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, March 23, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, March 23, 2008

Plumes of thick black smoke rises from central Baghdad's Green Zone after a rocket attack March 23, 2008. Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi parliament and U.S. embassy, was hit by a sustained barrage of rocket or mortar bomb fire early on Sunday, witnesses and officials said.
(Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud/Reuters) The U.S. has suggested, without being definite, that there was little substantial damage from these attacks; but I note that something is obviously on fire. -- C

People stand by the pool of blood after a rocket attack on the Khamaliya neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 23, 2008. At least eight people were killed, three among them children, and seven were wounded in the attack.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim) Note: the death toll reported in the photo caption is higher than that reported elsewhere, but I do note that obviously, the photographer was there. Reports on these incidents are conflicting. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

Updates as of 1:30 ET It's been a notably violent day in Iraq and reports are still coming in. Since I posted this morning:

Six bodies found dumped in Baghdad on Sunday. I already posted the three bodies found on Saturday. the six today is up a bit from the recent average.

Baquba: Brigadier Akram Alwan, commander of local police commandos, assassinated by armed attack on his convoy. One of his bodyguards also killed.

Mosul: Two more attacks, in addition to the suicide truck bombing of local Iraqi army HQ reported earlier. Iraqi army officer killed, three soldiers and seven civilians wounded, in a suicide car bomb attack on an army patrol. Also, IED attack on another patrol injures 7 civilians.

Car bomb kills five, injures eight in northern Baghdad.


Six civilians killed, 17 injured when unknown gunmen open fire on pedestrians in the Zafaraniya district of southern Baghdad. The attackers were said to be riding in three cars, and to have made their escape. Aswat al-Iraq gives the death toll as 7.

Barrage of 10 mortars or rockets hits the Green Zone early Sunday morning. U.S. Embassy spokesman says "Our assessment at this time is that the attack caused no deaths or major casualties."

However, Iraqi police say two people were killed and ten injured outside of the Green Zone by artillery. It is not entirely clear from this Reuters account whether these were rounds aimed at the GZ that missed, or unrelated incidents. Reuters also adds the detail that there was a second barrage about 4 hours after the first; specifically, there was a barrage of at 6:00 am, and a second at about 10:00.

Aswat al Iraq says that five people were killed and eight wounded by a Katyusha rocket in al-Kamaliya, eastern Baghdad; and an additional four people injured by a Katyusha in Sadr City. Not clear whether these incidents are the same as those reported by Reuters as killing two.

Roadside bomb kills two people in Karrada.

Reuters also reports:

  1. Three bodies found dumped on Saturday.
  2. Roadside bomb injures three police officers in Zayouna district, eastern Baghdad.

Note: The fact box gives specifics of casualty totals and locations from Katyusha attacks which are not consistent with other sources. I have no way of sorting this out. One way or another, there were a lot of rockets flying around Baghdad today. -- C


Suicide truck bomb attack on Iraqi Army headquarters kills 13 soldiers, injures 22, and injures 12 civilians. AP says there were 30 soldiers wounded, plus twelve civilians. AP also says security forces opened fire on the truck but it had a bullet proof windshield, and that it smashed through an armored vehicle to enter the courtyard of the HQ building.

Near Baquba

U.S. forces kill 12 men they describe as a members of a "suicide bombing network in a raid on a house.

Baladros (near Baquba)

U.S. fighter jets kill 15 people the U.S. describes as "al Qaeda operatives."

al-Maftoul village (Touz Khormato)

IED attack on an Iraqi Army patrol kills 4 soldiers.

Abu Saida (near Balad Ruz)

Gunmen killed Colonel Akram Awad al-Omairi, commander of a rapid reaction unit of Balad Ruz.

Near Samarra

A suicide car bomb hit the house of tribal leader Hussain al-Shatab, killing five people, including his brother, and wounding 11 others on Saturday.


Mortar attacks on two residential areas kill five.

U.S. helicopters attack four homes, killing 15 members of one family. (This seems like a fairly noteworthy incident, but I only find it mentioned in passing in this DPA dispatch. No further information is available at the time of posting. - C)

Wassit province, north of Kut

Gunmen attack the home of Unified Iraqi Coalition parliamentarian Iman Jalal. Security guards fight them off. Also, a bomb attack on the home of Sadrist Muntather al-Shahmani causes damage but no casualties.

Marado, Razda and Dolakoka, villages in the Iranian border region of Sulaimaniyah

Iranian artillery barrage, lasting about two hours, targets the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK, a component of the PKK. No information on damage or casualties.

Other News of the Day

Hundreds of protesters lay siege to NATO headquarters in Brussels to protest the Iraq war. Police drive off protesters with dogs, horses, pepper spray and water cannons.

U.S. said to request that UK forces re-enter Basra to establish control. It will be interesting to see how Gordon Brown and the UK electorate respond to this. Excerpt:

LONDON (AFP) - The US plans to urge Britain to launch a "surge" in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror reported. Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said.

It quoted an unnamed senior US military source saying: "Three big militias are currently engaged in a particularly bloody battle in southern Iraq. "US and Iraqi forces are involved in a huge operation to attack an Al-Qaeda stronghold in Mosul. But after that, the plan is to turn the coalition's attention on to Basra and we will be urging the British to surge into the city. If they do not have enough troops, then they will be offered US Marines to help out. The feeling is that if southern Iraq is hugely unstable, it will affect the success of the surge in the north and destabilise the whole country."

The source added: "The proposal to go back into Basra is being examined at the highest level in Baghdad."

Iraqi oil ministry invites bids to develop a gas field in Anbar. I personally would not be inclined to take a job on that project. -- C

Quote of the Day

Is Iraq war a failure? If so, how can you best describe this failure?

Yes, it is. The failure of US and Britain in Iraq is a philosophical failure. If the definition of philosophy brings together human reason, knowledge, freedom, morality and history in one complex epistemological formula, then the US and Britain’s intervention in Iraq, based on initially noble pretensions, is an abysmal failure on all these accounts. It is a failure of reason; a failure of knowledge, a failure of morality, failure of learning from history, reality and daily death; a failure of rational forward planning and the aftermath reflection and review.

It is approaching history in reverse and learning from it by blowing up its lessons the way bodies are blown up daily, frustrating its natural functions, and silencing its self-expressions. It is an immoral project because it cannot be justified even by ignorance as humans, by the reason of their faculty of reasoning, should at least be able to learn from experience and judge from basic senses if not from sensibility. This is something even animals are capable of. Who would watch the massacre of 4000 from their own species and maybe 400,000 of those they supposedly wanted to liberate and protect, and would get stuck in its place without vision, revision and solution? Which company, large or small, will repeat the same formula of failure, stick to the same objectives of absurdity and implement the same mission of self-annihilation and self-humiliation after one, two, three, four, five years of disastrous performance?

Kurdish commentator Dr. Kamal Mirawdeli (who initially supported the U.S. intervention)