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, September 21, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, September 21, 2008

Iraqi security stand next to a crater created by a blast outside the villa housing the offices of the Iraqi Journalist's Union in the Waziriyah neighborhood of Baghdad. The head of the main journalists' union in Iraq, Muayad al-Lami, survived the assassination attempt, although he was injured in the blast.
(AFP/Ali Yussef) Note: His condition today is said to be "deteriorating." See below.

Reported Security Incidents


Four Iraqi soldiers injured by roadside bomb attack in al-Waziriya, northeastern Baghad. (Note: CNN (see below for link) gives casualty total as 8 wounded, including 3 police.)

Bomb attack on headquarters of al-Bayyina newspaper, published by Hezbollah- Iraq, damages building but does not cause casualties. CNN, however, reports two people injured by a bomb attack on a newspaper headquarters. Since CNN does not identify the newspaper, it is not clear if this is the same incident.

However, there have been numerous attacks on journalists recently, so it is conceivable there were two today. In fact, Iraqi press syndicate chief Muayyad al-Lam is described as in "deteriorating condition" in the hospital following a bomb attack on the syndicate headquarters yesterday. This is one reason I prefer to link to VoI as much as possible, to honor the courage of Iraqi journalists. -- C

Four civilians injured by roadside bomb on al-Kindi Street, al-Harithiya, western Baghdad.

CNN provides a roundup of extensive additional violence in Baghdad today:

  1. Roadside bomb attack on police patrol in Adhamiya injures 4 civilians, 1 police officer

  2. Car bomb in central Baghdad injures 3 civilians, 1 police officer

  3. Bomb attached to the vehicle of a Finance Ministry official seriously injures him

  4. Roadside bomb attack on police convoy in Zaafaraniya, southeast Baghdad, injures 3 police and 3 civilians

  5. Roadside bomb attack in central Baghdad injures 3 police and 4 civilians

  6. Gunmen with silenced weapons ambush and kill Interior Ministry Brigadier Adel Abbasan, injure his driver.

  7. A Major in the Interior Ministry injured in ambush attack in New Baghdad. (Note: Xinhua identifies him as "Ammar."

Police find 5 bodies in the city, 3 decomposed bodies of women, 1 the decapitated body of a man, 1 recent gunshot victim.

Ghassan Redha, director general in the Finance Ministry, injured by bomb planted in his car.


Two police officers killed, 22 injured, 10 critically, in suicide car bomb attack on police academy. Note: Some accounts are giving the death toll as 3 but it is unclear whether these include the attacker.


Roadside bomb attack on a minibus kills 3, injures 6. Note: Diyala, including Jalawla in particular, is the site of complex conflicts and divisions among Sunni insurgents and the Shiite-led government, Arabs and Kurds and other ethnic groups, along with secular vs. Islamist forces. I refrain from speculating about the motivation for any particular attack, but do want to emphasize that the situation is not the simple "U.S. and Iraqi government vs. al Qaeda" battle as usually portrayed in the U.S. -- C


Two bodies, showing signs of torture, retrieved from river. This happened regularly during the rampant sectarian violence in Baghdad, but I haven't seen such reports recently. The killings presumably happened further north, probably in the capital, and the bodies were throw into the Tigris.


Gunmen kill a man who runs a private electricity generator. Reuters also reports a woman shot outside her house.


Gunmen kill an off-duty police officer.

Other News of the Day

As I discussed last week (to some controversy) the Iraqi army's push into Diyala has exacerbated Arab-Kurdish tensions. But you don't have to take it from me. This article by Ramzy Mardini in the magazine Kurdish Aspect discusses the situation, which is as I described it last week. The article goes on to describe the problem of Khanaqin at length. Excerpt:

As tensions rise between Iraqi Kurds, Arab Sunnis, and Arab Shiites in ethnically mixed Diyala Province during a massive and ongoing military operation by the Iraqi Army, a bombing in the disputed city of Khanaqin threatens to launch the region into new convulsions of violence. On September 13 a powerful improvised explosive device killed nine members of the Kurdish peshmerga militia responsible for security in the city. The dead included Colonel Zulfiqar, the local commander of peshmerga forces (AFP, September 13; Awsat al-Iraq, September 14).

In recent remarks, the exiting commander of the Multinational Forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, noted the security progress that has begun to stabilize Iraq was “not irreversible” (BBC, September 11). The U.S. general’s remarks came after last month’s unexpected confrontation between the Iraq Army and Kurdish peshmerga forces in Khanaqin. Though Iraq’s security and economy have radically improved since the implementation of the U.S. “surge” strategy, developments in Diyala highlight the danger of a sudden reversion to ethnic and religious bloodshed.

Recently, Diyala has been the focal point of unusual security moves by the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. In mid-August, under the supposed direction of al-Maliki, special counterterrorism forces – known as Emergency Response Units (ERUs) – raided the office of Diyala Governor Raad Rashid al-Mullah, shot and killed his cousin, and commenced a gunfight with local police (Awsat al-Iraq, August 19). The raid’s aim was the arrest of popular Sunni political figure Dr. Hussein al-Zubaidi, who heads Diyala’s security committee. Al-Zubaidi was beaten before being carried away.


The Iraq Army began Operation Bashaer al-Kheir (Promise of Good) on July 29 in cooperation with American forces. The operation is a major offensive consisting of 50,000 soldiers and police aimed at rooting out al-Qaeda and Shiite militias in Diyala province (Awsat al-Iraq, September 5). Local Awakening Council (Sahwa) members complain that the operation is being waged against them – purposely undermining their prospects for a future political role. Government efforts to marginalize the province’s mostly Sunni Sahwa fighters have increased considerably since the operation commenced. Leaders have been arrested or evicted from their posts in an effort to hasten their disbandment.

But the central and potentially explosive issue resulting from the government’s military operation in Diyala was the confrontation at Khanaqin between Kurdish militias and Iraqi forces. An oil-rich city along the Iranian border of the Diyala governorate, Khanaqin is considered one of the “disputed territories” cited in Article 140 of the Iraq Constitution. Article 140 outlines a legal process intended to reverse the “Arabization” campaigns of the former Baathist regime and settle the territorial disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Arbil and the federal government in Baghdad. Driven by force from Khanaqin, Iraqi Kurds have been returning to the city since 2003 and now form the majority of the population. The local council has proposed integrating the city with the Kurdistan region, but like the similar cases of Kirkuk and Mosul, a reluctant Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad has delayed finalizing Khanaqin’s status.

Anbar "Salvation" (i.e., Awakening) Council to form political party, run in provincial elections.

Cholera epidemic continues to grow in Baghdad and southern Iraq. 172 cases now reported in September. No doubt a vast undercount, as Iraq lacks effective disease surveillance systems.

Elsewhere in the region

Improbable as it may seem, The U.S., NATO, Afghan government and Taliban have agreed to a one-day truce in observance of "World Peace Day. So far it appears largely to have been observed.

However, At least 100 Afghan policemen and government officials, including a deputy provincial governor, were poisoned (non-fatally) after eating their iftar on Saturday night at a government facility in Nuristan. A local Taliban commander has taken responsibility for the incident, but that has not been established.

Death toll in the hotel bombing in Islamabad now at 53, including the Czech ambassador to Pakistan. Many other foreigners among the dead including 2 Americans; 250 people injured. Other corpses may yet be recovered, but the building is in danger of collapse.