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 17, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, February 17, 2008

An American soldier holds a defensive position on a patrol in central Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008 a year after the US President ordered a surge in troops numbers to battle the raging violence in the capital. Insurgent attacks have dropped more than 60 percent across Iraq since a crackdown on insurgents began a year ago, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Reported Security Incidents

Diyala Province, unspecified location

Two U.S. soldiers killed by small arms fire, one injured and medically evacuated. No further details at this time.


Female suicide bomber kills three, injures 10. Attack in predominantly Shiite Masbah district appears to have been partially thwarted by police. I presume this is the same attack reported by VoI, in which a female suicide bomber targeting a police checkpoint is said to have injured four people in Karada. McClatchy apparently explains the contradiction by noting that MNF said there were only injuries, but Iraqi police reported three killed. MNF typically minimizes the casualties from these incidents. I can't find "Masbah" on my map of Baghdad, but perhaps it is part of Karada. For those who don't know, Karada is on the peninsula formed by a sharp bend in the Tigris, across from the Green Zone.

Two bodies found dumped on Saturday in different places.

al-Khalidiya (near Ramadi)

U.S. forces kill a cab driver who got too close to them at an intersection. No comment from MNF.


Remotely detonated car bomb, apparently targeting police, kills one police officer and two civilians, two more civilians injured.

Six civilians injured by mortar and small arms attack in al-Thawra neighborhood.


Roadside bomb kills three people in a market on Saturday.

Reuters also reports a police officer killed by another bomb on the same day.


Iraqi Army arrests seven "suspected gunmen. As we know, most of these "suspected gunmen" end up held indefinitely without charges. Iraqi prisons are bursting at the seams and the courts are unable to process them. -- C


a 17-year-old girl named Nadia Jameel was killed near her house in Al-Katoon neighborhood, west Baquba, apparently by a stray bullet.

Foa (or Faw)

Police arrest 7 Iranians entering Iraq illegally. This story suggests that they are smugglers, and points out that there are innumerable smuggler's havens along the Shatt al Arab. Foa is at the southern extremity of the Shatt al Arab, in a marshy area. No doubt smuggling has occurred there from time immemorial.

Other News of the Day

Kurdistan places increasing restrictions on Iraqi Arabs. Excerpt:

By Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers.

IRBIL, Iraq — Every three months, Munawer Fayeq Rashid goes to the Asayech, an intelligence security agency in Irbil, and hands over his identification. The Shiite Muslim Arab never goes alone. He has to bring a Kurdish sponsor to vouch for him.

Although Irbil is part of Iraq, Iraqi Arabs who move here or elsewhere in Iraqi Kurdistan have learned that they're not considered fellow Iraqis. "They treat us like foreigners," Rashid said.

When he moved to Irbil from Baghdad, worried about the safety of his Kurdish wife and his children, Rashid had to find a Kurd who'd swear that he was a good man. Then Kurdish authorities questioned him intensely before issuing him a residency permit that's good for only three months. He must carry it with him everywhere. "They asked every detail about me," Rashid said. "'Where do you live? Who are your relatives? Who were your neighbors in Baghdad?' But the most nerve-wracking question was: 'Are you Sunni or Shiite?'"

Officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government say they have no choice but to vet people who want to move to the country's northern provinces, where violence has been far less common than it is in other parts of Iraq. If the government weren't so strict, it would run the risk of letting violent militants into the region, said Esmat Argoshi, the head of security in Irbil.

"We have to know who they are," he said. "Kurdistan is part of Iraq, but at the same time we need someone from here to sponsor them, to say, 'I know this person and I'm going to be responsible.' ...It's to keep the security situation very strong and stop terrorists from coming to Kurdistan."

More than 50,000 Iraqis from outside Kurdistan now live in Irbil, and each has registered with the Asayech, Argoshi said, including Kurds who were born and raised in mostly Arab provinces.

After a battery of questions and the testimony of a Kurd to vouch for them, would-be residents are issued special ID cards that allow them to live in the city. The card must be renewed every three months. If a person wants to visit another city in the Kurdish region, he or she must have a Kurdish sponsor in that city, too.

Baghdad criminal court sentences 170 defendants in one day, to terms ranging from 30 years to death by hanging. 26 death sentences issued for murder or "joining armed groups," sentences of imprisonment for offenses ranging from entering Iraq illegally to forgery, theft and joining armed groups. Tens of thousands of prisoners await disposition -- C

Negotiations to free British journalist kidnapped in Basra stall over what are said to be minor issues. The identity of his kidnappers and their motives remain unknown. Sadrist officials are negotiating with the kidnappers for his release. CBS has asked that the journalist not be publicly identified, although it is not clear why and he has in fact been identified by some news services. I have elected to honor their wishes and keep his name off the front page here for now. -- C

Awakening Council in Babil goes on strike after U.S. forces kill three of their members on Friday. Excerpt:


BAGHDAD — U.S.-allied fighters in a second Iraqi province have quit working with American troops after two incidents last week in which U.S. soldiers killed militia members. Citizen brigades in the province of Babil, south of Baghdad, quit work after three members were killed by U.S. forces Friday, a local police spokesman said.

Another high-profile fatal incident occurred in the same province a little over two weeks ago. Nationwide in that time span, 19 citizen militia members have been killed and 12 wounded by U.S. forces, said the police spokesman, Capt. Muthanna Ahmed.

The action in Babil province follows a strike by citizen brigades members in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, that has gone on for more than a week. The citizen militias allege the local police chief leads a death squad and seek his removal, among other demands.

Also this past week, a leader in another powerful citizens militia warned that U.S. and Shiite- dominated Iraq forces should no longer interfere in its work, suggesting coordinated efforts against insurgents might be coming to an end.

A U.S. military spokesman on Saturday downplayed the recent events and said they have little impact on the more than 83,000-member largely Sunni Muslim movement, known as the Awakening Movement. Maj. Brad Leighton called the recent events “unfortunate accidents” but said there wasn’t any trend or underlying issue to connect the incidents.

Iran says security talks with U.S. have been delayed due to a technicality, no further explanation is offered. However, it is likely because of recent comments by Condoleeza Rice's representative David Satterfield, which the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman protested at the same time. Excerpt:

IRIB: Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Sayyed Mohammad-Ali Hosseini, on Sunday dismissed the American anti-Iran allegations in Iraq.

He told reporters that recent comments made by an American official in criminating Iran in Iraq unrest were in contradiction with the previous comments made by two other American commanders in Iraq.

"The accusations made by American Secretary of State's representative for Iraq, David Satterfield, about the Islamic Republic of Iran's involvement in Iraqi tensions were contradictory to what has been declared last week by two American military commanders in Iraq," Hosseini said at his weekly press conference.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees says he will increase staffing of Baghdad office from two to five in order to support repatriation of the more than 2 million Iraqi exiles. Yeah, that oughta do it -- C

Quote of the Day

About 100 members of the Awakening Council of Hilla Province have gone on strike to protest the killing of three of them by the US military at Jurf al-Sakhr last Sunday, in what the Pentagon says was an accident. They claim they have lost 19 men to supposedly friendly fire in recent weeks and say they refuse to work under these conditions. On Sunday the US military admitted that it had mistakenly fired on its allies, but said they had fired at a US helicopter by accident first. (Does anyone but the US have helicopters in Iraq? How could that have been an accident? Or do the Shiite troops sometimes fly helicopters and was the fire intended for al-Maliki's men?)

Juan Cole