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 29, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, June 29, 2008

Women march during a rally demanding the release of the U.S.-backed Neighbourhood Patrol's leader and its five members who were arrested by the Iraqi army in northern Baghdad's Adhamiya district June 28, 2008. An Iraqi army officer said the army arrested five members of the Neighbourhood Patrol and their leader on Thursday in connection to the kidnapping of five civilians in Adhamiya.
REUTERS/Omar Obeidi (IRAQ) Another of those very interesting incidents that only seems to be reported in a photo caption. The policy of arming and paying Sunni Arab militias has already produced several conflicts between the Sahwa Councils and Iraqi government forces, but we hear almost nothing about this. See the story by LA Times Ned Parker, below. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


Basra intelligence chief Brig. Abdul-Jabbar Munshid assassinated in drive-by shooting while on vacation in Baghdad. The attackers escaped.

A bomb attached to a car belonging to the Ministry of Higher Education is discovered and defused. No indication as to who the individual target was, if any.

Near Baquba

Three farmers are wounded by gunmen in al-Khalis, north of Baquba. (These sorts of unexplained attacks on rural people happen with some frequency. Explanations could include sectarian or tribal feuds, or extortion rackets. -- C

IED wounds the driver of a pickup truck.

Female suicide bomber attacks Sahwa council position, injuring three.

al-Udaim (north of Baquba

Mortar attack kills 2 women and a child. (This is buried in an AP roundup story but it's the only place I found it.)

Dhuluiya, Salah ad-Din Province

Car bomb kills 7 police. This account says the officers were investigating an abandoned vehicle, but Reuters describes this as a suicide car bomb attack, says there were 3 injured in addition to the dead. AP says the dead were 6 police and a security volunteer, and that the vehicle exploded when police entered it to search it.


Six civilians injured by car bomb targeting the city's "emergency police chief." Reuters says the bomb targeted a police patrol, which is not necessarily a contradiction.


Off-duty policeman is killed outside his house.

Other News of the Day

U.S. raid Friday in Janaja, near Karbala, kills a relative and political ally of Nouri al-Maliki, leading to a diplomatic crisis. This is a very mysterious business which the U.S. has not commented on. It occurred in an area which has supposedly been under control of Iraqi security since last October, and obviously does not help in efforts to complete the Status of Forces Agreement. Here is an excerpt from the McClatchy report:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Senior Iraqi government officials said Saturday that a U. S. Special Forces counterterrorism unit conducted the raid that killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, touching off a high-stakes diplomatic crisis between the United States and Iraq.

U. S. military officials in Baghdad had no comment for the second day in a row, an unusual position for a command that typically releases information on combat operations within 24 hours.

The raid occurred at dawn Friday in the town of Janaja near al-Maliki’s birthplace in the southern, mostly Shiite Muslim province of Karbala. Ali Abdulhussein Razak al-Maliki, who was killed in the raid, was related to the prime minister and had close ties to his personal security detail, according to authorities in Karbala.

The incident puts an added strain on U. S.- Iraqi negotiations to draft a Status of Forces Agreement, a long-term security pact that will govern the conduct of U. S. forces in Iraq. Members of the Iraqi government and security forces said the raid only deepened their reluctance to sign any agreement that did not leave Iraqis with the biggest say on when and how combat operations are conducted.

The U. S. military handed Iraqi forces control of Karbala security in October 2007. By the end of 2007, the U. S. military had transferred nine of the country’s 18 provinces to Iraqi control.

“We are afraid now of signing the long-term pact between Iraq and America because of such unjustified violations by the troops. Handing over security in provinces doesn’t mean anything to the American troops,” said Mohamed Hussein al-Musawi, a senior Najaf-based member of the prime minister’s Dawa Party. “We condemn these barbaric actions not only when they target a relative of al-Maliki’s, but when any Iraqi is targeted in the same way.”

Outrage over the mysterious operation has spread to the highest levels of the Iraqi government, which is demanding an explanation for how such a raid occurred in a province ostensibly under full Iraqi command.

U.S. Senate approves $165.4 billion in spending to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through mid 2009, without conditions. The vote was 92-6. And you thought there was an opposition party controlling Congress.

An unclassified U.S. Army history of the early stages of the occupation, to be released Monday, is apparently highly critical of planning for the post-invasion phase. (The gist of the observations does not appear to be new.) Excerpt:

The study focuses on the 18 months that followed President George W. Bush's May 2003 announcement that major combat operations in Iraq were over.

It was a period when the army took on unanticipated occupation duties and was forced to develop new intelligence-gathering techniques, armor its Humvees, revise its tactics and, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, review its detention practices.

A significant problem, the study says, was the lack of detailed plans before the war for the postwar phase of the conflict, a deficiency that reflected the general optimism in the White House and in the Pentagon, led by the secretary of defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, about Iraq's future, and an assumption that civilian agencies would assume much of the burden.

"I can remember asking the question during our war gaming and the development of our plan, 'O.K., we are in Baghdad, what next?' No real good answers came forth," Colonel Thomas Torrance, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's artillery, told army historians.

Ned Parker of the LA Times uses the story of a single individual to illustrate the complexities and pitfalls of the "Sons of Iraq" policy. Remember when Joe Lieberman and the gang were calling it utterly outrageous that anybody might consider amnesty for people who had attacked U.S. troops? Now we've given them weapons and a salary, and Joe thinks that's just dandy. Excerpt:

Abu Abed's flight into exile shines a light on a violent power struggle pitting upstart leaders like him against Iraq's entrenched Sunni political elite and its Shiite-dominated government. The frictions could easily shatter the Sons of Iraq -- and open the door to Al Qaeda in Iraq's resurgence.

Perhaps even more significantly, the charges against him belie the notion of an Iraqi government moving toward reconciliation among its Sunni and Shiite populations. . . .

Abu Abed doesn't reveal his identity to people in Amman. He tells them he sells cars. His skin is grayer and his cheeks, once plump, are noticeably gaunt. The family has already moved once, after his 8-year-old son was handed a threatening letter at school.

He worries that his fate will serve as a warning to others who gambled their lives fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. "Al Qaeda will come back and the government and Iraqi army will be helpless to defeat them. People will have lost their faith in the government because of the way they treated me and others."

Note entirely off-topic: Sy Hersh blows the whistle on the secret campaign to destabilize Iran. Excerpt:

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.