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, June 1, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, June 1, 2008

A woman shows an identification card of her son, who is currently detained in the U.S. military's Buca prison, during a protest by dozens of residents demanding the release of their relatives from prison, in Baghdad's Amil district June 1, 2008. REUTERS/Basim Shati

Reported Security Incidents


Update: U.S. soldier killed by explosively formed penetrator in northeast Baghdad. No further details at this time.

Car bomb near the Iranian embassy kills 2 civilians, injures 5. Note: There have been attacks in this vicinity previously. Not clear whether the embassy is the target. -- C And indeed, al Jazeera reports that the incident actually occurred in a parking lot used by the Iraqi Defense Ministry. This would seem to be the actual target.

U.S. Army says a helicopter crash "south of Baghdad" has injured two soldiers. The cause is under investigation. As they say 100% of the time, mechanical failure is suspected. That is just a ritual incantation which gives no indication of what may actually have happened. -- C

Four civilians injured by car bomb in al-Tashria neighborhood, western Baghdad.

Roadside bomb attack on police patrol in al-Ghazali, central Baghdad, injures four police officers.

Hit (Anbar Province)

Suicide bomb attack on a police checkpoint kills 14, including 4 police, injures 10. The dead include a senior officer. The U.S. says it has sent reinforcements to the area. Reuters says 9 police were killed, identifies the "senior officer" as the city's Chief of Police. Also says11 police and 7 civilians injured. Authorities have imposed a curfew on the city.

al-Mafraq, near Baquba

Fighting erupts between police and Sahwa council fighters. One child is killed and 3 civilians injured. Now this is fairly ominous. Many people have been concerned that by arming local Sunni militias, the U.S. created a potential for eventual armed conflict with government forces. Evidently so. -- C


Roadside bomb kills a woman.


Roadside bomb attack on a police patrol injures 6 police and 2 civilians.

Shurqat (near Mosul)

After their patrol is attacked, Iraq police arrest 70 "suspected gunmen. Uh huh. How about they went out and grabbed everybody they could find?

Other News of the Day

An Australian Defence Department spokesperson says the nation's troops in Iraq are officially ending combat operations. Troops were holding a ceremony that included lowering the Australian flag, which had flown over Camp Terendak in Talil, southern Iraq, the spokesperson said. This is accompanied by the withdrawal of 500 troops from the country.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is on a two-day visit to Iraq. President Talibani informs him that "Iraqis now enjoy a stable political, economic and security environment." (Except for all those pesky bombs, I suppose.)

U.S. deaths in Iraq in May at a 4-year low, but political gains remain elusive, says AP's Robert Reid. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD — U.S. military deaths plunged in May to the lowest monthly level in more than four years and civilian casualties were down sharply, too, as Iraqi forces assumed the lead in offensives in three cities and a truce with Shiite extremists took hold.

But many Iraqis as well as U.S. officials and private security analysts are uncertain whether the current lull signals a long-term trend or is simply a breathing spell like so many others before. U.S. commanders also warn the relative peace is fragile because no lasting political agreements have been reached among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities.

Talks on returning Sunnis to the government broke down this week, and tensions among rival Shiite parties remain high despite a May 11 truce that ended weeks of bloody fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City district. Iraqis have experienced lulls in the past — notably after the January 2005 elections — only to see violence flare again.

“The security situation is much better than in the past three or four months, and I am making more money now,” said Falih Radhi, who runs a food store in eastern Baghdad. “Despite this, I have a feeling that this positive situation won’t last long and that violence may come back again.”

Commentary and Analysis

Bob Fertik notes the growing probability that there will be no legal basis for the U.S. occupation of Iraq after December 31. After citing reports that Sadrists and Sunni leaders oppose any deal with the U.S., and the government has been delaying, he concludes:

As I have argued repeatedly, Bush desperately needs a treaty to allow U.S. troops and contractors to remain after the U.N. mandate expires on December 31. But the biggest enemy he faces isn't rejection by the Iraqi government he created, but instead his own lame-duck status.

So what will happen on January 1 when the U.N. mandate expires? Will U.S. troops and contractors lose their immunity and be subject to Iraqi criminal and civil law? If so, lawyers for the Pentagon and the contractors will tell their bosses to bring all Americans home, or face the nightmare of seeing Americans locked up in Iraqi jails.

This is not a wildly speculative scenario; we all saw how humiliating it was when Iran seized 15 British sailors in 2007. So before Nancy Pelosi forces the House to vote again on spending $165 billion more to occupy Iraq in 2009, shouldn't she find out if that occupation will be illegal?

And while we're on the subject, Leila Fadel also discussed this on Friday. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD — Thousands of followers of militant Muqtada al Sadr peacefully took to the streets Friday following his call to protest a bilateral pact that would govern the economic, security and political relationship between Iraq and the United States.

The Status of Forces Agreement and an economic and political accord are expected to be completed by July and must pass the parliament before being finalized. Already voices of dissent are in the air.

The United Nation's mandate that allows foreign forces to occupy Iraq will not be renewed at the end of the year. So any future U.S. military involvement in the war-torn nation can only continue with such an agreement.

From Sadr City to Kufa in southern Iraq, thousands of followers of Sadr prayed and then peacefully stood in protest. In Sadr City, followers set fire to an American flag and an image of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in Saddam Hussein's green military uniform.

"A curse upon him who agrees!" demonstrators chanted. "We are with you Sayyed Muqtada for liberating Iraq from the aggressors."

They held up banners denouncing the impending agreement between Iraq and the United States as "worse than the occupation."

Oh yeah, that other war . . .

Barnett Rubin, traveling in Afghanistan, reviews the recent security situation.

Quote of the Day

One of the most amazing aspects of this week has been watching network media stars feign shock over the fact that anyone could suggest that they were "deferential, complicit enablers" of the Bush march to war. It's as though they never heard anyone ever suggest such a thing until George Bush's own Press Secretary mocked them for being meek, uncritical disseminators of government propaganda, and now -- they seem to want to convey -- they're just so confused and astonished that anyone could possibly think that about them.

Glenn Greenwald You'll have to click through an ad, but he's always worth it.