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 22, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Men lie face down as their vehicle is searched by the Iraqi police in Amara, 185 miles southeast of Baghdad, June 20, 2008. The men were released later after the police did not find any weapons or explosives in their vehicle.
(Atef Hassan/Reuters)

See update under Mosul at 5:50 ET

Reported Security Incidents


Two bodies with gunshot wounds found dumped in different places.


Female suicide bomber attacks a police patrol near the Diyala Governor's office, killing 16. A physician at the local hospital says the dead include 8 policemen, 2 women and a child. AFP correspondent says several police vehicles caught fire. DPA says the death toll is 18, with 38 injured.

al-Dakmat village, near Kirkuk

IED kills 3 civilians, injures 2. No information on the identity of the victims or whether they were the intended target.

McClatchy reports on two roadside bombings in or near Kirkuk, neither of which quite seems to match this incident. In one, 4 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb that targeted their vehicle in Fashka village west of Kirkuk on Sunday morning. In the second, 3 civilians were killed and 2 injured at "Rashad –Kirkuk Street southwest Kirkuk city." So, it's unclear whether there were two or three incidents.


Explosion near the Iraqi Red Crescent Association headquarters causes no damage.


One policeman killed, another injured in a drive-by shooting.

Car bomb attack on a police checkpoint injures 17, apparently mostly police. No reports of deaths as of this time.


Bomb concealed in a bag injures 2 in a marketplace.

Other News of the Day

McClatchy's Leila Fadel reports on the reaction of victims of Iraqis massacred in Haditha to the acquittal of all the Marines charged in the case. As we have seen innumerable times, occupation forces kill Iraqis with impunity. Excerpt:

HADITHA, Iraq — Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War.

Eight Marines were charged in the case, but in the intervening years, criminal charges have been dismissed against six. A seventh Marine was acquitted. The residents of Haditha, after being told they could depend on U.S. justice, feel betrayed.

"We put our hopes in the law and in the courts and one after another they are found innocent," said Yousef Aid Ahmed, the lone surviving brother in the family. "This is an organized crime."

No one disputes that Marines killed 24 men, women and children in this town in four separate shootings that morning. Relatives said the attack was a massacre of innocent civilians that followed a roadside bomb that killed one Marine and injured two. Marines say they came under fire following the bomb.

Iraqi forces continue to conduct raids and make arrests in Amara, capital of Missan province. The target is the Sadrist political opposition. Excerpt:

Missan, Jun 22, (VOI) – Joint forces re-searched three areas in Amara city in hunt of gunmen wanted by the security apparatus, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.

"During the early hours of Sunday morning, joint forces from the army and police re-raided the areas of Awasha, al-Hussein al-Qadeem neighborhood, and al-Majidia (central Amara) following intelligence reports about the presence of armed group leaders in these areas," Major General Muhammad al-Askari told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

"A 240 mm rocket, with a range of 150 km, was seized in Awasha area. A sophisticated factory for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was found in al-Hussein neighborhood and a large cache of arms and ammunition was found in the office of a representative for Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in al-Majidiya area, northern Amara," al-Askari explained. "A total of 16 persons wanted by justice on serious charges were arrested during the operations," al-Askari noted.

Earlier, an official spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said that Missan's security operation Bashaer al-Salam (Promise of Peace) was launched early on Thursday morning. Security forces arrested the mayor of Amara city, who is also the deputy governor of Missan province and one of the prominent figures in the Sadrist bloc.

Iraqi courts have ordered 20,000 inmates freed under the amnesty law. However, it is not clear how many have in fact been released so far. Charges have been dismissed against more than 75,000 people who were not in detention. The law does not apply to prisoners held by the United States, of whom there are more than 20,000.

Commentary and Analysis

IHT editorial board weighs in on negotiations between the Iraqi government and foreign oil corporations. Excerpt:

So great is the demand for oil today - and so great the concern over rising prices - that it would be tempting to uncritically embrace plans by major Western oil companies to return to Iraq.

Unfortunately, the evolving deals could well rekindle understandable suspicions in the Arab world about oil being America's real reason for invading Iraq and fan even more distrust and resentment among Iraq's competing religious and ethnic factions.


The contracts are being let without competitive bidding to companies that since the American invasion have been quietly advising Iraq's oil ministry how to increase production. While the contracts are limited to refurbishing equipment and technical support and last only two years, they would give these companies an inside track on vastly more lucrative long-term deals.

