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 28, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter mans his position in the northeastern town of Khanaqin on September 24. A member of the Kurdish peshmerga died when Iraqi police on Saturday raided a peshmerga security post in the troubled town of Jalawla, Salah Koikha, spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (AFP/File/Ali Yussef)

UPDATE: Comparatively late in the day, news services have reported an eruption of violence in Baghdad, and additional violence in Diyala. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports:

  1. Car bomb followed by suicide bomb attack in Karrada kills 20 and injures 72.

  2. Car bomb attack in southwestern Baghdad shortly before Iftar kills at least 12 and injures 35.

  3. Bomb attached to a car explodes on a bridge in southwestern Baghdad, killing the driver. It appears the unidentified driver was the victim of an assassination.

Reported Security Incidents

Unspecified location southeast of Baghdad

MND-Center soldier killed in a vehicle rollover. No further information at this time pending notification of next of kin.


Roadside bomb attack on Iraqi Army patrol in Mansour district injures 3 soldiers. Update: One soldier now reported killed, 3 injured.

Jalawla, Diyala Province

KDP leader Riya Qahtan killed by Iraqi (Arab) police under disputed circumstances. Immediate claims can be misleading, of course, and we may come to understand this incident better in the future. But here is the account of Peshmerga spokesman Jabar Yawer: "The shooting occurred after two Sunni Arab police officers stopped three members of the Kurdish secret service at a market and demanded they show identification. They refused, and within minutes police reinforcements arrived at the scene, arrested them, and took them to police headquarters, Yawer said. Qahtan then went to the police station and persuaded officers to release the detainees, who had been working as guards for his party. But as the group was leaving, two police opened fire and shot Qahtan." Note: According to AFP, "An Iraqi security official said police targeted a cell of the peshmerga secret service known as Asayish." I present an excerpt from the AFP overview of the ethnic tensions in the Khanaqin-Jalawla area below. -- C

This Arab Times article says that an Iraqi policeman also died in this incident, and describes it more as a gunfight than the arrest and assassination described elsewhere. Again, we'll see if a clearer picture emerges.

al-Sa'adiya, Diyala Province

Mayor Ahmed Thamir al-Zarkoshi and 7 of his bodyguards injured by double bomb attack on his convoy. (Al-Zarkoshi is Kurdish.)

Bani Saad (south of Baquba)

Three civilians killed by attackers alleged to belong to al Qaeda.

Balad Ruz

Three Iraqi soldiers injured in roadside bomb attack.


Drive-by shooting injures a policeman. This may be the same incident described in more detail by VoI: Lt. Col. Hussein Ali, a police academy trainer, survives an ambush attack. One of his guards is injured.

Near Tikrit

Roadside bomb attack on Governor of Salahuddin province injures 3 bodyguards.


Gunmen kill the coach of a table tennis club. Obviously more to this story than we are told.

Tuz Khurmato

Three police injured, one militant reported killed and two injured, in a gun battle.

Other News of the Day

Although much has been made of the Iraqi Parliament finally approving a provincial elections law, this may not be much of a step forward after all. First, the law simply sidesteps the most contentious issue, the status of the disputed territories in the Kurdish border region (see below); and it also failed to assure minority representation, as originally proposed. In other words, the Iraqi political process continues to fail to produce substantial progress toward ethnic and sectarian reconciliation. -- C Maliki expresses concern over removal of minority rights provision from the elections law as Christian demonstrate in Qaraqosh. (Qaraqosh is a largely Christian city near Mosul, although the KUNA article describes it as part of Mosul.) Excerpt:

By Mohammad al-Ghuzi BAGHDAD, Sept 28 (KUNA) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday voiced concern over the abolition of an article bearing on minority rights in the provincial election bill. l-Maliki expressed his concern in a message to the Iraqi parliament speaker and his two deputies. e urged the parliament and the independent election watchdog to change their minds and dispel the fears and anxiety of inherent societal components that boast of belonging to Iraq.

"We hoped that the parliament could pass the draft law submitted by the cabinet, which protects the representation of minorities as per the constitution and in line with our orientations towards a just representation of all components of the Iraqi people and defending their rights," he said.

