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, November 16, 2008

News of the Day for Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Iraqi family sits in the courtyard of their farm as US soldiers search the premises for weapons in Mullah Eid village just south of Baquba. A suicide car bomb has exploded at a police checkpoint in Iraq's volatile Diyala province, killing at least 15 people, including seven policemen, a security official has said. (AFP/File/Patrick Baz)

Reported Security Incidents


IED attack near a sahwa checkpoint in al-Shaab, northeastern Baghad, kills 2 sahwa fighters and 1 civilian, injures 7 people inlcuding 5 sahwa fighers. (As our regular readers know, of course, the sahwa are the Sunni Arab irregular forces armed and financed by the United States.)

Roadside bomb injures 2 people in Sinak, central Baghdad.


Suicide car bomb attack on a police checkpoint kills 15, injures 20. Dead include 7 police. (Note: This Reuters story makes a point of trying to blame al Qaeda in Iraq for this attack. However, that is not clear. Jalawla is a focus of the Arab-Kurdish territorial dispute, and has recently been the site of open fighting between Iraqi government and Kurdish forces. There are multiple possible explanations for this incident. -- C)


IED attack on a police patrol in southern Mosul kills one officer. VoI also reports a separate attack in the same area injured one civilian.

Two U.S. soldiers killed in crash of an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter on Saturday. (Whisker posted the crash yesterday, but at that time casualties were unknown.) The military says the crash was unrelated to hostile action.

Other News of the Day

Iraqi cabinet approves Status of Forces Agreement, which now must go to the legislature. The current draft calls for U.S. forces to be confined to specified bases as of June, 2009; and to leave Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. Excerpt from the CNN report (which I found to make the clearest and simplest presentation of the terms among the many available reports):

The Iraqi Cabinet on Sunday approved a security pact that would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq. Negotiators had been working for months on a deal that will set terms for U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

The agreement sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. The date for all troops to leave Iraq will be December 31, 2011, he said.

These dates are "set and fixed" and are "not subject to the circumstances on the ground," he said. Twenty-seven of the 40 Cabinet members in attendance voted in favor of the agreement, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. One minister abstained. The Cabinet consists of the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 37 other ministers.

The approved draft will be sent to the Council of Representatives, Iraq's 275-seat parliament, later Sunday, where it will be put to another vote. "There is great optimism that they will pass it," said Industry Minister Fawzi Hariri.

In fact, however, the vote is now scheduled for November 24.

KUNA provides a brief summary of additional points, which I have organized into bullets:

  1. The dates for U.S. withdrawal to bases, and from the country, are not negotiable nor subject to conditions on the ground

  2. The Green Zone reverts to Iraqi control including security and inspections

  3. Iraqi authorities alone would have right of ordering inspections and raids anywhere within Iraqi territory. US forces would need legal approval and government sanction before they could go on such missions

  4. US military shipments into the country would be inspected

  5. Iraqi territory and airspace is not to be used in any aggression on any neighboring country

Although the government expects parliament to pass the SOFA, a Sadrist spokesman doubts it will pass. We shall see. The Sunni Arab Association of Muslim scholars also condemns the deal, because it allows U.S. forces to remain for 3 more years. These two blocs, however, do not have enough votes in parliament to defeat the agreement. -- C

Meanwhile, debate continues over the future of Iraq as a united country or a federation. It was scarcely noticed in the U.S., but there is a serious proposal for Basra to be given quasi-independent status. Mainstream Sunni Arab parties and secularists have condemned the proposal.

Afghanistan Update

DPA provides a roundup of incidents reported by NATO.

  1. One NATO soldier killed Saturday in an unspecified location in southern Afghanistan. British MoD confirms a soldier killed Saturday in Helmand

  2. Two U.S. troops (branch of service not specified) medically evacuated after suicide attack in Herat

  3. Two German soldiers injured Sunday morning near Baghlan

  4. Military claims to have killed 30 militants in Helmand

President Karzai offers full protection to Mullah Omar in exchange for peace. Excerpt:

KABUL (AFP) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday he would go to "any length" to protect the fugitive leader of the insurgent Taliban militia, Mullah Mohammad Omar, in exchange for peace. Karzai told reporters he would offer the protection even if it meant defying Afghanistan's international partners, who could remove him from his job or leave the country in disagreement.

"If I hear from him that he is willing to come to Afghanistan or to negotiate for peace ... I, as the president of Afghanistan, will go to any length to provide protection," Karzai said. "If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the international community has two choices -- remove me or leave if they disagree," he said.

But Karzai added that his government was not yet ready to make such an offer to Mullah Omar, head of the 1996 to 2001 Taliban government who is wanted by the United States and has a multi-million-dollar reward on his head. "Right now I have to hear from the Taliban leadership that they are willing to bring peace for Afghanistan. They must prove themselves."

Pakistan bans oil tankers and trucks with sealed containers from a key supply route for NATO forces into Afghanistan, raising fears of shortages.

Quote of the Day

Today [November 15] is Baghdad Day anniversary. Some members of Iraqi government headed by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamil al Maliki attended the calibration which was held in Zawraa Park in downtown Baghdad . Baghdad established 762 A.D. by Caliph Abu Ja'far Al Mansur. It was called first Zawraa city in the past. Zawraa means garden because Baghdad used to be pretty city like the magic garden that princess Sharazad used to tell her king Sharyar about in her nightly stories of one thousand and one nights. Baghdad is the city of Sindibad and Allaadin.. During its history, Baghdad passed through difficult periods like Magool and Tatars invasions. But Baghdad always rises up again like the shining sun. “Afflictions can not ever defeat Baghdad ” PM Maliki said in his speech today. May God forever protect you our beloved city. May the clouds of pain and suffering go with the wind of patience and fight of all the honest Iraqis.

Congratulations my beloved Baghdad in your day.

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