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, April 27, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, April 27, 2008

Visitors pay their respects to U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin on Saturday afternoon, April 26, 2008 at the Union Township Civic Center in Union Township, Ohio. A 20-hour vigil is to take place before a procession and burial on Sunday. Maupin was part of the U.S. Army's 724th Transportation Company and was captured by Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad on April 9, 2004.
(AP Photo/The Enquirer, Carrie Cochran)







An injured Iraqi man is taken to hospital in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 26, 2008. Since Friday morning the two main hospitals in Sadr City have received the bodies of 8 people who were killed in sporadic clashes and 29 wounded people, according to health officials.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)




















Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

Clashes continue between U.S. and Iraqi forces and JAM (Sadrist) fighters in "eastern Baghdad" (presumably Sadr City). Reuters reports 10 people killed, including a woman and 2 children, 42 injured. AP gives a lower casualty total but does say that 4 of the injured are children. Al Jazeera gives the death toll as 8, wounded as 44. AFP appears to resolve the conflicting death tolls, reporting that 8 people were killed during the overnight, including the civilians, while the U.S. military reported 2 more militants killed in the morning.

Suicide bomber attacks checkpoint in Zayouna neighborhood, killing 2 Iraqi soldiers and injuring 5.

One killed, 4 injured in clashes between U.S. forces and fighters believed to belong to JAM in western Baghdad suburb of al-Bayyaa.

Car bomb attack on police patrol near al-Shaab kills 1 police officer, wounds 3.

VoI also reports IED attack on an army patrol in Mansour, killing 1 soldier and injuring 6. This is probably the same incident which Reuters describes somewhat differently,as two bombs exploding within a few minutes of each other, killing 1 soldier and injuring 4 soldiers and 2 civilians.

Tuz Khurmato

Drive by shooting kills 1 Iraqi soldier.

Mosul

One civilian killed, 1 injured, apparently in crossfire during clashes between security forces and unidentified gunmen.

VoI also reports an unexplained attack that killed a man in the Souk al-Maash district.

Reuters reports a roadside bomb attack at an unspecified location in Nineveh Province, killing 2 police officers and injuring 3 officers and 2 civilians.

VoI reports additional incidents in Mosul:

  1. "Four civilians were wounded in two separate improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in Mosul, while Iraqi police defused two others in the eastern part of the city," Brig. Khaled Abdul-Sattar, the official spokesman for the Ninewa operations command, told Aswat al-Iraq.
  2. In other statements, Abdul-Sattar said that two civilians were wounded when unidentified gunmen attacked a checkpoint in southeastern Mosul.
  3. An official source in the Iraqi army said that two civilians were killed and another wounded in two separate attacks in Mosul. (Not clear whether either or both of these correspond to the attacks reported separately.)
  4. Another security source in Mosul said that four policemen were killed and three others injured when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vehicle near an Iraqi police patrol in the eastern part of the city.


Diwaniya

Gunmen kill a policeman outside his house.

Near Baiji

Body of a policeman is found.

Northern Kurdistan, near the Turkish border

Turkish artillery strikes villages, no reports of casualties.

In Turkey, near the Kurdistan border

Thousands of Turkish soldiers fought Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists on Sunday in two large operations, military sources said. Two Turkish soldiers were killed in the operation in Bingol, while in Sirnak and Hakkari provinces, on the Kurdistan border, 15,000 troops are said to be involved in operations. (No information on PKK casualties.)

Other News of the Day

President Talibani receives a delegation of Iraqi Christian leaders, calls for combating oppression of Christians but appears to make no specific commitments. This loses something in the translation, but I expect the Arabic is inoffensive -- C Excerpt:

Baghdad, Apr 26, (VOI) – President of the Republic Jalal Talabani said on Saturday that Iraqi Christians are good-breed Iraqis, and among the oldest residents of Iraq for thousands of years, and they deserve all kinds of support and assistance from all the political leaders, government, and state institutions.

A release issued by the President's office and received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) said that Talabani received on Saturday at his office in Baghdad a delegation that represents heads of Christian sects and Churches in Iraq, to discuss issues related to Christian citizens and their religious institutions.

"Talabani emphasized that he will do his best to lift the unjust and oppression imposed on Christians, and will work on solving their problems and fulfilling their legal demands," the release said.


Sadrist MP Al Yasin says talks are underway to resolve the conflict in Sadr City. However, I must note that the positions of al-Sadr and al-Maliki are far apart. Al Sadr is demanding that the blockade and military operations stop before further talks are possible; the government is essentially demanding surrender. -- C Excerpt:

Political moves are under way to defuse the crisis between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and to lift the blockade of Baghdad's Sadr City, a Shiite lawmaker said Sunday.

