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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

News Update for Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iraqi kids look at remains of a damaged house in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, April 22, 2008. Parents are afraid to send their children to school. Markets are empty as residents fear being caught in a gunbattle or airstrike. Sadr City is the Baghdad stronghold of Iraq's biggest Shiite militia, but it's also home to nearly half the city's population who are caught up in a violent struggle for power.
(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Talk is cheap department: Top UN official visits Iraq, says UN is playing a "constructive role" there. Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe met with Iraqi and U.S. officials including Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Nothing of substance was announced, however.

As preparations continue for the regional security conference in Kuwait, Condoleezza Rice is urging Arab nations to re-establish embassies in Baghdad, but without success. She also fails to secure any pledges to forgive Iraqi debt.

Sen. Levin signals that Senate Democrats will try to add some Iraq-related legislation to an unrelated bill, including forcing Iraq to pay more toward its own reconstruction. (For those who don't know, Iraq has a large unspent budget surplus resulting from oil revenues. -- C) He also signals intentions to add requirements to set dates for troop withdrawals to the upcoming defense authorization bill. However, both measures are expected to fail.

Sadrist member of parliament denies reports that Iyad Allawi is mediating between the Sadr movement and the U.S. ""I totally deny this news," al-Igaili told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). "The Sadr movement never negotiates with the U.S. forces" he continued. . . . "The Sadr movement believes that the purpose of reporting this news is an attempt to learn Sadr movement's position regarding the folder of negotiations with the Americans," he explained. "We say that the movement totally rejects any negotiations with the Americans, and we consider this a red line that should not be crossed," al-Igaili asserted.

In Sadr City, Basic Services Are Faltering. By Michael R. Gordon, NYT. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD — Even as American and Iraqi troops are fighting to establish control of the Sadr City section of this capital, the Iraqi government’s program to restore basic services like electricity, sewage and trash collection is lagging, jeopardizing the effort to win over the area’s wary residents.

For weeks, there have been reports that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is preparing to move ahead with a multimillion-dollar program to rebuild the southern swath of Sadr City, which is currently occupied by Iraqi and American troops.

But almost a month after American and Iraqi forces pushed into the area, there are no signs of reconstruction. Instead, the streets are filled with mounds of trash and bubbling pools of sewage. Many neighborhoods are still without electricity, and many residents are too afraid to brave the cross-fire to seek medical care. Iraqi public works officials, apparently fearful of the fighting, rarely seem to show up at work, and the Iraqi government insists the area is not safe enough for repairs to begin.

Reuters's Wisam Mohammed and Salim Ureibi discuss the ruined state of the Iraqi educational system. But wait -- I thought every school in Iraq had been painted at least three times. -- C Excerpt:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Even after clashes erupted in the Sadr City slum in Baghdad, Thamir Saadoun still tried to go to school, hoping it would be open. When he got there the guard told him to go home. That was more than two weeks ago. "I miss my friends. I haven't seen them for weeks, I want to play with them," said Saadoun, 12. "I am fed up from sitting at home. I want to return to school to study and to be a doctor, to treat wounded people in the future if attacks happen."

The education system in Iraq, once the envy of the Middle East, is now in tatters.

Violence, a collapse of school infrastructure and the mass displacement of both pupils and teachers have turned many of Iraq's schools into fetid overcrowded ruins, jeopardizing the futures of millions of children like Saadoun.

At the end of the 1980s, after pouring oil money into schools, Iraq had virtually eliminated illiteracy. But after two decades of economic sanctions and war, one third of Iraqi adults now cannot read, Education Minister Khodhair al-Khozaei told Reuters.

Quote of the Day

In the Iraqi government's fight to subdue the Shiite militia of Moktada al-Sadr in the southern city of Basra, perhaps nothing reveals the complexities of the Iraq conflict more starkly than this: Iran and the United States find themselves on the same side.

James Glanz and Alissa J. Rubin. Hey, credit where its due