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 27, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, July 27, 2008

Iraqi security officers examine a car damaged by a roadside bomb in Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 27, 2008. There were no immediate reports on possible casualties.
(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) In fact, there is now a report of at least one injury resulting from this incident. I have highlighted it because Basra has been calm recently. It is unclear what this attack means. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

Update: Madain: Gunmen kill 7 Shiite pilgrims on their way from Suwayrah to a shrine in the Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah. Thousands of pilgrims are expected to converge on the shrine in coming days for a commemoration.


Sheikh Saleh Abdelaziz Saleh, Imam of the Sheikh Khalid Mosque, is assassinated by gunmen. He was also an employee of the Sunni Endowment, which maintains mosques.


Two Iraqi soldiers killed by IED. VoI locates this incident on the road to Sulaiman Pek; Reuters places it in the town of Sulaiman Pek, but I assume they are referring to the same incident.


A bomb injures Zeki al-Mohammedi, a member of the Anbar Provincial Council and local head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, injures his son, and kills two of his bodyguards. According to the AP, the bomb was attached to his car and exploded when the driver started the engine. Gunmen opened fire on the house following the explosion.

Roadside bomb attack on a Sahwa patrol injures one.

Buhrez, Diala Province

Two guards from the Oil Facilities Protection (OFP) force killed by IED.


Civilian wounded in IED attack. No further details at this time.

Quandil region, Kurdistan

Turkish military says its air force bombed 12 PKK targets over night. Kurdish sources confirm that attacks took place, but say there were no civilian casualties, but do no provide any information on possible PKK casualties. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb attack in Turkey, near the border with Kurdistan, killed three people.

Other News of the Day

Ammar al-Hakim, son of SIIC leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, gives an interview to the AP. As readers presumably know, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, formerly known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, is the dominant party in Parliament. It is a Shiite party with close ties to the Iranian clerical leadership. Nevertheless, in this interview, Hakim, who is in Cairo tries to downplay the party's ties to Iran and calls for stronger relations with Arab nations. -- C Excerpt:

Iran is a friendly country but we want to make friendships with all and not to be part of any axis," said al-Hakim, who is on a five-day visit to Cairo to try to persuade Egyptian officials to restore full diplomatic relations with Baghdad. "We want to have political, economic, cultural and even security cooperation with Egypt. We want Egypt to be our window to the whole Arab world," said al-Hakim.

The United States has struggled to rally its Arab allies behind Iraq's Shiite-led government. It hopes that normal relations between Iraq and its Sunni Arab neighbors will help reduce Iran's influence there.

Cairo has been reluctant to upgrade its diplomatic relations with Baghdad although several Gulf Arab nations decided in recent weeks to send ambassadors to Iraq. Egypt's top diplomat in Baghdad was killed in 2005. It says full diplomatic relations with Baghdad could only be restored when security is established in the violence stricken nation.

Also, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — two Arab powerhouses that opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — have remained deeply suspicious of Iraq's Shiites, accusing them of sidelining Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arab minority and helping Iran extend its influence in the Middle East.

U.S. Major General Mark Hertling says two military operations will commence in early August in Diyala Province, and in unspecified "remote areas" of the north. Interesting that U.S. generals are still announcing military operations in sovereign Iraq.

Authorities propose to identify families at a refugee camp near Najaf who are only "pretending" to be displaced, and force them to return home. Uh-huh. Excerpt:

Mashkour al-Mousawi, director of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration’s Najaf province branch, added that the committee will expel from the camp those families claiming to be displaced and will encourage the return of some genuine internally displaced persons (IDPs) to areas now deemed safer for them to return to.

"We have reports that there are some families from remote areas pretending to be displaced who have joined other displaced families in al-Manathira camp to benefit from financial, food and non-food assistance," said al-Mousawi.


Once news of the governmental committee reached the desert camp, displaced families began a protest on 25 July, fearing that local authorities would close the camp.

"We can't go back to our areas even if they have become relatively safer because gunmen are still roaming there and are only waiting for the appropriate moment to attack again," said Mahdi al-Aridhi, a 32-year-old father of four.

Al-Aridhi fled his home in the once restive al-Habbaniyah area of Anbar Province in the middle of 2006 after his three brothers were killed by gunmen believed to be al-Qaida in Iraq fighters. He ended up in al-Manathira camp with his 16-member family, including his parents, his brothers' widows, their children and his sisters.

NYT's Sabrina Tavernese says the power of the Mahdi Army is waning in Baghdad and the Iraqi state is gaining control. The militias grew unpopular because they practiced extortion. However, she views this trend as reversible. Excerpt:

n interviews, 17 Iraqis, including municipal officials, gas station workers and residents, described a pattern in which militia control over the local economy and public services had ebbed. Merchants say they no longer have to pay protection money to militiamen. In some cases, employees with allegiances to the militia have been fired or transferred.

In a further sign of weakness, Shiite tribes in several neighborhoods are asking for compensation from militia members' families for past wrongs.

The changes are not irreversible. The security gains are in the hands of unseasoned Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints spread throughout Baghdad's neighborhoods. And local government officials have not fully taken hold of service distribution networks yet, risking a window for the militias to return.

The militia's roots are still in the ground, Abu Amjad said, and "given any chance, they will grow again."

Quote of the Day

In the attempt to reach an accord with al-Maliki, the president made news by negotiating a "general time horizon" for withdrawing troops — but he hasn't been willing to take the agreement to Congress and deal with Democrats in order to create a sound constitutional foundation for an enduring and bipartisan policy.

Once the deal is signed by both parties, it's quite possible that the president will proclaim that this memo is special and can serve as a legal basis for all our activities in Iraq. If he does, he will be acting unconstitutionally. No precedents support the presidential creation of legally binding commitments on the use of force without congressional consent.

Resorting to the use of a memo also undermines democracy in Iraq, the very democracy we went to war to create. Just as it allows Bush to avoid Congress, it allows al-Maliki to make an end run around his own parliament, which, according to the Iraqi Constitution, must approve formal international agreements; al-Maliki is widely expected to sign the memo unilaterally.

Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway