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 8, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, June 8, 2008

A camp in the Qandil mountains, seen in May, holds displaced Kurdish families fleeing the Turkish bombings of northern Iraq. Turkish warplanes bombed separatist Kurdish rebels in neighbouring northern Iraq late Saturday, the Turkish army said in a statement.
(AFP/File/Shwan Mohammed) I posted this photo because we don't hear much about this ongoing border war. In fact, until I found the photo, I was unaware that there were such camps or that large numbers of Kurdish civilians had been displaced by the fighting. Again, it's astonishing how much important information I keep finding in photo captions, and nowhere else. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

Update: Rashad (near Kirkuk): Suicide truck bomb attack on a U.S. patrol base kills 1 U.S. soldier, injures 18.


U.S. soldier killed by roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad. No further details at this time.

Mortar attack on Iraqi Defense Ministry compound inside the Green Zone kills 3, injures 7.

Bomb planted near the entrance to a police recruiting center in al-Nosoor square, western Baghdad, kills 4 recruits and injures 23.

Roadside bomb attacks on two separate police patrols injure 9 people. First bomb in al-Jadidah, southeastern Baghdad, injures 2 police and 2 civilians. Second bomb in al-Waziriyah, central Baghdad, injures 2 police and 3 civilians.

Suicide car bomber attacks a police patrol in Nisoor square, killing 1 police officer and 1 civilian, and injuring 5 civilians. As far as I can tell this AP report does not correspond to any other incidents reported elsewhere. I'm not sure whether "Nisoor square" is the same as "Nosoor square," but in any case the events described are very different.

Bomb attack on the convoy of police Brig. Gen. Nazar Majeed kills 3 police and 1 civilian, injures 18 people including Gen. Majeed. Again, this does not appear to the correspond to the attack in Al-Jadidah reported by VoI. I count 6 bomb or mortar attacks on government forces in Baghdad today, all of them quite effective, plus one fatal attack on U.S. forces, yet the media continues to discuss the "lull in violence" in Iraq. (See below.) One has to wonder what a resurgence in violence would look like. -- C.

U.S. says it has captured a "special groups" leader from Basra, in Baghdad. They claim he was sending "criminals" to Iran for training.

Four bodies dead of gunshot wounds found in various places.


Unknown gunmen kill an Iraqi soldier. (Kut is the capital of Shiite Wassit province, in the south of Iraq.)


Gunmen kill 5 shepherds and burn two of their vehicles. Not clear what this is all about -- could be sectarian violence, or a clan feud, or common criminality, e.g. an extortion racket. VoI says the attackers were riding on motorcycles, identifies the location as "al-Nahrawan area," northern Wassit.


Gunmen attack a police patrol, killing 3 police and injuring 2 police and 3 civilians.


Roadside bomb kills 1 person, injures 2. The Reuters report does not characterize the target.


Sahwa fighter killed in a drive-by shooting.


British base at the airport attacked with 10 Katyusha rockets, no casualties.

Zap region, Kurdistan

Turkey says its warplanes bomb PKK bases, PKK says the targets were previously abandoned.

Other News of the Day

PM al-Maliki is in Tehran for talks focused on the proposed Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S.. Excerpt:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Tehran yesterday for talks that are expected to focus on a proposed U.S.-Iraq security agreement that Iran fears will keep the American military in neighboring Iraq for years.

The deal, which the Iraqis and Americans hope to finish by midsummer, would establish a long-term security relationship between Iraq and the United States. But critics say it will allow the United States to set up military bases across Iraq and allow it to use the country as a launching pad for military attacks in the region.

Washington and Baghdad also are negotiating a parallel agreement to provide a legal basis for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

The talks on the security plan are secret, and neither Baghdad nor Tehran has confirmed it would be addressed in al-Maliki’s meetings. But ahead of the two-day visit, the prime minister’s party sought to calm worries by insisting that the deal would not allow foreign troops to use Iraq as a ground to invade another country - a clear reference to Iranian fears of a U.S. attack.

U.S. Congressional Democrats also have urged the Bush administration not to bypass Congress, which they believe should approve any deal. They fear a long-term security deal with Iraq - if it committed the United States to protecting Iraq - could make it difficult for the next president to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

Hard-liners in Iran have warned that "the U.S.-cooked agreement turns Iraq into a full-fledged colony."

But the toughest words have come from Iraqi officials, especially those loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric whose militiamen fought U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad until a May truce ended seven weeks of fighting. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City on Friday to protest the agreement.

Iranian spin on this summit from IRIB. Note that Maliki's substantive talks are not with Ahmadinejad, who appears, from where I sit at least, to be increasingly marginalized despite the excessive attention paid to him in the U.S. Al-Maliki was scheduled to meet with Ahmadinejad later in the day. -- C Excerpt:

The visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met and conferred with First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi.

As to attempts made by common enemies of the two countries to prevent expansion of Tehran-Baghdad relations, the two officials condemned conspiracies of the enemies against the two nations. Iran and Iraq, without paying attention to the enemies' efforts would bolster their all-out friendly ties, the two sides stressed.

The two officials referred to Tehran-Baghdad relations as amicable and ancient, stressing that there are great potentials in different areas for further boost in bilateral ties.

During the meeting, the IRI's first vice president reiterated that presence of a powerful Iraq would benefit all regional states. He added that preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as establishment of security and stability in that country has always been a priority of IRI's foreign policy in the past three decades. Davoudi expressed the hope that the war-torn Iraq would soon be reconstructed and developed through unity of all Iraqi groups and parties.

