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

Friday, February 22, 2008

News & Views 02/22/08

Photo: Iraqis burn the U.S. flag in Muqtada al-Sadr's stronghold city of Kufa, central Iraq, Iraq, after prayers Friday, Feb. 22, 2008. Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Friday that he has extended a cease-fire order to his Shiite Mahdi Army by another six months, giving Iraq a chance to continue its fragile recovery from brutal sectarian violence. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)


Turks-PKK border battle leaves casualties "Two Turkish soldiers were killed and eight others wounded in the combat that broke out on Thursday after 10,000 Turkish soldiers advanced under air cover to strike PKK positions," Ahmed Deniz, the PKK's foreign relations official, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

BAGHDAD - A car bomb blew up in Baghdad's central Karrada district, killing one person and wounding four.

BAGHDAD - A bomb killed at least one person and wounded four others in Karrada district, central Baghdad, police said. [From McClatchy: A donkey and cart abandoned in a market place behind the National Theater, near Hamurabi Hotel, central Baghdad were used to carry an IED which was detonated early this morning, killing one civilian, injuring four, and causing a lot of material damage to the surrounding stores.]

BAGHDAD - Five bodies were found in different districts across Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

Baghdad - Mahdi Army commander killed in Baghdad

NEAR BAQUBA - Three mortars landed in a village of Buhriz, 60 km (36 miles) north of Baghdad, killing one child and wounding eight people.

KHAN BANI SAD - U.S. forces killed six suspected al Qaeda militants and detained six others in Khan Bani Sad, 35 km (21 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Khan Bani Sad - Diyala Gunmen attacked a family working in a field in Khan Beni Saad, 15 km to the south of Baquba at around 03:15 pm killing Omar Mohammed, 12 years and his two sisters Budur and Seleema, 17 and 20 years old.

Balad – U.S. soldiers wounded, vehicle destroyed by blast in Balad

Anbar - 3 policemen and 1 civilian killed as a suicide bomber detonates targeting the motorcade of Ameriyah Chief of Police, Major Saadoun Subhi in Ameriyat al-Falluja neibourhood, a suburb of Fallujah after Friday prayers this afternoon. The major himself was severely wounded.

ANBAR PROVINCE - One U.S. Marine was killed in a battle with gunmen in Anbar province on Thursday, the U.S. military said.

NEAR FALLUJA - A suicide bomber killed at least six policemen and wounded nine others when he detonated a vest packed with explosives outside a mosque near Falluja in western Anbar province, police said.

NEAR FALLUJA - A roadside bomb killed Brigadier-General Abdul Jabbar al-Juboury, head of the Iraqi army's Falluja Brigade, and his driver on Thursday south of Falluja, police said.

NEAR FALLUJA - A parked car bomb killed one man and wounded two others on Thursday near a market in Falluja, police said.

Fallujah - Suicide blast in Falluja mosque leaves 12 casualties Four people were killed and eight others wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up amidst worshippers performing the Friday prayers at a mosque in southern Falluja, police said.

GARMA - A suicide bomber on foot attacked an Iraqi security checkpoint, killing two people and wounding three in Garma, near Falluja, 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.

Near Kirkuk - Truck driver wounded in explosion near Kirkuk

Diala Province – Gunmen kill three family members in Diala

TIKRIT - A suicide car bomber killed three policemen and wounded eight others at a police station in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BabelTwo corpses found in Babel

Mosul 3 wounded in house bomb in Mosul

Mosul 3 gunmen, suspect arrested in Mosul

ISKANDARIYA - Two bodies with gunshot wounds and signs of torture were found in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Basra4 British soldiers wounded in blasts in Basra

Basra Basra airport closed because of Katyusha attacks

[Some of these may be repeats of the incidents in Cervante's post below. – dancewater]


Friday: 1 US Soldier, 30 Iraqis Killed; 37 Iraqis Wounded

February 21, 2008: 2 GIs, 38 Iraqis Killed; 16 Iraqis Wounded

Iraq's war widows struggle for financial survival

Of its unmet social needs, the central government's failure to follow through on promises made to these widows is one of the most visible. Scenes like the one outside the Social Guardship Net office in Qaim are common. "These protests are taking place in all the (18) provinces," said Samira Musawi, a member of parliament and head of its committee on women and children. She has submitted legislation to provide housing, education and job training for widows and other low-income women, although it has yet to be acted on.

….A widow without children is supposed to get about $34 a month; and one with five or more children, about $81 a month.

