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 9, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, March 9, 2008

U.S. soldiers secure the area next to a damaged U.S. military vehicle after a roadside bomb explosion during the Sukhumi clearing operation in the area of Al-leg, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 7, 2008. Two roadside bombs exploded during Friday's operation, the first one in the morning, damaged a U.S. army vehicle, and the second one in the late afternoon, wounded five Iraqi volunteer civilians.
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) This happened a couple of days ago, but the military doesn't often allow photographs of the immediate aftermath of these attacks so I thought people would be interested in seeing it. This one was not particularly effective but you can still see the kind of damage it did. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

Near Haditha

Four killed by a roadside bomb on the road between Haditha and Baiji.


One police officer killed, three injured in bomb attack on their patrol. Two similar attacks on police patrols in the city caused no injuries. VoI says no damage was caused by these two bombs, but DPA says shops were damaged.


Gunmen storm the house of a neighborhood supervisor, killing him and his son. Police later kill four people said to be suspects in the incident.


Remotely detonated car bomb in a garage kills two civilians, injures 5.

Musayab (south of Baghdad)

A boy is killed by a roadside bomb.


Police arrest 34 people, including 3 believed to belong to the Ahmed al-Yamani Organization. This is the outlawed messianic movement which has frequently clashed with the authorities in the Shiite south. It is unclear whether the others arrested are suspected militia members, or common criminals.


A civilian is killed by gunmen suspected of belonging to the al Qaeda in Iraq organization.

The same VoI story says that a mass grave was discovered in al-Salam district, 15 km north of Baaquba, on Sunday, without giving further details. This probably refers to the grave containing 6 bodies found in Khalis near the larger one found yesterday, reported by DPA. DPA quotes VoI as its source, but the DPA dispatch contains more information than the English language VoI posting. I'm assuming the additional information is in the Arabic report -- C

Near Kirkuk

Iraqi security forces arrest a man said to be an al Qaeda finance official. As often seems to be the case with these arrests, he makes an instantaneous confession. Res ipse loquitur. - C


Iraqi security forces arrest a Mahdi Army commander, said to have violated al Sadr's cease fire.


All roads out of the city have been sealed by U.S. forces after a report that "terrorists" have infiltrated.

Other News of the Day

Pentagon Inspector General finds that water supplied to U.S. troops by KBR was contaminated, caused skin infections and diarrhea. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says. A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Pentagon's inspector general found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report. But it said KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards" and the military-run sites "were not performing all required quality control tests. "Therefore, water suppliers exposed U.S. forces to unmonitored and potentially unsafe water," the report said.

The problems did not extend to troops' drinking water, but rather to water used for washing, bathing, shaving and cleaning. Water used for hygiene and laundry must meet minimum safety standards under military regulations because of the potential for harmful exposure through the eyes, nose, mouth, cuts and wounds.

U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith says recent increase in violence is not a "trend." Smith displays his telepathic powers in a news conference. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Sunday a recent increase in bombings was not the start of a wider trend in Iraq and violence had decreased overall. U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith said he did not think recent security gains were being reversed.

"I would not look at the last few weeks as an increase or a trend, but there has been a sporadic series of events that ... have resulted in significant loss of life," Smith told a news conference. Smith said the spate of recent attacks needed to be compared with a year ago, when thousands of civilians were dying in sectarian violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs, with U.S. troops also suffering heavy casualties.

Iraqi police said 68 people died when two bombs exploded within minutes of each other in a popular, crowded shopping area in central Baghdad on Thursday evening, the deadliest single bombing in the capital since last June. Overall levels of violence are sharply down since last June, when 30,000 extra U.S. soldiers were deployed.

That coincided with a ceasefire by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army militia and a decision by mainly Sunni Arab tribal sheiks to turn against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.

But the number of violent civilian deaths rose sharply in February, the first increase in six months, after bombings which Smith blamed on al Qaeda killed more than 160 people.

Iraqi officials blame the lack of security in Basra on the uncontrolled border with Iran. Uh huh. DPA reports:

Baghdad - Senior Iraqi security officials warned Sunday that the precarious security situation and weapons smuggling in the southern city of Basra is worsened by the uncontrolled border with Iran. 'Weapon supplies from Iran are still coming into Basra and are a threat to security in the city,' General Mohan al-Friji, the commander of the Basra operation, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is also the general commander of the Iraqi armed forces, has given the green light for new security measures allowing for more troop deployment in the city and on the border, al-Friji said.

An unresolved dispute between Iraq and Kuwait over 500 shared farms near the border area of Safwan is causing more security problems for authorities in Basra.

The city police chief, General Abdel-Jalil Khalaf, urged leaders of local political blocs to agree on a plan to disarm clans, groups and individuals. The surge in violence and high criminality in Basra, including kidnappings, fuel and weapons smuggling and gang activities, have prompted local politicians and clerics to call for the resignation of General Khalaf.

Khalaf accuses politicians in the Shiite-dominated city of jockeying for power and funding gangs.

Kurdish commentators complain that Talabani was not received in Turkey as a head of state. Excerpt:

Baghdad - Kurdish newspapers Sunday condemned as 'improper' the reception of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in Turkey, where he was officially welcomed without the Iraqi national anthem being played or a red carpet being laid on.

Talabani was received by the Turkish president Abdullah Gul and his prime minister as a Kurdish leader, not as the president of Iraq, the Kurdish Hawlaty newspaper said. It added that Turkish army leaders did not welcome Talabani to the country, which prompted Gul to describe the visit as a 'working visit' not a state one.

Another Kurdish paper called Holier said that the official ceremony to receive Talabani did not meet the common etiquette standards applied to welcoming presidents of states.

NYT's Sabrina Tavernese reports that sectarian violence has left some Iraqi youth disillusioned with religion. And they say the media doesn't report the good news from Iraq. -- C Excerpt:

After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara Sami, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority, because they don't deserve to be rulers.”

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don't believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”

The shift in Iraq runs counter to trends of rising religious practice among young people across much of the Middle East, where religion has replaced nationalism as a unifying ideology.

While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied. Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force fed to its wearer. In that laboratory, disillusionment with Islamic leaders took hold.

Quote of the Day

Our country and our armed services cannot afford another leader like President Bush who would keep our overstretched military in Iraq for 100 years while ignoring the other threats our country faces both at home and around the world.

Former Army Ranger Roger Martinez, giving the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.