Does anybody remember Mullah Krekar? I do - he's the head of Ansar al-Sunna, formerly Ansar al-Islam, the Kurdish Islamist organization that Colin Powell claimed as proof that Saddam Hussein harbored terrorists. Of course, Ansar al-Islam was holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan, completely out of reach of Saddam Hussein, and one of its objectives was to kill him. In fact, Mullah Krekar had received asylum in Norway because Saddam Hussein was trying to kill him. But truth and logic never stopped Colin Powell. Anyway, regarding Mullah Krekar, he's baaaaaack. Mullah Krekar threatened to kill Mariwan Halabjaee threatens to kill Kurdish writer Mariwan Halabjaee. But it's not just Mullah Krekar that Halabjaee has to contend with -- it's the freedom-loving Kurdish government. Excerpt:

As reported in Aftenposten and Dagbladet, in September 2008 Mullah Krekar threatened to kill Mariwan Halabjaee in an audio file published on the Kurdish website Mullah Krekar was the original leader of the Islamist terrorist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq.

Mr. Halabjaee is the author of the book Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam. The allegedly "blasphemous" book is about how Islam is allegedly used to oppress women. Mullah Krekar compared Mr. Halabjaee with, among others, Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Mr. Halabjaee was forced to flee to Norway from Iraqi Kurdistan because the Islamic League of Kurdistan issued a fatwa to kill him. In August 2006, Mr. Halabjaee was granted political asylum in Norway. In December 2007, Mr. Halabjaee was convicted in absentia in Iraqi Kurdistan for the crime of blasphemy.

Cholera epidemic continues, appears to worsen. You would think that with the Iraqi government sitting on $79 billion, and the U.S. spending $10 billion a month or so, somebody could find a few million to build water treatment plants.

BAGHDAD, 28 September 2008 (IRIN) - More than 300 confirmed cholera cases have been registered in central and southern Iraq since an outbreak began on 20 August, with almost 50 percent of the cases occurring in the past week, the health ministry's cholera unit has said.

"The number of cholera cases has reached 327 in nine provinces: Babil 200 cases, Baghdad 61 cases, Basra 29 cases, Karbala 26 cases, Anbar four cases, Najaf three cases, Diwaniya two cases, Diyala one case and Maysan one case," said Ihsan Jaafar, director-general of the public health directorate and spokesman for the ministry's cholera control unit.

In-depth News, Commentary and Analysis

AFP's Amal Jayasinghe offers an update and backgrounder on the Arab-Kurdish territorial struggle. It's astonishing how both U.S. presidential candidates, and the U.S. corporate media, are largely ignoring this very dangerous situation -- C Excerpt:

Saddam's "Arabisation" campaign sought to change the demography of Khanaqin, which originally had a vast majority of Kurds and a smaller minority of Shiite Arabs, Turkmen and Jews. With the fall of Saddam's regime, the Kurds are back and the Arabs are nowhere to be seen, at least in Khanaqin.

"Ninety percent of the people who were forced out of Khanaqin have returned," said the city's mayor, Mohammed Mala Hassan, 52. "I want the others to return too, but I have no money to provide them with the basic facilities."

Khanaqin, which is close to the Iranian border, has emerged as a new flashpoint because of its untapped oil wealth and proximity to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Khanaqin mayor wants his region, which includes 175 villages, to be attached to the KRG and break away from the authority of the restive Iraqi province of Diyala where the majority are Arabs.

Aziz said he was forced to teach his subject in Arabic at a school in the Shiite majority province of Babil where they were forced to settle by the previous regime. "I am happy to be back here because I can now educate my three children in Kurdish," he said, pointing to two boys aged 10 and seven years and a girl of one. "I am happy to see my land."

The highway from the Iraqi capital Baghdad to Khanaqin is regarded as one of the most dangerous because of the regular roadside bomb attacks, landmine explosions and ambushes by Al-Qaeda-led insurgents. On the highway, Iraqi soldiers have their camps on hilltops with checkposts at regular intervals.

Quote of the Day

Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, he argued for the need "to end the mindset that took us into" that war. So it was troubling that tonight---in the first of the three presidential debates-- a man of such good judgment called for an end to the war in Iraq in order to escalate US military forces in Afghanistan. . . . A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an e-mail. "Here is a future dictionary entry for Afghanistan," he wrote. "Afghanistan. The place where the dreams and hopes of the Obama Presidency are buried."

Katrina Vanden Heuvel