Few Kurds left in Turkish attack zone, aid agencies say

Hundreds of Kurdish families have fled the remote mountain villages of northern Iraq after months of Turkish bombardments, leaving few civilians at risk from a new overland assault by Turkey's army. Aid workers believe those still in the area are mainly men who have stayed on to look after sheep and goats. Turkish TV and a senior military source say thousands of troops have crossed into northern Iraq in their hunt for Kurdish PKK guerrillas, in an escalation of a conflict that could destabilise the region, although Iraq's foreign minister says just a few hundred troops were involved. The Iraqi Red Crescent said there were sketchy reports from IRC officials in the region that people were leaving the border area, but no details of how many. "There are some displaced people," IRC president Said Hakki told Reuters. "We are still assessing how many families and if there are any casualties." [So, the local civilians have the good sense to leave, yet they somehow think the guerrillas will stick around. I don’t get it. What this does mean is that more Iraqis are homeless now, with nothing but a suitcase of clothes, and all other earthly possessions are gone. – dancewater]

….Some 1,255 people fled their homes in the Qandil mountains after Turkish aerial attacks in late 2007, according to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. A few people stayed behind to look after the animals, but the women and children from the 32 affected villages have gone. "They will go to the nearest place where they have families," Martinussen said.

Iraq protests Turkish incursion into N.Iraq

Iraq's government on Friday urged Turkey to respect its sovereignty after Turkish troops crossed the border to hunt for Kurdish rebels, but said itexpected the operation to be limited. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in Iraq's largely autonomous region of Kurdistan had stopped some Turkish ground troops from entering the country. There was no confrontation, he said. He said the incursion was launched after Turkey obtained intelligence on movements of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in a remote area inside the border of northern Iraq. Several Iraqi officials and a senior military officer with coalition forces in Iraq tried to play down the operation, saying only a few hundred Turkish troops were involved.

Here we go

The other day as an American patrol was passing in front of our house, shooting started, and there was a little explosion so they came into the house for cover. They searched through the house too just for people not for weapons, and they didn't mess it up. They felt comfortable when they saw that we could all speak English. Some sat in the kitchen with dad around the kitchen table and asked him questions for about half an hour.
They finally said that "You guys are cool", apologized for coming in like that and left after a visit that lasted about an hour.

Many neighborhoods have been searched in the last month, and we heard stories of arrests and cruel treatment. At one neighborhood they got the residents out of their houses, entered with their dogs to search for weapons and such, and kept the people outside for hours in the cold (one time they even got the men to undress except for their underwear). In the news they said that two new-born twin babies died in the cold outside. My cousin was awaken one day by a soldier with his weapon directed at him, he was too sleepy and waved the gun away until he realized the situation he was in. Mom has been trying to get us ready, "they might come from the roof, so don't be scared if you see them at your room in the middle of the night", I start whining and tell her to stop but she keeps reminding me that it can happen and I have to be ready. That visit was on-the-go, not part of the plan, we're still promised a serious one. Now if my sister decides to have a baby in the middle of the night, what shall we do?

IRAQ: In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims

What the U.S. has been calling the success of a "surge", many Iraqis see as evidence of catastrophe. Where U.S. forces point to peace and calm, local Iraqis find an eerie silence. And when U.S. forces speak of a reduction in violence, many Iraqis simply do not know what they are talking about. Hundreds died in a series of explosions in Baghdad last month. This was despite the strongest ever security measures taken by the U.S. military, riding the "surge" in security forces and their activities. The death toll is high, according to the website, which provides reliable numbers of Iraqi civilian and security deaths. In January this year 485 civilians were killed, according to the website. It says the number is based on news reports, and that "actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site." The average month in 2005, before the "surge" was launched, saw 568 civilian deaths. In January 2006, the month before the "surge" began, 590 civilians died. Many of the killings have taken place in the most well guarded areas of Baghdad. And they have continued this month.

…..But where peace of sorts has descended in Baghdad, Iraq's capital city of six million (in a population of 25 million), it comes from a partitioning of people along sectarian lines. The Iraqi Red Crescent reports that one in four residents has been driven out of their homes by death squads, or by the "surge".

US 'micro-loan' effort yields results in Iraqi province

Here in western Iraq on the border with Syria, there are signs of recovery amid wreckage left from the chaos brought by insurgents in Husaybah and such major battleground cities as Fallouja and Ramadi. [Sure glad that invasion by foreign troops did not cause battles and chaos! – dancewater] Although the central government in Baghdad and much of this war-torn nation is beset by sectarian and geographic rivalries, the U.S. government's foreign-aid program efforts here are quietly showing what a little money can do. And, while still in their infancy, these efforts are catching on.

