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

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

News & Views 02/06/08

Photo: A screen grab from an al Qaeda video released February 6, 2008 shows boys brandishing their weapons. U.S. forces seized Al Qaeda videos which showed Iraqi children younger than 11 carrying out mock kidnappings and attacks, the U.S. military and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. Videos played to media showed about 20 boys, mostly under 11, wearing balaclavas and brandishing AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers almost as big as themselves. REUTERS/Multi-National Force [When I lived in the state of Georgia, I used to see pictures of young boys with real weapons all the time. The kids would bring them to school and hang them up on the walls. It was a horror, but well accepted in those communities. I wonder if this is really ‘al Qaeda’ or just Iraqi resistance. – dancewater]


Tuesday: 3 GIs, 90 Iraqis Killed; 7 Iraqis Wounded; Mass Grave Found

Bomb aimed at US convoy in Iraq kills four civilians

A powerful roadside bomb aimed at a US military convoy in a central Iraq city on Wednesday instead ripped through two civilian cars, killing four people and wounding six, police said. Two women were among the dead, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

IED leaves 13 casualties in Diwaniya

At least four civilians were killed and nine more were injured on Wednesday when an improvised explosive device went off targeting a Polish vehicle patrol in central Diwaniya, an official security source said.


I've finished my exams on Wednesday and have been putting off the task of writing a post and answering my emails ever since.. I'm feeling a strong urge to close this window and postpone my writing this post again but I'm going to fight this and try.. In short very little is going right, and the situation in Mosul is going from really bad to much worse.

During the exams period, and in the course of one week, two professors in the university were killed in their way back from their colleges. One was killed in front of his children as they were with him in the car, and the other in front of his son who also got a bullet from the attack but survived it. Also during the exams period a whole building exploded in a neighborhood full of poor families, Al-Zanjeeli. Many died, more were injured, and some are still under the wreckage as a result.

Coalition forces deny raiding northern Baghdad mosque

The media advisor for the coalition forces on Wednesday denied news that U.S. forces raided al-Askariyeen mosque and sealed off commercial stores in al-Horriya city in northern Baghdad. "We received security reports indicated that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army groups ordered owners of the commercial stores in al-Horriya region to close their stores because they will launch military operations. The coalition forces rushed to the area without closing any store or raiding any mosque," Abdul-Latif Rayan, Advisor at Media Operations of the coalition forces told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq (VOI). For his part, Major Brad Leighton, a media spokesman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq MNF-I, said "there were no Coalition forces near the mosque yesterday. On Monday, our forces conducted an operation near the mosque in which we cordoned off an area close to the mosque for a short time. But at no time did Coalition forces enter the mosque."

Arab TV network airs Iraqi children trained as terrorists

Baghdad: Arab television Al Arabiya on Wednesday aired a purported videotape by Al Qaida showing Iraqi children being trained for terrorist acts in Diyalah. The Iraq children, wearing black outfits and aged between 10 and 12, are shown brandishing rifles and stopping a man on a bicycle in mock acts of abduction and robbery. Another scene on the video shows children stopping a car and carrying out an act of kidnapping while shouting at passengers. Al Arabiya said the weapons and rockets used in the training were real.

Video shows Iraqi children training as terrorists, U.S. claims

A U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that Iraqi insurgents are increasingly relying on women and teenagers to undertake suicide attacks, and he released two videos that he said showed how insurgents have drawn children into their circle. One video showed footage of boys in black masks learning terrorist tactics. The other showed a boy being rescued from his kidnappers, apparently filmed by an Iraqi or American soldier. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith stopped short of calling the use of women and children in attacks a trend. But he said recent high-profile attacks, including the double bombing last Friday of two pet markets in Baghdad, have drawn new attention to the tactic. Friday's coordinated attacks were carried out by 15-year-old girls with Down syndrome, according to Iraqi officials. At least 99 people were killed.


More than 75 % of the budget comes from Basra. I don't understand how do the government deal with the budget and on what bases do they depend to distribute the federal budget among the provinces and ministries. I was surprised to see the governorate, after the sufferings it had with its people whether during Saddam's regime or for the last four years in the new democratic Iraq, in the same conditions or may be worse than before. The strange thing is that all Iraqi ports lie in Basra which means that all imported stuff from Asia and some European countries and exported oil to them should be through the Arab gulf and Basra! If Basra depends only on taxes which come from harbors, it should have skyscrapers everywhere. On contrary, the road from the main Harbor of Umm Qasr, which is one of five commercial ports besides the two other ports for oil in Basra, to Basra city is unsafe for driving as the pavement is not good and bumpy due to the careless it has .This is a simple thing, while hospitals, factories and infrastructures are neglected or broken in this city. If people want to be appointed as governmental employees, they have to join either police or army.

