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 25, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, January 25, 2009

A detainee in an outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military policeman at the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq in this June 22, 2004 file photo. A senior justice official says the Iraqi government will reopen the notorious Abu Ghraib prison next month, but it will have a new name. The announcement comes as the U.S. military has begun handing over detainees in its custody to the Iraqis under a new security agreement. (AP Photo/John Moore, File)

Reported Security Incidents


A 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier died as a result of non-combat related injuries Jan. 24. Note: This is not the same incident posted by Whisker yesterday.


Roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol injure 2 soldiers, 2 others in Karrada.

Reuters also reports arrest of six men caught planting a bomb. "Under interrogation," they confess to trying to assassinate Baghdad's governor Hussein al-Tahan. (Yeah, maybe. -- C)

Kanusiyah, near Hajiwah, south of Kirkuk

U.S. troops raid the home of Dhiya Hussein, a former Colonel in the Iraqi army, kill him and his wife and wound his 8 year old daughter. From the Xinhua account:

A U.S. military statement said that the U.S. troops were conducting the operation in cooperation with Iraqi forces as required under an agreement signed late last year between the United States and Iraq. The statement said that Hussein is a suspected leader of al-Qaida assassination cell.

It said that U.S. and Iraqi troops entered Hussein's bedroom and saw his wife reach under a mattress and they told her in Arabic to show her hands, "but she failed to comply" and they shot her dead. Hussein, then, attacked the soldiers and they killed him, acting in "self-defense," the statement said, adding that the girl was wounded by a bullet that exited the mother's body and struck her in the leg.

However, Xinhua reports that according to an Iraqi police source, Iraqi authorities were not informed of the raid. The Washington Post confirms the contradictory positions of the U.S. and Iraqi authorities on this:

In the angry aftermath, 40 cars carrying hundreds of people converged on the family's funeral later in the day, said Fadhil Najm, a neighbor. He said the mourners shouted, "Death to America! Death to killers of women!" as they buried the bodies.

Gen. Jamal Tahir Bakir, head of the provincial police, said U.S. forces acted on their own in the raid. The U.S. military denied that. It confirmed the incident but said the raid was conducted in cooperation with Iraqi forces.


Roadside bomb targeting a police patrol kills 1 civilian, injures 2. Also, a bomb hidden in a wooden cart injures 3 people.


The body of a man in his 20s is found, shot to death.

Other News of the Day

WaPo's Anthony Shadid reports that tribal loyalties, not political parties or issues, dominate politics in Anbar. Excerpt:

Part sheik and part showman, with a dose of barroom humor, [Hamid al-Hais] leads a party that has helped make Iraq's provincial elections this month the first truly competitive vote in Sunni Muslim lands since the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003. By all accounts, that is a good thing. But the results of next Saturday's ballot may say less about the campaigns themselves than about the political geography of Anbar, where tribes, sprawling clans steeped in tradition and courted by the U.S. military, enjoy more power than at any time since the Iraqi monarchy was toppled half a century ago.

Here, the new Iraq looks like the old one, imbued with politics that might be familiar to Gertrude Bell, the British diplomat and adventurer who drew the country's borders after World War I. There is a saying heard these days in Anbar: "Everyone claims they have the love of Laila, but Laila loves none of them." In other words, Laila gets to choose. The same might be said of the tribes, whose mantle everyone claims and which often demand a tidy sum for their support. Coddled and cultivated, the tribes are kingmakers. . . .

The Americans might have hoped the tribes had less power, Hais said, in their vision of a modern state built on the rule of law. "But now," he added, "they're stronger."

Abu Ghraib prison will reopen after renovations. They'll need it, because the Iraqis are supposed to take custody of some 15,000 people currently held by the U.S.

LA Times Ned Parker and Usama Redha report that in Nineveh province, it is the Arab-Kurdish conflict that is central to the election. Excerpt (Note that Barzani's statement is a bit, shall we say, disingenuous):

The ballot box has become a battleground in Nineveh province, a high-stakes combat zone where Kurds and Arabs will face off over the future shape of the country -- and confront each other over the past. The outcome could set the stage for another round of violence, which both sides insist that they do not want.

"In the last few years, almost 2,000 Kurds have been killed in Mosul," Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani told The Times this month. "We have not responded in the same manner and we have not reacted in any act of vengeance; but of course everything will have its limits."

Afghanistan Update

One thousand people demonstrate in Mihtarlam, east of Kabul, following a U.S. military operation in which President Karzai says killed civilians. This is getting really, really tiresome. -- C Excerpt:

The US military said Saturday that an operation against a Taliban network had taken place near Mihtarlam, killing "15 armed militants". But locals said civilians were also killed and they were investigating to find out how many. A statement from Karzai's office Sunday said: "An air and ground operation in Garoch area on the outskirts of Mihtarlam town took place midnight Friday resulting in the death of 16 civilians including two women and three children."

It condemned the latest alleged civilian casualties in the fight against Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan, saying such incidents "weaken government rule and empower the terrorists." Karzai "once again reminds the coalition forces that bombing Afghan villages will not yield anything in the war against terror except civilian casualties," it said.

Note: Quqnoos gives the civilian death toll in this incident as 21, while the LA Times says village elders give the civilian death toll as 22.

Battle between Afghan police and Taliban in Badghis province leaves many dead. Quqnoos also reports a roadside bomb in Khost province injured 3 Afghan soldiers.

Taliban attack a police outpost in Kandahar, kill 5 and capture 1, according to a Taliban spokesman. Afghan police say 3 police killed and 2 injured.

Taliban in Pakistan's Swat province issue a list of 45 politicians who they demand appear in Sharia courts or face "dangerous consequences."

Quote of the Day

The first message of the Pakistani government to General [David] Petraeus, the American General when he took command of the region was that they did not want any more bombings in Pakistan. Actually, the first message to the new Obama administration by President [Hamid] Karzai of Afghanistan was the same, that he wanted no more bombings. He also said that he wants a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign troops, US and other troops, from Afghanistan. That was of course just ignored.

Noam Chomsky