MND-B Soldiers Search Houses in Rathwaniyah

One of the things the Soldiers of Battery B did during the operation was to station the platoon leader outside to talk to the Iraqi families while the Soldiers were searching the houses. By doing so, the platoon leader presented a professional face and explained to them exactly what they were doing. This in turn helped to calm them down while the search was underway. Pfc. Benjamin Ulery, a Jay, Maine, native, who serves as a combat medic with Battery B, said the mission was a long process; but in the end, it was rewarding to see the mission accomplished without finding contraband.


Iraq: Muqtada Al-Sadr Extends Cease-Fire

Anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Friday that he has extended a cease-fire order to his Shiite militia for another six months, giving Iraq a chance to continue its fragile recovery from brutal sectarian violence. His message was delivered by Shiite clerics during prayer services in mosques dominated by followers of the black-turbaned cleric. "According to an order by Sayyid Muqtada, activities of the Mahdi Army will be suspended ... for another six-month period," al-Sadr aide Hazim al-Aaraji said, using an honorific for al-Sadr during his sermon at the Kazimiyah mosque in Baghdad. Al-Sadr's decision to halt the activities of his powerful militia for up to six months last August was one of three critical steps widely credited with bringing the Iraqi death toll down more than 60 percent in recent months.

Iraq urges Turkey to use diplomacy, denies clashes with Peshmerga

The Iraqi government on Friday called on Turkey to use diplomacy to solve the border crisis with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), denying clashes with the Peshmerga fighters. "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki phoned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyib Erdogan, during which he stressed on the importance of respecting the Iraqi sovereignty," Ali al-Dabagh, spokesman for the Iraqi government, told some reporters in Baghdad. "Fro his part, Erdogan said that his country is keen not to broaden military operations launched against elements of the (PKK), denying clashes between Turkish troops and Peshmerga fighters," al-Dabagh added.

Iraq tells Turkey to respect borders after shelling

Turkey should respect Iraq's borders and avoid military confrontation; Iraq's prime minister was quoted as saying early on Friday, hours after Kurdish officials said Turkey had shelled northern Iraq. The Turkish military bombed Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq on Thursday, the officials said, days after Ankara said it was weighing a ground operation against the guerrillas. In a phone call to his Turkish counterpart, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan that Iraq considered the rebels a threat to their shared border, but urged dialogue to promote security. "Maliki asked Erdogan to respect the sovereignty of Iraq's borders and inviolability of its lands... and stressed the importance of avoiding a military solution," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

Iraq govt unaware of Turkish incursion -Zebari

Iraq's government is not aware of any Turkish ground offensive into northern Iraq overnight to hunt down Kurdish PKK guerrillas based there, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Friday. "Until this minute, we have not received anything from the border guards about Turkish forces crossing the international border," Zebari told Reuters by telephone. Turkey's military said it had launched the ground offensive, backed by fighter aircraft, to attack Kurdish PKK guerrillas. The Kurdish Regional Government in the largely autonomous area denied there had been any ground incursion. [The US military and US government knew about this long before any Iraqi or Kurd knew about it, demonstrating the lack of sovereignty Iraq has. – dancewater]

Kurdish troops surround Turks in worst confrontation yet in Iraq

Iraqi Kurdish troops on Thursday encircled Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq and threatened to open fire in the most serious standoff between the two nation's forces since Turkey threatened late last year to go after guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party sheltering in Iraq. The standoff began when Turkish troops in tanks and armored vehicles left one of five bases they've had in Iraq since 1997 and moved to control two main roads in Dohuk province, Iraqi officials said. Kurdish soldiers from the peshmerga militia, which is loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government, moved to stop them. For an hour and a half, the two sides faced off before the Turkish soldiers retreated to their base, which is about 27 miles northeast of the city of Dohuk. The peshmerga surrounded the base and remained there late Thursday.

Kurdish rebels still control Iraqi mountain redoubts

In the snowcapped Qandeel Mountains of northern Iraq, it's hard to see that the Kurdistan Workers Party — the PKK, as it's known by its Kurdish initials — has been on the U.S. terrorist list since 2002. Or that President Bush and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that they'd crack down on the group, which has killed hundreds of Turks in its battle for an independent Kurdish homeland. No Iraqi troops patrol here. PKK men in uniform check the IDs of those who seek to visit. The image of the PKK's leader is emblazoned on a mountain slope, and a sign openly proclaims PKK headquarters. The peshmerga troops of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which officially rules northern Iraq, make no effort to enter.


Tanks of Turkish army head for N Iraq

Tanks of the Turkish Armed Forces are continuing heading to Iraq at southeastern Habur border Fridayas part of the ground operation launched against the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in north of Iraq, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. Turkish tanks from south-eastern province of Sirnak's Silopi town are heading for the north of Iraq in fighting against the PKK targets. Turkish General Staff said Friday Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has launched a cross-border ground operation into the north of Iraq. According a statement posted on the general staff website, TSK launched a cross-border ground operation into north of Iraq as of 1900 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Thursday following an artillery bombardment.

Turkish army launches land offensive in Iraq

Thousands of Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq and thousands more are at the border ready to join them in their hunt for Kurdish PKK guerrillas, a senior military source said today. Turkey's military said the land offensive - the first major incursion in a decade - had fighter aircraft in support, and Turkish television reported that 10,000 troops had entered Iraq. "The Turkish Armed Forces, which attach great importance to Iraq's territorial integrity and stability, will return home in the shortest time possible after its goals have been achieved," the General Staff said in a statement posted on its website.

U.S. military aware of Turk incursion to N.Iraq

The U.S. military said on Friday it was aware that Turkish forces had launched an offensive into northern Iraq to target Kurdish rebel guerrillas.

US: Turks Are Targeting Rebels

The U.S. military said Friday it understands a Turkish incursion into northern Iraq "is an operation of limited duration" specifically targeting Kurdish rebels. ….Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said the military had received assurances from its NATO ally Turkey that it would do everything possible to avoid "collateral damage to innocent civilians or Kurdish infrastructure." [In other words, they are going to follow the US example and kill and destroy anything and anyone they want. – dancewater]

Controlling the web of communication in Iraq

Spread across dozens of locations in Iraq, more than 500 soldiers with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion are working to tie U.S. and coalition forces into a blossoming information grid. The Mannheim, Germany-based unit operates 40 sites in country and that number is growing. It provides all communication networks for several Army divisions and the Marines out west. “We’ve had many technological upgrades since past OIFs. That enables us to go into smaller sites in more remote locations, such as (joint security stations),” said Lt. Col. Kris Kramarich, 40, of Belgrade, Mont., and the battalion commander. “We’re not limited by distance anymore. It’s all satellite.”

Return of bodies of Indians killed in Iraq delayed

The bodies of two Indian workers, who were killed in Iraq earlier this week, can be repatriated to India only next week because of a long holiday period ahead in Kuwait. …Both Indians hailed from Kerala. While Chalil, 40, was from Kozhikode, Sali, 38, was from Kasargode. Both were employees of Prolab Solutions, a company based in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates and working with the US army in Iraq.

The door to Iraq's oil opens

The plan is to transport Iraqi natural gas from a gas field in southern Iraq to the EU through the Arab Gas Pipeline, which, when completed, will connect Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Iraqi gas could then reach Europe through the planned Nabucco pipeline, which is to run from Turkey to Austria... Oil from the Kirkuk fields in northern Iraq is currently exported through a pipeline that links up the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Ideally, Washington would like to promote a Turkey-Israel-India energy grid that could tap into the Iraqi reserves. This approach also fits in with the US geostrategy of developing Turkey, Israel and India as three "pivotal" states that are Washington's natural allies in the regions surrounding the volatile Middle East.

In January, Turkey launched a feasibility study for a natural gas pipeline connecting northern Iraq's fields to its Mediterranean port of Yumurtalik, which will run parallel to the oil pipelines. Once the northern Iraq gas fields are developed, 353 billion cubic feet of natural gas will flow to Yumurtalik. Turkey hopes to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tankers to destinations such as Israel and India. There is strong US backing for the project.

U.S. military releases 300 Iraqi detainees

A total of 300 detainees were released this month in Iraq in an effort by the U.S. military to create "goodwill and reconciliation." The detainees' release reflects the start of military efforts to let go thousands of people who have been detained for months or years without being charged of a crime, The Christian Science Monitor reported. [If they want ‘goodwill and reconciliation’ they should stop home invasions and arrests of anyone nearby. – dancewater]

Assassinated Hizbollah leader had links with Iraq’s Madhi Army

The top Hizbollah leader killed in a bombing in Syria last week had helped train members of the Mahdi Army, one of Iraqi Shiites most powerful militia groups. Imad Mughniyeh, according to a senior intelligence source, traveled to Iraq several times with forged passports and identities and oversaw the training and supply of the Madhi Army with arms. The Iraqi intelligence source said Mughniyeh supervised the transfer of groups of at least 300 Mahdi Army fighters to Lebanon where they received intensive military training. …..Sadr was the only Shiite leader to announce three-day mourning for the assassinated Hizbollah leader.


