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 3, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, February 3, 2008

Iraqi men mourn over the body of their killed relative outside the morgue of a hospital in the restive city of Baquba. Four members of a US-backed militia fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq have been killed in a raid on their base in the town of Baquba north of Baghdad, Iraqi and US sources said.
(AFP) It is not clear whether there one, or two such incidents. See below.

Reported Security Incidents


Chief of the Iraqi federal police, Lt. Colonel Ahmed Ibrahim, assassinated by a bomb planted in his vehicle. However, AP reports that Ibrahim survived the attack but his driver was killed. Reuters says that Ibrahim was indeed killed, so I guess we have to go with two out of three. His specific role was chief of police affairs for the Interior Ministry, or, according to AP, director of police commander affairs. It strikes me that for somebody to plant a bomb in this guy's car, it has to be an inside job. -- C

Mortar round in Sulaikh, northeastern Baghdad, kills one Iraqi soldier, wounds another, and also injures three civilians.

Reuters reports several incidents:

  • Five bodies were found in different areas of Baghdad on Saturday, police said.
  • Two people were killed and three wounded in clashes between gunmen and Iraqi security forces in northwestern Baghdad's Kadhimiya district on Saturday, police said.
  • Gunmen in a convoy of vehicles abducted three policemen from their checkpoint in northern Baghdad's Ur district on Saturday, police said.
  • Guards working for a foreign security company shot and wounded a man near Baghdad's Mansour district, police said.

Last incident is probably the same one reported by McClatchy, which says it happened near Al Zawra Park in central Baghdad. Xinhua offers much more detail: "The incident took place in the morning when a SUVs convoy of a foreign security firm were passing through a street near the Zawraa Park just outside the Green Zone, which houses Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies, the source told Xinhuaon condition of anonymity. The civilian was wounded when the bodyguards in the vehicles opened fire to clear a way for their convoy through the jam, the source said." In other words, get out of our way or we'll kill you.

Ninevah Province (unspecified location)

U.S. soldier dies from "non-combat related incident." No further details available at this time.


Two civilians wounded in car bomb attack on a U.S. patrol.

Near Baquba

Gunmen attack the headquarters of an Awakening Council faction in the town of Katun, kill four, then destroy the building with explosives.

It is not clear if this is the same incident described here, which appears to differ in major respects. In this incident, U.S. troops find the corpses of four Awakening Council members in Southwest Baquba, with "no sign of forced entry into the house." There is no indication that the building was bombed. It is often the case that we have reports of incidents from different sources that are similar in some ways and different in others, and can't tell for certain if they represent separate incidents, or garbled reporting. Yet one more reason not to trust the Iraq Body Count numbers. Do we count four or eight? -- C

Bomb attack on his office injures Hussain al-Zubaidi, a member of the Diyala Provincial Council, and two of his guards.


Policeman killed in a drive-by shooting.

Other News of the Day

Although most U.S. media are reporting it as a fact that the pet market bombers on Friday were women with Down Syndrome, and probably used unwittingly, McClatchy continues to remind us that this is unconfirmed. Excerpt:

A top U.S. general said yesterday that the perpetrators of Friday’s suicide bombings in Baghdad - the deadliest attacks in the capital in nine months - might have been mentally impaired teenaged girls who carried out the attacks unwittingly.

A British forensic expert cautioned, however, that suggesting the two bombers suffered from Down syndrome based on photographs of their severed heads was "dangerous." He noted that the heads would have suffered massive trauma when the bombers’ explosives detonated. "The diagnosis would have to be more scientific than that," said Bob Lamburne, director of forensic services for the British embassy here.

Questions about the bombers’ mental capacity came as Iraqi officials raised the death toll from Friday’s bombings of two pet markets in Baghdad to 99, making them the deadliest attacks in the capital since April. At least 125 people were wounded, and some might die from their injuries, authorities said.

At a news conference, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, who commands U.S. forces in Baghdad, showed reporters photos of the bombers’ heads, which typically are blown from the body in suicide attacks. He said the broad foreheads, flattened noses and almond-shaped eyes were all suggestive of Down syndrome. "These two women were likely used because they didn’t understand what was happening and they were less likely to be searched," Hammond said.

