lived and pointed to bloodstained mattresses and blood-splattered pillows. Outside the house, a woman said: "We were waking in the morning and all of a sudden rockets landed in the house and the children were screaming." I have to point out that these deaths and injuries, caused by foreign fighters who entered Iraq illegally, are not counted in the official civilian casualty toll. When the U.S. claims that violence is down in Iraq, that's because violence committed by the United States doesn't count. If these casualties resulted from a truck bombing, it would be considered a major incident. -- C

Five bodies found dumped around the city on Saturday. Also, the Iraqi army finds four decomposed bodies in Amiriya, including three women.

Turkey-Kurdistan border area

Although this incident occurred inside Turkey, it seems appropriate to present it here as it bears very heavily on the security situation in Iraq, gravely exacerbating a dangerous situation. Kurdish rebels ambushed a military unit near Turkey's border with Iraq early Sunday, killing at least 12 soldiers. The attack consisted of blowing up a bridge as a Turkish military convoy crossed it. In a separate incident nearby, 14 people were injured by a bomb attack on a minibus. Turkish forces shelled Kurdish villages a few hours later, but the villages were already deserted because of the tensions.

The Turkish military death toll is variously reported as 12, 13 or 16, with 15 injured. The incident took place about three miles inside turkey, in Hakkari province. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan expressed extreme anger over the incident, but has not said how Turkey will respond.

CBS reports additional information, says that Turkey claims to have killed 23 "rebels," referring presumably to PKK fighters, while the PKK claims to have taken Turkish soldiers prisoner.

Fallujah

Suicide car bomb attack on police checkpoint kills two police, wounds four.

Kerbala

Mortar attack on an Iraqi army base kills one soldier, injures three.

Mosul

Reuters reports three incidents:

  • Two policemen killed, two wounded in shootout.
  • Gunmen assassinate an officer of the disbanded Baathist army.
  • Gunmen kill a cement factory worker, motive unclear.


U.S. Casualty Report

MNF announced late yesterday that One MND-Baghdad was killed and eight injured, two seriously, by a bomb attack on their patrol in an eastern section of Baghdad on October 18.

Other News of the Day

Read between the lines Department. Kurdistan President Massoud Barazani says Kurdish forces will "never be a party to a conflict between Turkey and the PKK, that Kurdistan will defend itself if the conflict ever "entangled" the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and that Kurdistan will consider the PKK a terrorist organization only if Turkey offers a peaceful solution to the conflict and the PKK rejects it. Iraqi President Talabani appears to back him up. (Translation: We won't expel the PKK from Kurdistan, if Turkey enters Kurdistan the pesh merga will attack them, and the only solution is for Turkey to make some form of concession. There isn't any evident compromise short of some form of autonomy for Kurdish areas of what is now Turkey, which would create strong momentum toward transfer of territory. This is getting uglier by the day. -- C) Excerpt:

Baghdad, Oct 21, (VOI) – Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barazani said the Kurdish forces would never be party to a conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).



"However, if the conflict directly entangled us or the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, we will definitely defend ourselves," Barazani said in a joint press conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the resort of Salah al-Din, Arbil province, the headquarters of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish government, on Sunday. Barazani appealed to neighboring Turkey to resort to the language of dialogue as a means of resolving pending issues between the two sides. "If Turkey resorted to dialogue, we would do whatever we can to reach a peaceful solution with it and in the meantime come up with a reasonable solution for the PKK issue in a tranquil atmosphere," the Kurdish leader said. Asked whether the Iraqi Kurdish leaders are ready to consider the PKK as a "terrorist" organization, Barazani replied that if Turkey "offered a peaceful resolution and the PKK rejected it then, we would certainly consider the PKK as a terrorist organization." Talabani said during the news conference that he is scheduled to meet the Turkish foreign minister to discuss with him "means to have appeasement on the Iraqi-Turkish borders." "We would say that we don't want or wish a war with Turkey. This is our position," he said, terming as "unjustifiable escalations" the unrest on the joint borders. Talabani rejected Turkish demands to hand over leaders of the PKK and other Kurdish leaders. "The PKK leaders are in mountainous areas we are unable to reach. As far as other Kurdish leaders, we will never hand over any Kurdish man come what may. This is a dream that will never come true," Talabani stressed.


Later, Talabani called on the PKK to "lay down its arms," but he did not propose any action to accomplish this.

The Iraqi parliament, in contrast (with only 150 members in attendance) calls on the PKK to leave Iraq. It is not clear, however, whether Kurdish members were present.

Meanwhile, back in Turkey, the opposition nationalist party calls for Turkish forces to enter Kurdistan. Excerpt:

Opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahceli said a cross-border military operation must be definitely launched into the north of Iraq against terrorist organization PKK and Turkey must take revenge.

Reminding that Turkish parliament passed a motion that allows the government to send troops into north of Iraq to track down PKK terrorists, Bahceli said, "Turkish parliament and Turkish people stand behind this motion. Our government should be brave enough to take every kind of measures depending on this power behind it. The government should give its political order."


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is obviously concerned about the Turkish-Kurdish tensions, but he appears even more concerned that the U.S. intends to create an independent Kurdistan. Excerpt:

Assad believes that the US is planning to establish an independent Kurdish state in the region. Calling the possible disintegration of Iraq a bomb which would blow up the Middle East, he urged all countries to support Iraq’s unity. He denied that in past years Syria served to headquarter the PKK. Stating that they were ready to discuss this issue, Assad tried to put a clear distance between himself and terrorism. He says that convicted PKK head Abdullah Ocalan was in Syria back in the ‘90s but that his country didn’t support him with money or weapons, unlike the actions of others today. Assad summed up his attitude by saying that when Turkey expressed its discomfort about the PKK being on Syrian soil, Damascus asked itself if this matter was important enough to lose Turkey’s friendship, and so chose this friendship.


Quote of the Day

What did we accomplish, exactly, [with] this push towards an appearance of institutions ... merely an appearance? Except that an American politician can stand up and say, ‘Look what we accomplished in Iraq.’ When, in fact, what we accomplished in Iraq over the last three years has been chaos and instability.


-- former Iraqi diplomat Feisal Amin Istrabadi, who resigned in protest over what he calls the corrupt, sectarian and incompetent Iraqi government.

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