Intel Analyst: Don't Bother with U.S. Media If You Want to Know About Iraq

In this stunning book excerpt, the author explains that he virtually ignored U.S. media coverage when collecting information on Iraq. But some simply refused to believe me when I said things were bad. Even a response as vague as "It's as bad as it looks" caused some to angrily inform me that the media were conspiring to keep the truth -- which was that Iraq was really doing quite well, I guess -- from the American people. I would smile politely and extricate myself, but I was surprised at how many people passionately believed that the good news was being hidden. [I think he should have corrected them on the spot. – dancewater]

Claim UK troops 'executed' Iraqis

British troops executed as many as 20 Iraqi prisoners after a gun battle in May 2004, lawyers claim. Some alleged survivors of the gun battle near the southern Iraqi town of Majar al-Kabir also claim corpses were mutilated by UK military personnel. Solicitor Phil Shiner said: "We would be very surprised if [the evidence] did not shock the nation." All claims of any kind of abuse by British troops have been strongly denied by the Ministry of Defence.


How to Stay in Iraq for the Next Million Years

When did immediate military withdrawal from Iraq stop being an option? …..Anyone tuning in to the nightly network news can now regularly go through a typical half-hour focused on Obamania, the faltering of the Clinton "machine," the Huckabee/McCain face-off on Republican Main Street, the latest nose-diving market, and the latest campus shooting without running across Iraq at all. Cable TV, radio news, newspapers -- it makes little difference.

Islamic Center in Columbia, Tenn., destroyed by white supremacists

As Daoud Abudiab stands amidst the charred rubble of what was the local Islamic Center in the small town of Columbia, Tenn., he recalls the events of the last day-and-a-half. He was awoken in the early-morning hours of Saturday, Feb. 9, by a phone call from the Fire Department. When he arrived, the fire was still ablaze and the roof had collapsed. Three spray-painted swastikas and the words "white power" and "we run the world" had yet to be erased from the scene.

Iraq: Fix Flaws in Reconciliation Law

Iraqi political leaders should revise the new Accountability and Justice Law to assure basic guarantees of fairness, focus on individual acts rather than group affiliation, and limit the scope for politicized abuse, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Iraq's Presidency Council. Human Rights Watch urged the council's three leaders to follow through on their pledge to seek needed amendments to the law. Iraq's parliament on January 12, 2008 approved the Accountability and Justice Law, which replaces the de-Ba'athification procedures initiated in 2003 under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to root the Ba'ath Party out of Iraq's government and public institutions.


Fort Hood soldiers breaking the silence in war in Iraq

A growing number of active duty soldiers or recent Iraq war veterans are speaking up about the war in Iraq. And with the number of soldiers speaking up about their experiences in Iraq via online forums, blogs and pamphlets, some vets feel it's their duty to let the American public know the truth. "The honest truth is that if the American people knew what was going on over there everyday, they would be raising their voices too. They would be saying, 'Hey, bring those guys home," Sgt. Selena Coppa said.

Soldier gets 6-month sentence for refusing to deploy to Iraq

A soldier who refused to deploy with his unit to Iraq because of a “deeply held personal belief” that he should not take a human life will spend the next six months in jail before being thrown out of the Army. Spc. Benjamin Stewart, 25, of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, pleaded guilty Wednesday to missing movement on Jan. 7, 2008, when he was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Stewart had already been convicted — and reduced in rank from sergeant to specialist — of being absent without leave when the bulk of the regiment deployed last summer. Stewart told the court that he refused to deploy because of what he experienced during his last deployment to Mosul, Iraq, from 2004 to 2005.

We Support the Troops Who Oppose the War

On the weekend of 13-15 March, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will assemble history's largest gathering of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors. They will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. We support Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Join us in supporting the effort to reveal truth in the way that only those who lived it can.

Please go to this website to sign the petition to support IVAW.

Quote of the day: " Two score and 17 months ago, I brought forth in the Persian Gulf a new conflict misconceived in secret and dedicated to the proposition that all oil belongs to Halliburton." ~ Thus begins retired Col. Dan Smith's rewrite of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address a la the current administration. See the rest of the speech.