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, February 10, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, February 10, 2008

Employees carry banners with various slogans calling for the departure of U.S. soldiers from the premises of the factory where they are working in the Sadr City district of north Baghdad, February 10, 2008.
REUTERS/Kareen Raheem (IRAQ) Another of those very interesting incidents that seems to be reported only in a photo caption. I have not been able to find out anything more about this. -- C



Reported Security Incidents

UPDATES from AP as of 2:36 ET:

Car bomb attack in Balad, apparently targeting an Iraqi security forces checkpoint, kills at numerous civilians when Iraqi forces fire on the attacker and the bomb explodes prematurely. Sources give varying casualty tolls, up to 23 dead and 25 wounded.

Similarly, in Mosul, an apparent suicide truck bomb attack on a security checkpoint results in deaths of 4 civilians when soldiers open fire on the attacker and the bomb detonates prematurely.

Finally, there were indeed separate attacks elsewhere in Nineveh province, and more details are now available. The first, which resulted in 22 dead, "began about 5 a.m. when about 25 carloads of heavily armed gunmen drove into the villages of Khams Tlol (Five Hills) and al-Madina, about 50 miles west of Mosul, al-Jarba [an Awakening Council leader] said."

"Insurgents also attacked a group of civilians elsewhere in the northern Ninevah province on Sunday, killing two men and one child and wounding two other men, two women and two infants, according to the military." These incidents appear to correspond to the two separate reports from Ninevah province I posted earlier, but could not be sure whether they represented the same incident or not.

All in all, a rough day.

Baghdad

Gunmen attack defense ministry officials Lieutenant General Mohammed Basim Abdul Redha and Colonel Farqad Salman Alwan, not stated whether they were injured or killed.

Gunman attacks a bus in al Nosoor square, kills one, injures two.

Baladruz District, Diyala Province

Mortar attack on the village of al-Dahalkiya kills three, injures 19. While VoI says the casualties were civilians, according to McClatchy, the attack actually targeted the police station, and two police officers were killed, while 10 police were among the injured.

Kirkuk

Suicide bomber targeting the leader of a U.S.-backed local militia injures three.

Niniveh Province

Five people killed in attacks on village militias. At least that's what I think this means

Unclear whether this refers to the same incidents reported by VoI, which says that a local Awakening Council leader reports six Council fighters and 10 al Qaeda fighters were killed in clashes, along with six injured civilians. VoI puts these incidents in the Tal Abta district.

Arbil

Body found of a woman who had been shot. Not clear whether this is a politically motivated incident, but that's usually the case with dumped bodies.

Iraqi soldier kills a civilian, injures three, after fight with a fuel station operator.

Hilla

U.S. and Iraqi forces arrest two suspect Shiite militia leaders. There's been a vaguely described crackdown recently on what appear to be assorted militias in the Shiite south. Targets are variously described as religious movements and Iranian dissidents. No further information is given here. - C

Basra

Rocket attack on British base, no reported casualties.

Tikrit

Bodies of three brothers are found under disputed circumstances. " A relative of the brothers said an Iraqi Army force killed them in the presence of their families and US forces. But a security source said the three, armed with weapons and hand grenades, opened fire from a building on a joint US-Iraqi force, which returned the fire and killed them."

Various places

Iraqi army claims to have captured 75 people in various parts of Iraq. As usual, no information on who these people are or what they are suspected of having done.

Other News of the Day

Awakening Council in Baquba announces a general strike against non-essential government departments over failure to remove the Shiite police chief. The government declares that accusations of sectarian bias against Maj. General Ghanim al-Qurayshi are groundless.

Iraqi Accordance Front (largest Sunni Arab bloc) declares government's latest offer insufficient, continues its boycott of the cabinet. Excerpt:

Baghdad, Feb 10, (VOI) – Leaders of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) described the government's proposal for their return to the cabinet as "not enough," saying they will make amendments to it and return it to the negotiating delegation within the coming few days, a statement released by the vice president's office said on Sunday. "On Saturday evening, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi received in his office leaders from the front, Adnan Muhammad Salman and Khalaf al-Alyan, in addition to several IAF parliamentarians," read the statement that was received by Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI).

The meeting focused on evaluating the negotiations between the front's delegation and the government, according to the statement. The attendees stressed that the front's keenness to quickly return to the cabinet "requires flexibility from the government and a response to their demands."

The statement did not reveal the details of the proposal or the nature of the expected amendments. On Saturday, IAF leader Adnan al-Dulaimi said that negotiations with the government were "positive."


U.S. soldier convicted in the murder of an Iraqi civilian. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD -- A U.S. Army sniper accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence on his body was found guilty on all charges Sunday. Jurors deliberated for three hours before finding Sgt. Evan Vela guilty of murder without premeditation. He had previously been charged with premeditated murder, but that charge was changed during his court-martial in Baghdad.

Vela was also found guilty of making a false official statement and of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. He faces a possible sentence of life in prison. After the verdict, proceedings entered a sentencing phase Sunday afternoon.

Defense attorneys for Vela insisted during closing arguments that the killing was an accident, but the prosecution called it a simple case of murder.

Vela, charged with killing the man and then planting an AK-47 on his body, appeared emotionless as he watched Sunday's arguments. The day before, he wept on the stand as he recalled the killing.

"It's a simple case," said Capt. Jason Nef, one of two military prosecutors. "The reason is because Vela confessed on the stand that he lied. He confessed he killed an unarmed Iraqi."

James Culp, Vela's attorney, argued that the case was more complex. In the first two days of Vela's court-martial in Baghdad, Culp accused military investigators of incompetence and called a parade of witnesses to testify about the extreme mental and physical fatigue the snipers said they were under last spring, when the killing took place.

"This was an accident waiting to happen," Culp told the jury of seven men and one woman in his closing argument. "What happened on May 11 is clear: These men were extremely, extremely sleep deprived and nobody was thinking clearly."


U.S. military spokesman reiterates that failure to improve basic services for Sunni Arabs imperils security gains. I've got to give the military credit, they've been much more realistic about the situation than John McCain or the White House. -- C Excerpt:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Growing impatience with the slow pace of work to improve basic services like electricity and water could threaten security gains in Iraq's Anbar province, a former al Qaeda stronghold, the U.S. military said on Sunday. With Iraq's Shi'ite-led government deadlocked on the 2008 budget and other major laws, U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith said that Iraq needed to focus on improving the lives of Sunni Arabs to take advantage of security gains.

"What's necessary to come behind security are essential services ... part of that is through the central government's distribution of funds into the provinces," Smith told reporters. "There will clearly be impatience with the level of support when you consider just how far many of these areas need to come in terms of employment and so forth," he said when asked if disaffected Sunni Arabs policing their own neighborhoods could become militias.

Millions of Baghdad residents still receive only fitful supplies of water and electricity after sectarian fighting and a Sunni Arab-led insurgency killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and devastated infrastructure.


Disgruntled soccer coach poisons children and their families with cake tainted with thallium, two children dead. This is a truly depraved crime, I include it here because I'm sure it's big news in Iraq. Does not appear to be politically motivated, however.

Preparations are on track for visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq in late March. I noted last week that a high-level meeting at this time is intended to address various outstanding issues left over from the period of conflict between the two nations, including the management of the Shaat-al-Arab, and disputes over oil fields on the border. It was not clear before that Ahmadinejad would attend, however.

Quote of the Day

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived. One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.


Howard Zinn

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