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, May 18, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nadim Jabbar sits by the body of his two-year-old son Abbas, who was killed in a mortar attack the night before, at their home in northeast Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, May 18, 2008. Sadr City hospital officials said four other children died when at least three mortars landed in the area.
(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

UPDATE: U.S. announces a soldier killed by a bomb in Salah ad Din province. No further details.

Accounts of the fighting in Sadr City continue to be contradictory and unclear. This report has dueling accounts by Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta, and Sadrist spokesman Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi. Neither of them refers to a mortar strike. Atta claims "outlaw groups" attacked army checkpoints, provoking retaliatory fire; Obeidi claims Iraqi army opened fire on civilians without provocation. Obeidi says the cease fire nevertheless remains in effect.

Reported Security Incidents


Reports on the violence overnight in Sadr City are sketchy. Reuters merely reports that "Four people were killed and 38 others wounded in clashes between security forces and Shi'ite militiamen in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. However, Israel News says specifically that "Mortar shells slammed into a residential area north of Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding 30, most children playing outside, officials said Sunday." The AP photo caption above says that 5 children were killed in a mortar strike in Sadr City, which is not "north of Baghdad," but rather in the northeastern part of Baghdad. Whether these reports all refer to the same incident, and how many total casualties there were, is not clear at this time. The AP has numerous other photos of children with severe injuries in the hospital. Xinhua now reports a total of six dead in Sadr City. If the situation becomes clearer, I'll post an update later in the day. -- C

Reuters also reports:

  1. A mortar bomb wounded four people in Iskan district in western Baghdad, police said.
  2. Five bodies were found in various districts of Baghdad on Saturday, police said.
  3. U.S. forces killed two militants who tried to attack them in northwestern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

A fire erupted in al-Amil neighborhood souk (market), southwestern Baghdad, on Sunday after U.S. forces detonated an improvised explosive device (IED), gutting a number of stores in the area, an Iraqi police source said. The U.S. had no comment on the matter.

Two soldiers were killed and four others wounded when a roadside car bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol on al-Rubaie street, eastern Baghdad, on Sunday, an Iraqi police source said. KUNA reports three dead.

Four katyusha rockets strike Green Zone, no casualties reported.

Roadside bomb targeting a U.S. convoy in central Baghdad injures three civilians.

Bomb in a minibus injures two

At least one civilian was killed and another wounded on Saturday evening when a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army vehicle patrol in northern Baghdad, a police source said. This was reported too late to make yesterday's post.

Khan Bani Saad (south of Baquba)

A senior officer from the Iraqi army was killed on Saturday during clashes with armed groups in Diala province, central Iraq, a security source said. The deceased held the rank of colonel. Two other soldiers were injured. Again, this was reported too late for yesterday's post.

U.S. forces killed six militants and destroyed a weapons cache in an airstrike in the town of Khan Bani Saad, near Baquba, the U.S. military said. Presumably supporting the Iraqi army action in that town which resulted in the casualties yesterday.

al-Rashad, Kirkuk area

Iraqi troops arrest police chief on charges of collaborating with "armed groups." No explanation is given, but it's a fair bet this has something to do with the Arab-Kurdish territorial dispute. -- C


Iraqi police say they have carried out raids and confiscated mortar rounds and automatic rifles. Actually the list of confiscated weapons doesn't sound very impressive -- 88 mortar shells and 40 rifles. -- C

Notable by its absence: any news from Mosul. The big operation there apparently turned out to be a wet firecracker. We'll see what happens in the days ahead.

Other News of the Day

A U.S. Army staff sergeant in Radhwaniya writes "Fuck yeah" inside a Koran, draws a target on the cover, uses it for target practice, and leaves it for Iraqis to find. It's too soon to tell what the wider reaction will be. CNN's Michael Ware describes the apology by Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, which appears to have been accepted by the local Shawa, at least for now. Excerpt:

A former college quarterback, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, stood facing the angry crowd. His face was grim and fixed as tribal sheikhs swirled around him.

"I am a man of honor, I am a man of character. You have my word, this will never happen again," the general told the angry crowd through loudspeakers, pounding the makeshift podium three times with his fist.

"In the most humble manner, I look in to your eyes today and I say, please forgive me and my soldiers." The act of his sniper was criminal, he said. "I've come to this land to protect you, to support you...this soldier has lost the honor to serve the United States Army and the people of Iraq here in Baghdad."

Martin stood before the crowd next, opening his address with an Islamic blessing. He announced the sergeant had been relieved of duty with prejudice; reprimanded by the commanding general with a memorandum of record attached to his military record; dismissed from the regiment and redeployed from the brigade.

Holding a new Quran in his hands, he turned to the crowd. "I hope that you'll accept this humble gift." Martin kissed the Quran and touched it to his forehead as he handed it to the tribal elders. The crowd's voice rose, "Yes, yes, to the Quran. No, no, to the devil."

But would it be enough to appease the mood in Radhwaniya? A local sheikh came to the microphone. "In the name of all the sheikhs," he said, "we declare we accept the apology that was submitted."

This news has just broken, so I have found very little commentary about it. No doubt there will be further discussion as the day goes on. This Muslim American blogger expects serious repercussions.

Iraqi military spokesman announces intention to restore basic services to Sadr City. We'll see.

Iraqi oil exports fell by nearly 3 million barrels in April, ostensibly because of the fighting in Basra.

Nancy Pelosi leaves Iraq, with minimal public comment.

Quote of the Day

[J]ump to September 11, 2001 and its aftermath -- and you know the Tai Chi version of history from there. Think of it as a grim cosmic joke -- that the 9/11 attacks, as apocalyptic as they looked, were anything but. The true disasters followed and the wounds were largely self-inflicted, as the most militarily powerful nation on the planet used its own force to disable itself.

Tom Engelhardt