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

Friday, August 29, 2008

News of the Day for Friday, August 29, 2008

Shi'ite people march during an anti-U.S. military rally after attending Friday prayers in Baghdad's Sadr City August 29, 2008. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ) Note: Al Sadr announced yesterday that he is extending the cease fire, but his movement continues to oppose the occupation by peaceful means. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

As is typical of Fridays, there was comparatively little political violence reported today. I do want to note that the deaths of U.S. soldiers on Wednesday and Thursday, which Whisker noted yesterday, have gone largely unreported in U.S. corporate media, as did the other substantial violence which occurred yesterday.


Roadside bomb explodes in Yarmouk. No casualties reported.

Tal Afar

Police foil an attempted suicide attack on a mosque, kill the attacker.


"Coalition" (probably meaning U.S.) troops kill a "wanted man" in an operation targeting an "al Qaeda" leader. Implication seems to be that the "wanted man" was not the target of the operation.

Other News of the Day

Contrary to earlier reports, it appears a deal on the continued presence of U.S. forces is not imminent after all. The Bush administration is balking over the Iraqis' demand for withdrawal by 2011. VoI report:

Most of the items in the long-term security agreement with Washington are still pending negotiations and not settled yet, an Iraqi legislator said on Friday, ruling out the parliament would vote over the deal.

"Differences revolve around a schedule of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as well as their powers and the description of these troops," Abdelkareem al-Samarraie, a member of the Iraqi parliament's Security & Defense Committee, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). A declaration of principles had been signed by U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December 2007. The declaration was planned to be ratified on July 31, 2008, to be effective as of January 1, 2009.

The agreement should govern the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the year 2008. This presence is currently depending on a mandate by the UN, renewed annually upon the request of the Iraqi government. The deal should not be effective before a 275-member Iraqi parliament approves it. Samarraie, who belongs to the (Sunni) Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), the third largest in parliament with 38 out of a total 275 seats, pointed out that the Iraqi political leaders hope the year 2011 would be a final date for the end of foreign presence in Iraq.

"Although the Iraqi delegation has insisted on that date, the Americans have some reservations over it," he added.

U.S. forces arrest a senior member of the "de-Baathification Committee chaired by their old friend Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi defends him. Reuters report:

U.S. forces arrested the deputy head of a committee that purged Iraq's government of members of Saddam Hussein's party, an ally said, but the U.S. military said he was a wanted militia leader behind a deadly Baghdad bombing. U.S. troops detained Ali al-Lami, general manager of a committee established in 2003 and 2004 by then U.S. governor Paul Bremer to remove members of Saddam's Baath party from the government, on Wednesday, the committee's head said on Thursday.

A U.S. military statement said its troops seized a man at the airport suspected of planning a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad's Sadr City slum in June that killed 10 people, including two U.S soldiers and two U.S. civilian contractors. "He was captured at the airport. He had just returned from Lebanon with his family," Ahmed al-Chelabi, director of the deBaathification Committee, said in a statement. "We strongly condemn this operation against one of the highest officials of the ... committee, who had done good work."

The U.S. military said the man they picked up at the airport, whom they could not name, was a senior "special groups criminal", jargon for Shi'ite militia cells it says are backed by Iran. Iran denies backing Iraqi militants.

"Coalition forces captured a man suspected of working within the highest echelons of the special groups criminals," spokesman for the U.S. military, Major John Hall, said.

AP's Robert Reid channels the U.S. spin that al-Lami was working for Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Reading between the lines, however, it seems more accurate to portray this as a further attempt to walk back the pro-Shiite tilt of the first years of the occupation. The reaction to the arrest splits along sectarian lines. -- C Excerpt:

BAGHDAD — A senior official in Nouri al-Maliki's government was in custody Thursday suspected of ties to Iranian-backed Shiite militias and plotting a June bombing that killed 10 people, including four Americans, Iraqi authorities said.

The arrest of Ali al-Lami — taken Wednesday as he left a plane arriving from Lebanon — reinforced suspicions about Tehran's influence within the Shiite-led Iraqi government and could open wider probes into Shiite networks, including possible links to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Al-Lami heads a commission responsible for keeping Saddam Hussein loyalists out of government posts and has been a target of criticism from Sunni leaders who claim the government wants to limit the overall Sunni voice in political and security issues.

He was arrested by U.S. and Iraqi troops at Baghdad's airport as he returned with his family from medical treatment in Beirut, said a member of his committee, Qaiser Watout.

U.S. and Iraqi troops were waiting for al-Lami as the plane's doors opened, Watout said.

"We condemn this act," Watout said. "Al-Lami was a moderate official and we are surprised by his arrest."

U.S. military officials would not confirm the arrest of al-Lami, who has been involved in government affairs since shortly after Saddam's fall in 2003.

But the U.S. command said a "suspected senior" leader of Iranian-backed "Special Groups" militias was detained at the airport for allegedly planning the June 24 bombing of a municipal building in the capital's Shiite district of Sadr City. Two American soldiers and two State Department employees died in the blast along with six Iraqis.

"The man has been known to travel in and out of Iraq to neighboring nations including Iran and Lebanon, where it is believed he meets and helps run the Iranian-backed Special Groups in Iraq," the U.S. military statement said.

In Washington, a senior U.S. military intelligence official said Thursday that the statement referred to al-Lami and that he was believed to have information that would lead investigators to people connected to "other countries," an apparent reference to Iran and Lebanon.


Reaction to al-Lami's arrest was sharply divided along sectarian lines.

Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite and former Pentagon favorite once viewed by Washington as a possible successor to Saddam, condemned the arrest, saying that al-Lami had played "a great essential role" in "fighting and confronting Saddam's regime despite the risks that surrounded him." Chalabi, who spearheaded the first moves against Baath members, called for al-Lami's release and said in a statement that his arrest showed that U.S.-led forces pay "no attention to Iraqi human rights."

But Sunni legislator Mohammed al-Daini accused al-Lami and others of sectarian bias and links to Iran. "The Americans know very well that such people were brought up and trained in Iranian intelligence system," al-Daini said without offering evidence. "The detention of al-Lami is part of a chain of events that will lead to the uncovering of others."

Salim Abdullah al-Jubouri, spokesman for the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said the Sunni community was "looking forward to the results of the investigation" into al-Lami's arrest because "it is unlikely that he was working alone."

China is the first to sign a contract for development of Iraqi oil reserves. Ha ha Mr. Cheney -- C Excerpt:

DUBAI - China crossed the line first in the race for big oil contracts in post-Saddam Iraq and has gained a head start over Western oil majors in the competition for future energy deals.

China's biggest oil company, state-run CNPC, agreed to a US$3-billion service contract with Iraq on Wednesday. The deal could set a precedent for terms that fall far short of the lucrative contracts the oil majors had hoped for as they jostled for access to the world's third-largest oil reserves.

Starved of investment since the Gulf War of 1990-91 and the subsquent U. S.-led invasion of 2003 that removed former President Saddam Hussein, Iraq holds some of the world's last large, cheap, untapped oil reservoirs.

"The biggest significance of this deal is that CNPC will benefit as the first international oil company to be developing one of the giant discovered oil fields in Iraq in the new era," said Alex Munton, an analyst at global consultancy Wood Mackenzie. "They will be the first with people on the ground and the first to develop a working relationship with Iraq's Oil Ministry."

Non-surprise of the week -- Marine accused of killing four unarmed Iraqi prisoners is acquitted of all charges.

KBR accused of human trafficking. That about exhausts the list of possible crimes. Oh wait, they haven't been accused of defacing a National Park Service sign yet. Well, that will come I'm sure. Excerpt:

Defense contractor KBR Inc. and a Jordanian subcontractor have been accused of human trafficking in a federal lawsuit filed after an insurgent attack in Iraq led to the killing of 12 men.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court alleged the workers were captured and later killed while they were being taken to work on a U.S. air base in Iraq.

The 13 Nepali men were recruited by Daoud & Partners and other subcontractors with promises of work at a posh hotel in Amman before their passports were taken and they were sent to work on the Al Asad Air Base in 2004, according to the lawsuit.

Twelve of the men were captured by Iraqi insurgents who intercepted their caravan on their way to the base. The men were killed days later.

Buddi Prasad Gurung, a Nepali worker who survived the attack, was forced to work on the base as a warehouse loader for 15 months, the lawsuit said.

The case was filed by relatives of the dead workers and Gurung, who has since returned to Nepal.

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for Houston-based KBR, declined to comment, saying the company has not yet seen the lawsuit. A contact number for Daoud & Partners could not be immediately located.

Agnieszka Fryszman, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the men came from poor families that went into debt to send them abroad to work and were pushed deeper into poverty when they were killed.

Quote of the Day

One cannot help but be amused over the negotiations taking place between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki over how long U.S. troops will be permitted to stay in Iraq and whether occupation troops will be subject to Iraqi law in the interim.

My question is: Why is this something that even needs to be negotiated? I thought that Iraq was now a sovereign and independent country. Isn’t that what President Bush and U.S. officials have been telling us ever since U.S. troops invaded and occupied Iraq some six years ago?

Well, if Iraq really is a sovereign and independent country, then why does it have to negotiate anything with the United States, including an exit date for U.S. troops and how criminal offenses committed by U.S. troops in Iraq are going to be handled? Why can’t Iraq simply tell the U.S. government when it is going to leave Iraq and how the actions of its troops are going to be handled as long as they are in Iraq?

Jacob G. Hornberger (Note: A libertarian opponent of imperialism)