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, January 11, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, January 11, 2009

Iraqis carry Palestinian flags as they demonstrate in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the Shiite city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. In Iraq, Sunni and Shiite worshippers staged rallies following Friday prayer services, in which preachers condemned the U.S. and Israel for the Gaza attacks, but also Arab governments for failing to defend the Palestinians.
(AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

Reported Security Incidents


A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in eastern Baghdad at approximately 8 p.m. Jan. 10.

Four police wounded by a roadside bomb near Palestine Street.

Gunmen storm a money exchange shop, killing two and injuring four.


Three police killed by gunmen while eating in a restaurant

Four police injured by a car bomb.

Two bodies found, killed by gunshots.

Yarmaja village, near Arbil

Two schoolboys injured by a landmine, one is in critical condition.


U.S. troops kill a civilian who is eating on the sidewalk, apparently believing he is trying to plant an IED.

Other News of the Day

President of Kurdistan calls al-Maliki authoritarian, threatens secession from Iraq. Yup, that's what I said. At other points in the interview he seems more conciliatory. Excerpt:

"One gets lost in absolute authority," said Massoud Barzani, the leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq's north. "You become too authoritarian, you lose yourself."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. Barzani accused Mr. Maliki of working to purge Kurds from the Iraqi security forces, and he refused to rule out the possibility that Kurdistan could declare outright independence from Iraq, citing concerns about changes to the constitution.

"For sure, we will not accept an Iraq ruled by dictatorship," he said from a room with a view of the snow-topped Zagros mountains.

Unable to reach consensus, Parliament delays election of a new speaker for one week. AP's Sinan Salaheddin explains the situation more fully. The problem is a falling out among the Sunni parties in Parliament which will nominate the speaker, who must be a Sunni. Recall that former Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned over the Status of Forces Agreement with the U.S.

The Iraqi government says it will fine journalists for what it considers "biased or inaccurate" coverage of candidates in the upcoming local and provincial elections. Let Freedom Reign!

"We reject this interference," said Muaid al-Lami, head of the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate, who survived an assassination attempt when a bomb detonated outside his office in September. "We agreed journalists should not defame others ... but this doesn't mean we should allow interference in their work," he said, adding the union was capable of ensuring its members meet ethical standards.

Bowing to U.S. pressure, Iraq agrees not to forcibly deport the militant Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedeen, which it has wanted off of its territory for years. Let's hear it for Iraqi sovereignty.

Afghanistan Update

Australian troops say they have killed a Taliban commander in Oruzgan Province, who was responsible for an earlier rocket attack that killed an Australian soldier.

Hundreds of militants attacked Pakistani troops along the border with Afghanistan. According to the Pakistani military, 6 Pakistani soldiers and 40 of the assailants were killed. The fighting occurred in the Mohmand tribal area in northwest Pakistan. According to a Pakistani military, there were 600 assailants, some of whom crossed the border from Afghanistan and others who were local.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden visits NATO forces in Kandahar province. He is briefed on the situation by Dutch Maj. Gen. Mart C. de Kruif, NATO's regional commander.

Quqnoos reports on dire economic conditions in Balkh province. And once again, I recommend Quqnoos as a source for news from Afghanistan that you just won't get from western media -- C:

The number of child beggars has increased in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province. The shrine of Hazrat Ali—fourth caliph of Islam—known as (Rowza Sharif) parks have become key gathering location for beggars.

These children say, economic problems and lack of a bread winner in the family have forced them to turn to the streets and to beg. Social experts say that lack of an exact economic policy by the government is the main reason for the increasing poverty and also increase in the number of beggars. Abdulrab Jahid, a social expert, said: "The government does not have a proper plan in all fields, and the beggars' problem is one of these."

The head of the police department in Balkh, Sardar Muhammad Sultani, said the police have started investigations to identify the leaders of these child begging groups, seeks to round them up and eject them from the city. The Afghan government recently agreed to round up street beggars and relocate them, though to where remains unclear, as do the measures the government will take to provide humane care for displaced beggars.

Quote of the Day

Most of the Gaza Strip plunges into deep darkness since the start of this war. I find several hardships to send out this report due to power problem. Today, a rocket targeted my uncle's house. My house got several splinters and rocket shrapnel. Thanks to God, we all safe but I don't know what will happen next. I live east of Gaza, Toffah area, were artillery shells rained down every single moment.

Sameh Akram Habeeb, Palestinian blogger And do check out Mr. Habeeb's site, where he is doing his best to document the daily violence from inside Gaza.