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, August 17, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, August 17, 2008

A U.S. army soldier from Eagle Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment checks the contents of a freezer box as his unit searches a home in Baqouba, the capital of Iraq's Diyala province, some 60 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic) Think about it: how would Americans react if foreign soldiers were searching their freezers?

Reported Security Incidents

Kurdistan, unspecified location in the Avasin-Basyan area

Turkish military says its warplanes attacked a group of PKK fighters late on Saturday, claims the group was planning an attack on Turkey. (I have not been able to find any comment from the PKK or Kurdistan government.)

Srishma village, Arbil province

A local hospital receives 1 corpse and 4 injured persons following clashes with police during a demonstration to protest lack of services. Note: This is in Kurdistan.

Diyala Province

U.S. military says militants rigged 103houses with explosives in the past week to deter the joint Bashayer Al-Khair security operation. The way this article is written is confusing, but it seems to say there were 36 booby trapped houses in the first week of August, and 103 in the second. It then goes on to say that 34 of the 36 were discovered and defused, but does not give comparable statistics for week 2.

Three women critically injured in an explosion in al-Wajihiya, Muqdadiya district. Details are scant.

Other News of the Day

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims leave Karbala as Sha'abiniya rite ends. Under very tight security, there was no violence this year in Karbala itself, but at least 36 pilgrims were killed elsewhere on their way to the city over the past four days.

Iraqi government spokesman says 7 Arab countries are preparing to reopen their embassies in Baghdad soon. He names Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

Iraq President Jalal Talabani plans a trip to Tehran soon for a summit. Several accords are expected to be signed.

Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh reiterates that Iraq reserves the tight to try Blackwater mercenaries accused of killing civilians, after indications that the U.S. may prosecute them.

Background and Analysis

Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed of the LA Times say the Iraqi government has failed to support the security services in Anbar, leaving the region dependent on U.S. Marines for security. In general, the Shiite-dominated government is unwilling to provide weapons to Sunni Arabs -- this is just one example. -- C Excerpt:

RAMADI, IRAQ -- As Iraqi officials and the U.S. military haggle over when to let Anbar province take control of its own security, a row of broken-down Ford pickups in a Ramadi schoolyard offers a sobering picture of the readiness of the region's security forces.

The U.S. military gave the vehicles to the police officers stationed in a former school here, but the Iraqi government hasn't provided parts or a maintenance system to keep them running. The officers work on their own vehicles, picking parts from the junkers.

A shaky connection with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is just one of the problems confronting American efforts to disengage from the predominantly Sunni Arab province more than a year after the U.S. military joined with local security forces, former insurgents and tribal warriors to take on Al Qaeda in Iraq here.

Survey of U.S. Airwomen deployed in OIF finds high rate of health complaints. (Whisker sent me this link, and I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that this was reported in an Indian newspaper but got little attention here, as far as I can tell. While most of these symptoms are common psychosomatic complaints, the very high rates of reported fever and hair loss are harder to explain. -- C) Excerpt:

The airwomen surveyed by phone and through mailed questionnaires were drawn from a stratified, random sample and deployed at least once since March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The median age of participants was 36 years, and 45 percent were married. About 36 percent had a dependent child at the time they were sent overseas. About 70 percent were white.

Asked if they experienced any of a list of symptoms persistently in the past year, 89 percent of those surveyed reported suffering from fatigue, 85 percent from difficulty concentrating, 83 percent from fever, and 83 percent from hair loss. In addition, 35 percent reported suffering from muscle pain and stiffness, 29 percent from irritability, 26 percent from loss of energy and 25 percent from headaches.

These findings were presented Thursday in Boston at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

Afghanistan Update

AP's Fisnik Abrash gives the daily rundown. Excerpt:

Scores of police manned checkpoints around Afghanistan's capital Sunday after authorities ordered more than 7,000 officers to secure Kabul ahead of the country's Independence Day, an indication of how militants pose a growing threat to the capital.

The rest of the country saw a surge in violence. Officials said several clashes in Afghanistan's south and east killed 73 Taliban fighters and five private security guards, while a roadside blast killed 10 policemen.

The Interior Ministry said the beefed-up police force in the capital would search buildings as well as cars to "create an environment of trust and prevent any disruptive actions by the enemy."

The security increase comes a day before the country celebrates the 89th anniversary of its independence from Britain. Any breach of security during the celebration would be an embarrassment for President Hamid Karzai's government. In April, gunmen fired on Karzai at a military parade in Kabul, killing three people, including a lawmaker.

Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said more than 5,000 extra police had been drafted for what he described as the biggest operation of its kind in Kabul since 2001, when U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government.

Teams of police stopped vehicles at checkpoints around the city. Kabul so far has been spared the drumbeat of violence that has afflicted other parts of the country, although it suffered spectacular bomb attacks this year against an international hotel and the Indian Embassy.

Bashary declined to discuss whether officials are worried that militants are now at the city's gates.

Quote of the Day

I’m just curious about the statement "the surge worked," which Hank Waters and John McCain use frequently.

There is no doubt that wherever U.S. troops go in strength, violence decreases. Our military is the best. But the surge was supposed to be for six months and achieve about a dozen goals, one of which was military and the rest political.

It has been nearly two years, and although the military goal has been achieved, so far as I know, none or few of the political goals have been accomplished. And yet Waters and McCain talk as if all the goals were achieved within the specified time. Perhaps the statement "the surge worked" is a little premature.

Anonymous letter to the editor of the Columbia Tribune I would not normally use an anonymous quote but this writer must have had a good reason for withholding his or her name, or the paper would not have agreed to it. The writer may be on active duty in the military or hold public office. Hank Waters is the publisher of the Tribune. -- C