Given that corruption is an acknowledged problem in Iraq's government, the contracts would have more legitimacy if the bidding were open to all and the process more transparent. Iraqis must apply that standard when they let contracts for long-term oil field development.

Also troubling is that the deals were made even though Iraq's Parliament has failed to adopt oil and revenue sharing laws - critical political benchmarks set by the Bush administration. That is evidence of continued deep divisions in Iraq over whether oil should be controlled by central or regional government, whether international oil companies should be involved in development and how the profits should be distributed.

AP's Robert Reid discusses the U.S.-Iraqi negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement. Nothing really new here, but as usual Reid does a good job of laying out the situation. We aren't allowed to use the word, but the U.S. is demanding imperial powers in Iraq.

Opposition to the initial U.S. demands brought together rival Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders who all complain that the deal would leave real power in American hands.

The oil minister, who is close to the country's powerful Shiite clerical leadership, told the British newspaper the Guardian last week that Iraq will demand the right to veto any U.S. military operation. But American commanders believe they need such sweeping powers to protect U.S. soldiers in a combat zone.

Publicly, U.S. officials have expressed confidence they can find language that will satisfy the Iraqis on all major issues. But the negotiations are taking place against the backdrop of war and intense power struggles among rival ethnic groups in Iraq - each with its own agenda.

The U.S. operates scores of bases throughout the country, including the sprawling Camp Victory headquarters in Baghdad, Asad air base in western Iraq and the giant air facility at Balad, a 16-square-mile installation about 60 miles north of the capital that houses tens of thousands of American troops, contractors and U.S. government civilians. It's still unclear how many of the facilities Washington would want to keep.

If all else fails, the two sides could go back to the U.N. Security Council and seek an extension of the mandate allowing troops in Iraq. But that could prove politically embarrassing - and difficult - in the waning days of the Bush administration or the early days of the new U.S. presidency.

Some commentators likened the U.S. position to the Iraqi-British treaty of 1930, which gave Britain virtual control of the country and is widely seen in Iraq as a humiliation.

Afghanistan Update

Four Afghans killed in two separate rocket attacks on NATO bases southern Afghanistan. One of the barrages is said to have been launched from inside Pakistan, leading the NATO forces to retaliate by firing artillery into Pakistan.

On Saturday, a roadside bomb attack on a convoy near Kandahar killed four foreign troops and injured two. As usual, the NATO command did not immediately state the nationality of the casualties. Separately, a roadside bomb killed a Polish soldier in Paktika Province, and attacks on Afghan troops in Zabul and Kunar provinces killed five.

British Defense Ministry confirms the use of so-called "thermobaric weapons" in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union endured worldwide condemnation for the use of such weapons in Chechnya. Excerpt:

BRITISH troops have used missiles in Afghanistan which suck the air out of human targets, shred their internal organs and crush their bodies, according to a leading British newspaper. The Hellfire missiles, also known as vacuum bombs, are condemned by human rights groups as "brutal".

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted to the London Times newspaper that its soldiers had fired the controversial thermobaric weapons, used to kill fighters in buildings and caves, from Apache attack helicopters in Afghanistan.

The MoD said the Hellfire AGM-114N, which creates a human-crushing vacuum with a second explosion, had proved so successful that the missile will now be fired from unmanned predator drones.

Quote of the Day

When modern Iraq was created after World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman empire, there was widespread expectation among its people that independence and self-government would follow. Instead the League of Nations (predecessor to the United Nations) granted administrative control to the British, who imposed a client monarchy and, for the next four decades, attempted to retain military bases in Iraq, exercise the unrestricted right to transport their troops across the country, and control Iraq's oil. (Note 11) It took a revolution in 1958 to overthrow the British-installed monarchy, though political reconciliation in Iraq did not follow. For Iraqis of all persuasions and most political inclinations, acquiescence to a SOFA imposed by a foreign power would seem like a throwback to the colonial era. (Note 12)

According to Cockburn's reporting, "President Bush wants to push [the security pact] through by the end of next month [July 2008] so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated." (Note 13) A prime beneficiary of the acceptance of a military agreement that the Iraqi people do not believe respects their rights or serves their interests would probably be the vast, privatized U.S. military/intelligence complex, positioned to profit from repressing the resistance sure to follow. If the Bush administration's goal is achieved through secret deals and pressure tactics it would only confirm the widespread view that its commitment to democracy is primarily self-serving. In Iraq as elsewhere there are many who would welcome a genuine American commitment to liberty and human rights but believe that U.S. actions contradict its rhetoric.

National Security Archive