Referring to IRI's valuable experiences in various fields, he voiced Tehran's readiness for exchange of experiences with the Iraqi nation. Oil production, construction of power plants, and establishment of border markets, as well as cooperation in the areas of education, transportation, and customs are among areas of bilateral cooperation, Davoudi added.

For his part, the Iraqi premier, appreciated IRI's supportand assistance to help establish security and stability in his country. He further voiced Baghdad's readiness to make use of IRI's valuable experiences in the areas of politics, economy, culture and defence.

Six Iraqi parliamentary blocs, across sectarian lines, announce intention to ally in opposition to the ruling Shiite bloc. These include the Sadrists, the National Dialogue Council, and secular parties. Not clear if this is going anywhere but it might be good news if it provides an effective framework for non-sectarian Iraqi nationalism. -- C Excerpt:

Six Iraqi parliamentary blocs have agreed to work together in a new alliance to combat sectarianism in the legislature and promote nationalistic goals, lawmakers said Sunday.

The alliance, to be formally announced soon, will not constitute a new political party but will involve efforts to coordinate moves to compete with the ruling coalition dominated by Shiite religious parties.

The alliance will include three Shiite parties — Fadhila, the National Reform Party of ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, lawmakers said.

It will also include two Sunni parties — the National Dialogue Council and the Arab Bloc — and the secular Iraqi list of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

"There is an agreement between all these blocs to coordinate and unify their stances inside the parliament," said Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni lawmaker with the Iraqi List. "We went through a bitter experience over the past two years" because of conflicts between secular and religious parties.

Bahrain says it intends to appoint an ambassador to Iraq. This would make Bahrain the second Gulf country, after the UAE, to establish diplomatic relations with the post-invasion Iraqi government.

In-depth news, commentary and analysis

McClatchy's Mike Tharp reviews the current security environment, and its implications for the continuing U.S. occupation. As I noted in the daily security report, the much touted decline in violence seems oversold -- the number of reported incidents we link to here every day seems about what it has been since the sectarian cleansing process in Baghdad was completed. The only notable differences is that indeed, U.S. casualties are down and Iraqi forces are doing more of the fighting and taking more of the casualties. How that affects one's opinion about the continued U.S. presence is a separate question. -- C Excerpt:

fter weeks of relative calm, two questions are being asked in war-torn Iraq and in the United States:

Will it last? And when can American forces start coming home?

Real peace, of course, has hardly broken out, and the improved security environment may be fleeting. But recent substantial gains by the Iraqi army, flagging insurgent violence and civilians reclaiming a sense of confidence have produced expectations that are higher than at any time since 2003.

It's increasingly reasonable to assume that Iraq's security environment will continue to improve — slowly, maybe at the margins and with the chance that things could go south fast.

Generals and politicians avoid responding directly to questions about troop withdrawals because an answer would determine whether America stays here indefinitely as an occupier or leaves in a way yet to be decided. Indeed, many Iraqis believe that the Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated with Washington is a pretext to allow a permanent U.S. military presence, a charge that American officials deny. The agreement would establish a continued U.S. presence in Iraq once the United Nations' permissions expire Dec. 31.

Stephen Farrell of the NYT describes the plight of the last remaining Jews in Baghdad. There are said to be no more than 8.

Independent reporter Brian Beutler describes false testimony to Congress by Maj. Gen. Jerome Johnson of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, regarding our old friend KBR. Excerpt:

When Major Gen. Jerome Johnson appeared under oath before a congressional committee last year, he told enough untruths about KBR’s work for the military that the U.S. Army took the unusual step of retracting a portion of his testimony. Now it appears that Johnson also misled members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on another KBR-related matter: its provisioning of contaminated water to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Nearly three months ago, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the subject of Johnson’s testimony, but he has yet to received a reply. “This was either an attempt by General Johnson to deliberately deceive the Congress, or a display of negligent disregard for facts,” Dorgan wrote in the March 12 letter. “I hope you will review this matter and take appropriate action.”


Overlooked entirely, though, was a different part of Johnson’s testimony, when he claimed the Army was unaware of reports that KBR had also been supplying military bases with contaminated water. Because of their negligence, a 2006 investigation by Dorgan’s policy committee found soldiers had unwittingly bathed in and brushed their teeth with water that, by the senator’s account, was more polluted than the Euphrates river. The committee’s findings prompted Dorgan to request an investigation by the Pentagon’s Inspector General.

When Levin raised Dorgan’s charge that water provided to troops in Iraq had tested positive for E. coli and other bacteria common to animal feces, Johnson disputed the allegations [PDF]. Acknowledging the inspector general’s then-ongoing investigation, Johnson told the committee, “No issues have been found thus far that I’m aware of.” Johnson did confirm that allegations had been raised about contaminated water at Camp Ar-Ramadi, a base about 70 miles west of Baghdad, but said “we found no issues with the water there. After an inspection, we did not confirm the allegations that were made.”

Johnson even denied that KBR had anything to do with the provision of water to troops at the base. “KBR was not operating the water site,” he told the panel. But this March, when the inspector general’s office released its report, investigators noted that the Pentagon had been notified on March 31, 2007, three weeks before Johnson’s testimony, of KBR’s role in providing polluted water to military bases, which “may have degraded to the point of causing waterborne illnesses among US forces.”