But Hammond also acknowledged that authorities had yet to identify the two women and that there was no other evidence of their mental condition. He declined to allow photographers to duplicate the photos, though video of one of the women’s heads is available on the Internet.

Lambourne, who helped open Iraq’s National Forensics Institute in Baghdad last year, said the violent explosion that rips a head from its neck would also affect muscles, bones and arteries and could distort the face. The explosion likely would exert pressure on the face similar to G-forces experienced by pilots, Lamburne said. "It would be dangerous to make that conclusion based on photos," he said of Down syndrome speculation.

However, AP quotes an eyewitness as saying he recognized one of the bombers as a local beggar. As quoted, he does not confirm that she had Down Syndrome, although that seems to be the implication intended by the story. This story also has additional information on the aftermath of the event, and various vows and threats by U.S. and Iraqi authorities.

New report shows that suicide attempts by U.S. soldiers have increased five-fold since Iraq war began. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Every day, five U.S. soldiers try to kill themselves. Before the Iraq war began, that figure was less than one suicide attempt a day. The dramatic increase is revealed in new U.S. Army figures, which show 2,100 soldiers tried to commit suicide in 2007. "Suicide attempts are rising and have risen over the last five years," said Col. Elspeth Cameron-Ritchie, an Army psychiatrist.

Concern over the rate of suicide attempts prompted Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, to introduce legislation Thursday to improve the military's suicide-prevention programs. "Our troops and their families are under unprecedented levels of stress due to the pace and frequency of more than five years of deployments," Webb said in a written statement.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, took to the Senate floor Thursday, urging more help for military members, especially for those returning from war. "Our brave service members who face deployment after deployment without the rest, recovery and treatment they need are at the breaking point," Murray said.

She said Congress has given "hundreds of millions of dollars" to the military to improve its ability to provide mental health treatment, but said it will take more than money to resolve the problem.

Life goes on department: Iranian delegation to visit Baghdad on Feb. 18 to discuss dredging of the Shatt al-Arab (Arvand River). You can learn more about this here, in a communique form 1995. Believe it or not, this is left over business from the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War. Now that Iraq and Iran have reestablished normal relations, such important business can proceed. Here's an excerpt from the 1995 communique:

The Arvand River (Shatt-ul Arab) is currently not suitable for navigation because it is covered with piles of mud, wreckage of ships and existence of marine mines. On the other hand the dredging of this international waterway is very costly and is estimated to cost Dlrs. 5-10 billion. The dredging of the Arvand River is of utmost priority to Iraq because it links the country to the Persian Gulf. After the United Nations ceded part of the Um al-Qasr Port at the mouth of the Khour Abdullah to Kuwait, the Iraqis now only possess two major ports, that is Basra and Faw, one of which is at the mouth of the Arvand River and the other at its end. For this reason, the Iraqis have been followed up this issue with special care over the recent years.

Of course with the acceptance of the 1975 (Algiers) Accord by Iraq, the problem of how to dredge the Arvand River has been solved. Because the shipping agreement which is part of the Accord, determines the methods of the waterway's dredging. According to the agreement, the dredging of the Arvand River is among the duties of a Joint Coordination Bureau (comprising equal number of representatives from both countries). Therefore, the first step in this respect would be the creation of the said bureau.

However, many issues remain. Here, Iraq is protesting that Iran is apparently extracting oil from fields that lie across the international border. Evidently this problem is also on the agenda for Feb. 18.

Quote of the Day

Finally, the truth is seeping out. Contrary to how President George W. Bush has tried to justify the Iraq war in the past, he has now clumsily—if inadvertently—admitted that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was aimed primarily at seizing predominant influence over its oil by establishing permanent (the administration favors “enduring”) military bases. He made this transparently clear by adding a signing statement to the defense appropriation bill, indicating that he would not be bound by the law’s prohibition against expending funds:

“(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq,” or

“(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

Former Army Intelligence and CIA agent Ray McGovern