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, July 13, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, July 13, 2008

U.S. soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armour Division take their position by the wall dividing Baghdad's Sadr City during a joint patrol with Iraqi army soldiers July 13, 2008. Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said on Saturday comments by Iraqi leaders calling for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops added weight to his stand in favor of such a timetable.
REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (IRAQ)

See Iraqi blogger Usama Redha's take on these security walls, below. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


IED attack on police patrol in Adhamiya injures 3 officers. Xinhua's report on what appears to be the same incident has two police and two civilians injured.

Four civilians injured by IED on Falasteen St. in Eastern Baghdad. (Falsteen is an alternate spelling of Palestine. According to Xinhua, two policemen were also injured in what appears to be the same incident.


Two police killed, 2 injured in IED attack on their patrol. Reuters gives the death toll as 3 police.

Dalouiya, Salah ad-Din province

Gunmen attack a group of men playing table tennis, kill 2 and injure 3. This story does not give any possible motive but at least one of the dead was a police lieutenant. KUNA gives a different version of what appears to be the same incident, saying the men were playing football (soccer) and that the other person killed was a Sahwa member.


Unknown gunmen murder a civilian, motive is unknown. This story also reports the capture of five "wanted persons."

Gunmen killed a member of the political office of the Shabak minority group inside his car on Saturday, east of Mosul, police said. Reuters also reports that "Gunmen killed one person in a drive-by shooting in western Mosul," which I presume is the same as the incident reported by VoI above.

Other News of the Day

The Bush administration abandons efforts to secure a long-term Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, says WaPo's Karen DeYoung. They just hope to get a short-term agreement that will provide some basis of legitimacy for the occupation after January 1, and leave the long-term resolution to the next president. In other words, as much as he might have wanted to, Maliki found it politically infeasible to surrender Iraqi sovereignty in exchange for the U.S. keeping him in power. -- C Excerpt:

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.

In place of the formal status-of-forces agreement negotiators had hoped to complete by July 31, the two governments are now working on a "bridge" document, more limited in both time and scope, that would allow basic U.S. military operations to continue beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of the year.

The failure of months of negotiations over the more detailed accord -- blamed on both the Iraqi refusal to accept U.S. terms and the complexity of the task -- deals a blow to the Bush administration's plans to leave in place a formal military architecture in Iraq that could last for years.

Although President Bush has repeatedly rejected calls for a troop withdrawal timeline, "we are talking about dates," acknowledged one U.S. official close to the negotiations. Iraqi political leaders "are all telling us the same thing. They need something like this in there. . . . Iraqis want to know that foreign troops are not going to be here forever."

U.S. apologizes for death of a civilian during an air-drop operation in Nassiriya on Friday. Excerpt:

“The apology, offered on Saturday by two senior U.S. officers, involved a pledge not to conduct any more operations without the previous knowledge of the local police,” the Thi-Qar police chief, Brig. Sabah Mohsen al-Fatlawi, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). “The U.S. side also pledged to afford moral and financial compensations for the wounded victims in the operation and pay for their treatment and transport to Baghdad,” Fatlawi added.

On Friday the media advisor for the U.S. army, Abdellatif Rayan, said a joint Iraqi-U.S. force killed a civilian and wounded two others during an airdrop operation in central al-Nassiriya city during the early hours of the day. “The airdropping targeted the house of a wanted man believed to be a financer of special groups in al-Thawra neighborhood, central Nassiriya. The force opened fire at a man when he raised a weapon, killing him in self defense and wounding two others,” Rayan told VOI.

Earlier, Maj. Nasser al-Majidi, a media spokesman for the Thi-Qar province police, told VOI a U.S. force airdropped troops on the house of 65-year-old citizen Muhammad Hammoud Hereiz in Nassiriya, killing him instantly. “The U.S. force denied access to Iraqi policemen to the area under the gun,” the source said, not indicating the reason for this U.S. operation.

Iraqi teenager accuses British forces of torturing and sexually assaulting him in 2003. British MPs are investigating the allegation. Britain recently paid 3 million pounds to the family of an Iraqi who died under torture at their hands. (Will the U.S. ever come clean? It's hard to imagine since there would be thousands of victims to compensate. -- C)

Britain will remove more of its troops in 2009.

In-depth News, Commentary and Analysis

The Project on Defense Alternatives, Middle East Research and Information Project, and other sponsors, organized a conference in March and issued a report in June on how the United States can responsibly withdraw from Iraq. Participants included three members of Congress. As you are no doubt aware, the corporate media have started to promote as conventional wisdom that Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw over 16 months is unrealistic. These experts believe it is indeed the right thing to do, but they acknowledge the difficulties. The full report and executive summary can be found here. Here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary. (Sorry for the poor formatting, original is a PDF):

We do not underestimate the challenges posed by this charge. Iraq is a traumatized and politically fragmented country. Neighboring states may be tempted to intervene in Iraq’s internal conflicts to protect their own interests. The credibility of the United States is badly eroded by a war that most of the world opposed.

The United States and the international community bear a responsibility to contribute to the alleviation of suffering and the advancement of stability and peace in Iraq. It was the consensus of our expert Advisory Group that there is little the United States can do to achieve those goals as long as it maintains an open-ended military presence in Iraq. In the context of withdrawal, however, there are many measures the United States and international community can take to maximize the chances for progress. In this report, we propose a set of initiatives that, taken in the proper sequence, can help to create the conditions for ending Iraq’s long national nightmare.