Foreigners, even in their homeland

Kurd students that have recently returned with their families to the Iraq's Kurdistan region, have a serious problem; they neither speak Kurdish nor Arabic. They are foreigners in their homeland. Fleeing ethnic cleansing and armed conflicts, families of those students departed Iraq during the 1980s and 1990s, but many of them returned to Kurdistan after 2003, due to the remarkable improvements, in both security and economy, at that region of Iraq. Those families have a very serious problem; their kids had grown up far away from their home country; in places that have totally different cultures, traditions, and of course languages. Arabic and Kurdish are the two primary languages officially adopted by the education system in Kurdistan, in addition to English as a minor language. In order to absorb returned students that do not speak any of those two major languages, some special or private schools, at that region, started new classes devoted to teaching those students Arabic and English, along with their mother-tongue, Kurdish.

Iraq works to clean up national police,1,1418015.story

The drill may have been standard, but the class at the police training center here was not: For the first time, the class -- 1,830 cadets who graduated Jan. 21 -- included as many Sunni as Shiite Muslims. They are part of an effort to overhaul the national police, a force that is equated in the minds of many Iraqis with Shiite death squads that kidnap, torture and kill Sunnis, whose bodies once turned up by the dozens each day in Baghdad's garbage dumps and sewers. Last year, national police chief Maj. Gen. Hussein Awadi sent recruiting teams into former Sunni insurgent strongholds such as Anbar and Diyala provinces to persuade Sunnis to join the overwhelmingly Shiite force. He has also pulled hundreds of corrupt and abusive policemen off the streets; standardized uniforms, equipment and training; and introduced a computerized payroll to help reduce fraud.

…….But just west of Dora, U.S. officers say, a notorious national police unit known as the Wolf Brigade continued to help the Shiite Mahdi Army militia drive Sunnis from their homes after it was retrained last year. The Wolf Brigade once had its own TV show in which alleged insurgents, some of them clearly bruised, were paraded before the cameras to confess. In May 2006, a joint U.S. and Iraqi inspection found more than 1,400 prisoners crammed into a Baghdad lockup under its control, some of them showing signs of torture. In a bid to curb militia influence in this unit, Awadi said, he fired the Shiite brigade commander in October, reassigned about half its members and brought in a number of Sunni officers. The new commander is a Sunni Kurd, whom Awadi refers to jokingly as his "mountain wolf," a reference to the mountainous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. [I remember when the Iraq the Model bloggers thought the Wolf Brigade was great stuff, and other Iraqis claimed they brought the terrorists to justice. I guess people everywhere don’t know that torturing people will cause them to ‘confess’ to anything. – dancewater]

Militants stake claim on Diyala River valley,1,7999225.story?ctrack=3&cset=true

They first appeared about 18 months ago: masked gunmen in speeding cars and scooters that kick up the mud along the canals weaving through lonely villages here. The invaders pinned notices on the walls of mosques informing residents that they now lived in the Islamic State of Iraq. For the last year, U.S.-led forces have pursued the militants from one stronghold to the next in Diyala, a province of winding waterways and abundant farms stretching north and east from Baghdad to the Iranian border. They have captured or killed hundreds of people, most said to be members or affiliates of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq. The American-led troops have destroyed weapons caches, training bases, bomb-making factories and torture houses. Yet the Sunni Arab militants identified by many U.S. commanders as their most lethal enemy and the greatest obstacle to stability in Iraq continue to flow into the province and farther north to the regions of Mosul and Kirkuk. [Flow into the province? Most likely they lived there for their entire lives. – dancewater]

….The U.S. military says Al Qaeda in Iraq is led by foreign fighters. Its Jordanian founder, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike outside Baqubah in 2006. But the military says the foot soldiers are mostly Iraqi, citing detailed ledgers recovered from an insurgent base showing local recruits, one of them just 16. At first blush, the province would not seem the most obvious place to center a self-styled Islamic caliphate. Unlike the militants' previous stronghold in overwhelmingly Sunni Anbar province, Diyala is a volatile mix of sects, tribes and ethnicities. But the province is also home to thousands of former officers in Saddam Hussein's army, many of whom found themselves without jobs, pensions or a future after the dictator's ouster.

IRAQ: Ministry plans to build houses to ease plight of displaced

The Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration is planning to build an unspecified number of residential compounds nationwide to ease the problems faced by over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs), a ministry official said on 6 February. “We are still at the drawing-board phase for residential compounds to be built over 50,000 square metres, scattered nationwide,” said Ali Shaalan, head of the Ministry’s Planning Directorate. “We expect to complete this phase in about a month. So far we’ve managed to buy land in only seven provinces, including Missan, Karbala, Basra and Thi Qar; we are planning to buy more land nationwide,” Shaalan told IRIN, adding that the precise number of compounds to be built would be determined as soon as it was clear how much funding and land would be available.