Iraqi member of parliament, Al Yasin, who is close to al-Sadr, told the local al-Sabah newspaper that moves were under way to contain the ongoing crisis peacefully. A meeting slated for this week between members of the al-Sadr Bloc in parliament and the cabinet's executive council would discuss proposals to end the crisis, Yasin said.

'Three main proposals will be looked at: lifting the siege on Sadr City, halting military operations and starting talks and a peaceful dialogue to end the crisis,' the lawmaker said.

When ending the blockade and halting military operations came into effect, talks on a bigger scale would immediately take place due to the dire situation in the district and the difficult humanitarian conditions there, Yasin said.

The Iraqi government has set conditions for ending its offensive mounted in the Shiite-dominated district with US military support. Baghdad wants all armed groups of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia to turn in their weapons, hand over all people wanted by the government and present a list of people suspected of having been involved in recent violence.


Nouri al Maliki and Tariq al-Hashemi meet to continue discussions to have the Sunni Accord Front rejoin the government. I'm not sure that the spin that's usually put on this is convincing. Hashemi said on Saturday that a quick agreement was necessary to save Iraq; this is generally interpreted as signaling willingness to end the boycott, but it could also be seen as brinksmanship. It is not in fact clear to me at this point that an agreement is imminent. We'll see. -- C Excerpt:

BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister met Sunday with the Sunni Arab vice president to discuss reintegrating Sunni political parties into the Shiite-dominated government as police said five people died in violence in Baghdad. [sic -- the totals reported since are far higher. - -C]

The meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Tariq al-Hashemi came a day after the Sunni leader said the return of his boycotting political bloc to the Cabinet was a priority. The two men discussed "the future of the political process and the rebuilding of a national and unified government," according to a statement from the presidency office.

On Saturday, al-Hashemi said the government needs to reconcile quickly to "save Iraq." His comments were the latest to signal readiness by the Sunni National Accordance Front to rejoin the government after an absence of nearly nine months. The group quit the government in protest over what they described as its anti-Sunni bias.

But Sunni officials have said internal power struggles within the Front over who should be appointed to which posts have delayed a formal decision. Al-Hashemi has been one of al-Maliki's most bitter critics, accusing him of sectarian favoritism, while the prime minister has complained that the vice president is blocking key legislation.

But al-Hashemi and other Sunni leaders apparently have been swayed by al-Maliki's crackdown against Shiite militias that began late last month and focused on the feared Mahdi Army of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Maliki also has threatened to politically isolate al-Sadr if the Mahdi Army is not disbanded.


Syria returns 701 artifacts that were stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. Apparently the Syrian police recovered these items from traffickers. Minister of Tourism and Archaeology Mohammad Abbas al-Oreibi says he plans to visit Jordan to ask authorities there to turn over seized items as well.

The UK Daily Mail reports that an Iraqi teenage girl in Basra was killed by her father after falling in love with a British soldier. According to this report, her mother says that the authorities released the father after determining that this was indeed an "honor killing." The report cites the city's Security Committee as saying there were 47 such "honor killings" in Basra last year (although none pertaining to relationships with occupation forces) and only 3 convictions. This story seems thoroughly reported and credible. - C

A Swedish immigration case has led to a report being prepared for the Swedish government on "honor killing" in northern Iraq as well. "Northern Iraq" apparently refers to Kurdistan, which surprises me a bit. -- C Excerpt:

A woman is to be deported to Iraq despite the risk of an honour violence. The Migration Board's (Migrationsverket) conclusion that the risk of honour violence in northern Iraq has declined is at odds with the foreign office and has been criticised by the Red Cross.

The latest two annual reports from the Foreign Ministry (Utrikesdepartementet) of the state of human rights in Iraq indicate that honour violence against women has increased. The report for 2007 reported the deaths of 225 women in the region in the first half of the year alone. A United Nations source is cited in the report as saying that 1-2 new cases are reported each day.

The Swedish Red Cross is vocal in its criticism of the Migration Board's analysis of the situation in northern Iraq. "It is serious that the Migration Board paints a picture of the situation in Iraq that does not concur with that held by the government, and that it then forms the basis for its decisions," said Bengt Westerberg of the Swedish Red Cross to Dagens Nyheter.


Quote of the Day

A presidential candidate who lightly commits to obliterating Iran - and, presumably, all the children, parents, and grandparents in Iran - should not be answering the White House phone at any time of day or night.


The Boston Globe editorial page, referring to Hillary Clinton's threat to "totally obliterate" Iran if Iran attacked Israel. Note that Iran has never threatened to attack Israel, and that Israel itself possesses 200 nuclear weapons which they have, in fact, threatened to use. Not that the Globe bothered to point that out.

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