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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News Update for Thursday, May 15, 2008

Residents gather in the ruins of their shops gutted by a fire on Monday night in New Baghdad district May 14, 2008. More than 300 shops were destroyed during Monday night's fire in Baghdad which police said was caused by faulty electrical wiring but residents said the cause of fire was from the flares coming from a helicopter flying over. REUTERS/Thaier al Sudani (IRAQ) They never take responsibility for anything. It's as predictable as the sunrise.

I was actually thinking of titling this post News of the Weird. Reuters, without further explanation, posts in its daily factbox "The Iraqi army said it arrested the manager of the Nineveh governor's office in a raid in southern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad," and "The Iraqi army said it arrested the head of the facilities protection force in Mosul on Wednesday." So it appears that so far the main yield of the crackdown on "al Qaeda" in Mosul has been government officials. I find nothing about this anywhere else. Curious, and I'm not sure what to make of it. The "Facilities Protection Force," in case you didn't know, has widely been accused of being controlled by Shiite death squads. Al Qaeda? I really don't think so.

As for the governor's office, the governor of Ninevah Province, Duraid Kashmoula, is a darling of the U.S. occupation. As a matter of fact, it's rather surprising that Mosul turns out to be the main stronghold of al Qaeda in May, since in late January, according to Pentagon propaganda outlet Blackanthem Military News:

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of MND-N, Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of 4-1 Cavalry, Ninewa Provincial Governor Duraid Kashmoula, and Provincial Director of Police Maj. Gen. Wathuk shared their thoughts of the current situation and future of the three prominent cities and the remainder of Ninewa Province. . . .

“Amidst the turmoil and issues that persist in Iraq, there is a semblance of peace and normalcy in the north. Ninewa’s leadership works hard to provide its citizens security, build its economy, and implement programs that will continue to keep sectarian violence from the province,” said Twitty. “One thing we cannot do is attempt to put an American standard on any Iraqi city,” said Twitty. “We have to remember that this country lived under a dictator for more than 30 years. The major and significant difference between U.S. cities and Mosul is the use of improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades, and other military - grade weapons. Anti-Iraqi forces persist in their attacks, but the Iraqi security forces, consisting of the Iraqi Army, border patrol and police, continue to quell those attacks daily,” Twitty continued.

Both Kashmoula and Wathuk agreed that their police and army are trained; they have enough equipment to do their jobs, and are securing their streets, cities, and province.

“This province has more than 18,000 police and 20,000 Iraqi Army soldiers who provide security for its citizens,” said Kashmoula. “Both the 2nd and 3rd Iraqi Army Divisions have demonstrated that they are fully capable of assuming counter-insurgency missions by taking over operations in east and west Ninewa province. They conducted transfer of authority ceremonies, putting them under the control of Iraqi Ground Forces Command instead of Coalition Forces,” he continued.

Mixon said he believes that with so many Iraqi security forces now working to secure their own cities in the province, it shows the diligence of the local government.

“The leaders of this province continue to make progress standing up security forces to maintain domestic order and deny terrorists from using Mosul and the other cities as a safe haven,” said Mixon.

Curiouser and curiouser,that's all I can say.

It seems that Ahmad Chalabi is finely, really and truly, cross my heart and hope to die, off the U.S. payroll. Apparently. Maybe. Or maybe NBC got this info from Curveball, who knows?

Sources in Baghdad tell NBC News that as of this week American military and civilian officials have cut off all contact with controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, the former favorite of Washington's once powerful neoconservatives.

The reason, the sources say, is "unauthorized" contacts with Iran's government, an allegation Chalabi denies. Iran has been accused of arming and training rebel Shiite forces in Iraq....

Since September 2007... American military officials and civilian officials working out of the U.S. Embassy had contacts with Chalabi. At that time he was installed as the head of a "services" committee for Baghdad that was to coordinate the restoration of services to the city's residents.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq, even escorted Chalabi on a trip, on U.S. helicopters, to address reconstruction issues. And American officials attended meetings with him and supported his efforts.

Then there's John McCain, who has a dream. Victory by 2013!. He doesn't say why he believes this will happen, how he plans to achieve it, or what he means by it, but just elect him, and feel the magic!

The U.S. House of Representatives voted "NO" on the latest Iraq occupation funding bill. The war is over! Dancing in the streets! Sadly, no. They don't actually mean it. They sent a bill to the Senate, calling for withdrawal by mid-2009, with the expectation that the Senate will strip out the timetable for withdrawal, restore the funding, and then send it back to the House, which will pass it. You gotta love those Dems, if only they had vertebrae.

He who shall not be named, in a speech before a foreign parliament no less, equates Democrats with appeasers of Hitler. Jellyfish Joe Biden grows a spine:

Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that if the president disagrees so strongly with the idea of talking to Iran, then he needs to fire his secretaries of state and defense, both of whom Biden said have pushed to sit down with the Iranians.

"This is bulls**t. This is malarkey. This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement," he said.

"He's the guy who's weakened us. He's the guy that's increased the number of terrorists in the world. His policies have produced this vulnerability the United States has."

The president, at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem, suggested that some Democrats were acting in the same way some Western leaders did when they appeased Hitler in the runup to World War II.

"As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history," he said while speaking to Israel's parliament, the Knesset. He called it a "foolish delusion" to think the U.S. can negotiate with terrorists.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Bush to "explain the inconsistency between his administration's actions and his words today." "Not surprisingly, the engineer of the worst foreign policy in our nation's history has fired yet another reckless and reprehensible round," he said in a statement.

The president did not name Sen. Barack Obama or any other Democrat, but White House aides privately acknowledged to CNN that the remarks were aimed at the presidential candidate and others in his party.

Nancy Pelosi also had some remarks: I think what the President did in that regard was beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation at that observance in Israel. And I would hope that any serious person would disassociate himself from the President’s remarks who aspires to leadership in our country.” And John Kerry (warning: Joe Lieberman remarks also included at link. Click at your own risk).