FEATURE-Baghdad security walls curb violence, at a cost

To some Iraqis they are the reason it is safe to shop. To others they are like big jails. Nothing symbolises the year-long security offensive in Baghdad more vividly than the thousands of tonnes of concrete walls that have been erected around dozens of markets, public places and even entire neighbourhoods. But as violence has fallen in the capital, some Iraqis have begun debating whether the 12-foot (3.5-metre) high walls should come down. Does the inconvenience and ugliness of the grey barriers outweigh the protection and peace of mind they provide? Most seem to want the walls to remain at markets and even be strengthened -- especially after two female bombers killed 99 people at pet markets last Friday in attacks blamed on al Qaeda.

From Juan Cole’s blog:

Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that hundreds of Iraq's actors and performers staged a demonstration on Sunday in front of the national theater in Baghdad to protest their loss of livelihood and dire economic straits. They called on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to improve their incomes just as he had for government employees. Unlike US screenwriters, they can't even go on strike-- they are already largely unemployed.

Iraqis unmoved by Super Tuesday in US

Despite 'occupation' being on US presidential campaign’s agenda, Iraqis expect no change in America’s Iraq policy. As the sun came up in Baghdad on Wednesday and Americans awaited the results of the previous night's count, the country that hosts 160,000 US troops and is the site of Washington's largest foreign embassy paid little heed. [I am unmoved by it all too. – dancewater]


Kurds say to leave government if demands not met

The Kurds will withdraw from the government of Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki if their share of the country’s oil revenues is reduced. Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament, and a veteran Kurdish politician accused “certain political factions” in the government of attempts to “slash the gains Kurds have made” since a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime of former leader Saddam Hussein. Othman accused some Arab parliamentary blocs, both Shiite and Sunni, of attempts to “ignite Arab-Kurdish strife.” Tension between Arab Sunnis and Shiites has subsided recently with tribal leaders, clergymen and politicians of both sides working together to reduce levels of violence. Othman said both Arab Sunnis and Shiites were trying to undermine the Kurds.

Feuding between Iraqi army and police slows security turnover

Separated by regional and tribal rifts, the two branches won't cooperate, creating a stumbling block for the U.S. military's goal of transferring responsibility to local forces.


Gates: US won't promise to defend Iraq in accord

The United States will not promise to defend Iraq nor seek permanent bases there under a planned agreement on future relations between the two states, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday. "The status-of-forces agreement that is being discussed will not contain a commitment to defend Iraq and neither will any strategic framework agreement," Gates told a U.S. Senate panel. "We do not want, nor will we seek, permanent bases in Iraq," he later told a U.S. House of Representatives committee. The United States and Iraq have agreed to start formal negotiations about their future relationship with the goal of finishing an accord by the end of July. [US troops are there to defend the oil, not to defend the Iraqis. – dancewater]

U.S. commander says Iran not involved in hostilities in Iraq

The U.S. commander in Iraq's central province of Diyala has said he has witnessed no hostile act from the Iranian side in the region over the past 10 months, a French weekly reported on Monday. The Paris-based magazine Le Point quoted Colonel Ronald Ward as saying that during his ten-month stay in the Iraqi province he had witnessed no preparation of the U.S. military forces for carrying out a border operation. Despite the U.S. media reports, the American troops have not been preparing to carry out any military operation along border areas in this central province, the U.S. colonel stressed. Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence official in Diyala has strongly rejected any relationship between Iran and the terrorist group of Al-Qaeda.


Better security not why most Iraqis go home - UN

Most Iraqi refugees returning home to Iraq from Syria are going back not because they feel their homeland is safer, but because they can no longer afford to live abroad, a U.N report has found. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report for February 2008 also said the flow of refugees back to Iraq from Syria had slowed after a sharp upsurge late last year and that more were leaving Iraq than coming home. The Iraqi Red Crescent said last month some 46,000 refugees had returned to Iraq from Syria between Sept. 15 and Dec. 27, a much lower figure than that given by Iraq's government. In November Iraqi officials, eager to play up signs of improved security, said up to 1,600 were returning daily, with 46,000 estimated to have gone back to Baghdad in October alone. "Most refugees do not agree with the idea that security has sufficiently improved in Iraq," said the UNHCR report, seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

More Iraqis heading to Syria than returning home: UN

Iraqis are once again leaving Iraq for Syria in greater numbers than are returning, despite the lower level of bloodshed in their homeland, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday. A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, citing Syrian immigration officials, said that in late January an average of 1,200 Iraqis entered Syria every day compared with around 700 who returned. Most of those Iraqis who return say they are doing so because their Syrian visas have expired or because they have run out of money, rather than because conditions in their homeland have improved, the report said.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

Quote of the day: "When you attack one village, they will move to the next. When you attack that one, they will move to the next. You will never catch them all," a despairing Maad Khalaf Khadrish told the U.S. soldiers. His once prosperous military family was reduced to penury when its businesses in nearby Muqdadiya were destroyed in the fighting and its orchards cleared to make way for a U.S. outpost at Shakarat. The family spent the last of its savings trying to secure the release of Khadrish's kidnapped brother. He was not returned.