To make its intentions clear prior to withdrawal, the United States can and should:

Seek a short-term renewal of the UN mandate instead of a bilateral US-Iraqi security agreement.
Announce support for a new UN mandate to take effect in 2009 that will legitimate and define international participation in Iraqi reconciliation,
reconstruction, and humanitarian aid.
Signal that all of Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria and Iran, will henceforth be treated as partners in promoting stability.
Support the establishment of an International Support Group for Iraq.
Inform the Maliki government that the United States will soon announce a timetable for withdrawal and will shift toward a stance that emphasizes neutrality and non-interference in Iraqi politics.

Subsequent to the announcement of a timetable for withdrawal, to promote reconciliation in Iraq the United States can and should:

Take vigorous diplomatic steps to stem the flow of arms and foreign fighters feeding the civil war and communal violence.
Assist Iraqi actors and the UN in convening a pan-Iraqi conference on reconciliation, backed by an expanded writ for a UN mission in Iraq. Among other things, that conference should seek an immediate ceasefire and redress of the losses of refugees and internally displaced persons.
On the international level, the United States can and should:

Immediately re-engage Syria and Iran in non-coercive “give-and-take” diplomacy addressing bilateral issues.
Engage with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey seeking their support for peace and economic recovery efforts in Iraq.
Work within the International Support Group to encourage Iraq’s six neighbors to promote peace and stability in Iraq and the region.
Strengthen the provisions of the International Compact with Iraq for reparations and debt relief.

With regard to security, the United States can and should:

Identify likely flashpoints and, when requested by Iraqis, factor them into the planning for transitional US military activities during the period of withdrawal.
In anticipation that a blue-helmeted peacekeeping force will be needed and requested by Iraq when the US withdraws, support the UN in organizing and funding it.
Assist the UN and donor states in creating disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs.

Robert Burns (who is not always welcome here) reports on the continuing sectarian divide. He's still embedded, and he reports only on what he can glean from behind the skirts of the U.S. army, but for what it's worth:

(07-13) 04:00 PDT Combat Outpost Radwaniyah, Iraq -- In the rural outskirts of Baghdad, where the war seems distant in Iraq's new period of relative calm, a prominent Sunni tribal chief makes no bones about what is lacking in the drive to turn security improvements into lasting economic and political reform.

"Up to now we have seen nothing from the government," Sheikh Ayad al-Jabouri, wearing traditional headdress and robe, said with more than a hint of disdain for the Shiite-dominated leadership in the capital.

The central government has made limited strides in recent months. But its ability to show ordinary Iraqis - regardless of sect or ethnicity - that it can make political accommodations and act in their common behalf is in doubt. Creating that opportunity for normalcy was the main strategic aim behind the additional U.S. forces that President Bush sent to Iraq in 2007 as violence was peaking. . . .

Highlighting an issue that poses risk for sustaining the recent security gains, al-Jabouri complained bitterly to Hammond about Baghdad's refusal to permit Sunni volunteers - called the "Sons of Iraq" by the Americans - to join either the Iraqi army or police. There are about 1,300 in this area; they are paid under American contracts to temporarily provide security in their neighborhoods. Across Iraq, these mostly Sunni volunteers number just over 100,000, according to the U.S. military.

Al-Jabouri told Hammond in great detail about his personal interventions in Baghdad to break the logjam. "I wanted to show how frustrated we are," he told the general, speaking through a U.S. military interpreter.

The sheikh railed against the government, saying "some are executing Iranian orders." But he also said members of his Sunni sect are not blameless. By refusing to participate in past elections, the Sunnis allowed the creation of an "unbalanced government," he said. "(Key) government offices are occupied by one side," he added, referring to the Shiites' dominant position in Baghdad.

LA Times blogger Usama Redha describes what it's like in liberated Baghdad. Let Freedom Reign! Excerpt:

The vehicles moved through the cratered roads and alleys, looking for a way to leave the neighborhood. My microbus driver zig-zagged aimlessly, changing course or going straight as other drivers made hand gestures to indicate that the road ahead was closed or open. After a while we were all moving like a convoy, a convoy of microbuses searching for a way out of the neighborhood.

It was the day after the wall went up. The wall consists of gloomy concrete chunks, 12 feet high, set side by side to enclose my neighborhood. Seven miles of it went up overnight. We call it "the Black Night."

The wall wasn't erected completely, so my driver hoped to find an opening he could squeeze his microbus through. Eventually he gave up and went to the exit manned by two checkpoints and took his place at the end of a long line. When we finally cleared the checkpoints, the other passengers and I saw fresh graffiti that said, "Rafah Crossing welcomes you."

But we were not in Rafah Camp, we were not in Israel at all; we were in Baghdad and the area was Hurriya.

Quote of the Day

People like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Bill O’Reilly please know that I do not serve here in Iraq for your misinformed, hate driven, despicable, nasty, misguided form of patriotism.

CNN doesn’t spew as much hate as Fox but in many cases they are no better. When soldiers are serving here in Iraq trying to bring to the Iraqi people a democracy that allows them free and safe voting you idiots are pissing all over our election process by not reporting the news during America’s presidential election in a unbiased manner.

Why is it that you idiots can jump all over one candidate because of a flag pin or because of what someone else said but you allow the other candidate to get away with everything from calling his wife a CUNT, Lying to the American people over and over again...

-- Kos diarist, on duty in Iraq, AquaBoogy