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 4, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, January 4, 2008

An Iraqi police officer checks pilgrims at a checkpoint in front of the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine, the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad January 4, 2009. A female suicide bomber infiltrated a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims, killing at least 35 people and wounding at least 79 at a Shi'ite shrine in Baghdad on Sunday. REUTERS/Bassim Shati (IRAQ) (I posted this photo in part because it illustrates the difficulty of assuring security in this situation. The usual pictures of carnage are not yet available. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


Latest reports give death toll from suicide bombing in Kadhamiya as 40, with 79 wounded. The female bomber targeted pilgrims celebrating Muharram, the commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. The suicide bomber may have been targeting Shiite pilgrims from Iran, according to one government official. More than half of the casualties were apparently Iranians. Reuters Aseel Kami and Waleed Ibrahim have the most complete report I have found. The bomber struck a checkpoint outside the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Kadhimiya. An eyewitness states that it was necessary to pass through several checkpoints to reach the location of the bombing.

Note: I have found no other reports of political violence in Iraq today, but that seems unlikely. I suspect that this news has driven out accounts of smaller-scale incidents. -- C

Other News of the Day

U.S. transfers formal supervision of the Awakening Councils in Diyala Province to the Iraqi government, which will now be responsible for paying them. The government is committed to absorbing 20% of them into the regular security forces, but even if this happens, it is not clear what will happen with the rest of them. Once they are off the payroll and free of U.S. supervision, the Shiite-led government could well begin to see them as a threat - and they may well be one. This is an issue that will have to be watched closely in the months ahead. -- C

As a first step toward implementing terms of the SOFA, U.S. abandons Forward Operating Base Callahan in northern Baghdad. The Iraqi government says it plans to restore and re-open the former shopping mall, the Sha'ab market. However, the U.S. does plan to remain in some of its urban bases, now to be rebranded as "joint Iraq-U.S. security stations."

As PM al-Maliki concludes a two-day visit to Iran, Iran's Vice President Parviz Davoudi announces increased "economic cooperation" between Iran and Iraq. He appears to be referring to $10 billion in Iranian investments in Iraqi energy development and reconstruction projects, but the details are unclear.

Beladi TV, the employer of reporter Hadil Imad who was shot yesterday by U.S. troops, disputes the U.S. account of the event. The U.S. claims she had "failed to heed warnings and acted suspiciously" at a checkpoint. "In a statement, the U.S. military said troops followed "approved defensive measures" after the woman acted 'erratically.' The statement did not describe the woman's behavior or explain why troops deemed it suspicious."

Afghanistan update

Magnitude 6.2 earthquake hits the Hindu Kush mountains. No reports of casualties or damage as of now, but this is a remote area.

Flood on the Amo river in Balkh province destroys agricultural land and homes. The issue of flood control in this area has been discussed in Parliament for some time but no action has been taken. Not surprising, as the Afghan government is completely ineffectual. BTW, the river constitutes part of the border between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, and it's wanderings are creating a border dispute between the two countries. It turns out that one reason water washes over the dikes is due to ship wake, and so navigation of the river is also a source of international tension. -- C

British MoD releases a propaganda history of a major offensive in Helmand province in late December. As this has gotten a lot of press attention, I thought I should link to it, for what it's worth.

Winter Assistance has not reached Farah and Herat Provinces. Excerpt:

Civil authorities in west of Afghanistan are warning that if the central government do not dispatch humanitarian aid promptly to these areas, the winter could see last year's humanitarian disaster repeated.

There is a great deal of public concern in the affected provinces over lack of food and fuel and a fear that without sufficient help from the Afghan government, NGOs and the international organizations, the crisis could deepen.

With the onset of winter and temperatures falling sharply, civil authorities in western Afghanistan cite that 5900 tons of desperately needed food aid has yet to reach the region.

The provincial governments in the affected areas have urged that food and aid convoys reach them before greater snowfall brings about road closure however, relief shipments have yet to reached to Herat and Farah provinces thus far.

Note: is an English-language news site from Afghanistan. I'm just starting to get familiar with it but so far it appears to be reliable and to provide much more detailed news from that country than we get from Western sources. Quqnoos also reports today:

Iran Aids poor Afghan people: To help light up Capital city of Kabul, Iranian government sells 25 million liters of oil at lower price to Afghan government. Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, Feda Hussein Maliki says, Iranian government decided to help Afghan government activate the power generators in Kabul city. Therefore, Iran will sell 25 million liters of oil to Afghanistan in lower price.

Ambassador also announced the two million dollars Iranian aid for poor and needy people in Afghanistan.

Quote of the Day

Bush's policies failed utterly. Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy. His insistence on names like 'democracy' and 'open elections', without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush's policy.

Former Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi