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, April 5, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, April 5, 2009

A piece of bread, the food for this poor Afghan family
Photo (Sonil Haidari), Note: For the first time, I am using a picture from Afghanistan because today's news from the country seems to call for it. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


The bodies of three men reputed to be homosexuals have been found in Sadr City, dead of gunshot wounds. Previously, two other men had been dumped in the street with their arms and legs broken.


Simultaneous explosions kill 9 policemen. Note: Other reports give a lower death toll, and indicate that some of the police were injured, not killed. This is the most recent report I could find, however, so I'm going with it for now.


Governor Mohammed Mosbeh al-Waeli escapes an assassination attempt.

Makhmour (near Arbil)

Police find a body dumped on a main road, dead of a gunshot.


Police find a body dumped, with the throat slit.

Reuters reports several other incidents in Mosul:

  • Gunmen shot dead a civilian in a bus station in western Mosul

  • Gunmen shot and wounded a civilian in a drive-by shooting in western Mosul

  • wo mortar rounds wounded a policeman when they landed on a police station, in southeastern Mosul

  • Gunmen wounded two civilians and a policeman when they shot at a police checkpoint in central Mosul

  • A roadside bomb killed a child and wounded a civilian when it exploded in western Mosul

Note: This sort of spate of reports from a single area often happens, which leads me to suspect that it is a function of their happening to be a stringer for western media around and the police happening to do a briefing. I suspect that similar levels of violence go on routinely in Mosul, and elsewhere, and simply are not reported. -- C


Gunmen killed a policeman and wounded another four when they opened fire at a moving police car.


Gunmen in a moving car shot and wounded a civilian in the south of Kirkuk.

Other News of the Day

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas makes a suprise visit to Baghdad.

Abbas had been scheduled to visit Iraq on March 28, but his visit was canceled for an undisclosed reason. Abbas met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani where the two were scheduled to discuss bilateral relations.

On the meeting agenda is the future of the Middle East peace process and means to deal with the new Israeli government, Abbas advisor Nimer Hammad told al-Arabiya news channel. Abbas will also discuss the issue of Palestinian refugees stranded on the Iraqi-Syrian border, Hammad added.

AP's Sameer Yacoub provides more background on the pogrom against homosexuals in Sadr City. Note: I'm using the term homosexual because "gay" is a western term referring to a particular cultural identity. Until Iraqis are able to define themselves and say how they wish to be called, I think that's better than imposing an exogenous frame on this. -- C:

The bodies of two gay men were found in Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City after a leading cleric repeatedly condemned homosexuality, an Iraqi police official said yesterday. The killings came after Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat criticized homosexuality during recent prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq.

The two men were thought to have been killed Thursday by relatives who were shamed by their behavior, the official said. Police said they suspect the killings were at the hands of family members because no one has claimed the bodies or called for an investigation.

The killings come after Iraqi police found four bodies in late March buried near Sadr City with the words pervert and puppies written on their chests, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Puppy is a derogatory term used in Sadr City to refer to homosexuals, the official said.


"When the Mahdi Army was in control, such practices were banned, and homosexuals were afraid of declaring their tendencies," the official said. That changed when the Mahdi Army cease-fire took hold, the official said, adding that some people say a coffee shop in Sadr City has become a hangout for gay men.

Meanwhile, an activist group claims that the Iraqi government plans mass executions of homosexuals. Excerpt:

Iraq is planning to start executing 128 people this week, many of who are thought to be gay. Iraqi LGBT, a UK-based organisation of Iraqis which tries to protect queers in the country, says that five of the people on death row are their campaigners in Iraq. And they believe that many more are gay. Amnesty International has confirmed that the Iraqi authorities are planning to start killing the prisoners in batches of 20, starting this week.

Amnesty has also called on the Iraqi authorities to publish the full names and details of those who are going to be judicially murdered and to explain the charges against them. The world-wide human rights organisation is worried many of them may have only confessed to crimes under torture.

The death penalty was re-introduced in 2004 in Iraq and since 2005, Iraqi LGBT claims that 17 of its workers have been killed by the country's interior forces or have "disappeared".

Ali Hili of Iraqi LGBT said the five gay people on the list he knows about may be the tip of the iceberg. He told Pink Paper: "I believe there are many more among the 128. Most of the people haven't been told the reason why they have been sentenced to death and there have been so many raids on gay parties and round-ups recently."

Afghanistan Update

In a sign of Afghanistan's dire economic circumstances, 46 Afghans die while crammed into a container trying to illegally emigrate to Iran. 45 additional migrants were found unconscious.

And, while we're on the subject, Italian police found 25 Afghan children living in an underground chamber at a railroad station.

Kamal Siddiqi of the Hindustan Times covers the political controversy in Pakistan over battling the Taliban. The fact is, Pakistanis see the confrontation as part of the western agenda, not their own. Excerpt:

Today, many voices in Pakistan like the outspoken Kashmala Tariq of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) argue that Pakistan has neither the resolve nor the capability to take on the Taliban. When the government wanted to crack down, “it did so in two days as in the case of the Lal Masjid”, Tariq points out.

Tariq, and many like her, feel that a bigger game is being played out in which the government wants to create a Taliban scare in order to receive more funding from abroad. But such allegations are brushed aside by others as the usual conspiracy theories that go around in the country.


There is a lot of confusion in Pakistan on how to take on the Taliban, feels Nazish Brohi, who works in the social sector. “While we are all agreed that we should fight terrorism, this is where the clarity ends. We are not sure who the enemy is and what we should be fighting against,” he says.

Brohi and many members of Pakistan’s civil society argue that even in the government and among the people, there is confusion about whether the war is against religious extremists, or terrorists, or both. “What do you do with the Taliban sympathisers who fight only against government forces and then go back into their fields? Are we against them too?” asks Brohi.

Quqnoos discusses Karzai's approval of the draft law on Personal lives of Shia in Afghanistan, which has been widely condemned outside of the country. It appears not to be universally popular inside Afghanistan either. Excerpt:

The law which has not yet come into force, critics say the women can only seek work, education or doctor's appointments with their husband's permission. "The wife does not have the right to the provision of maintenance by the husband unless she agrees to have intercourse with him and he gets an opportunity for doing so," an article of the law says.

Afghan human rights experts have also condemned the ruling as it limits the freedom of women and pave the ground for violence against them.


President Karzai held a news conference Saturday morning critiziing the vast coverage of international media is ‘incorrect’. He also said he would review the ruling to make sure his signature on the law has not weakened the human rights in Afghanistan.

Quote of the Day

As a number of analysts have pointed out, including Marc Lynch and Sam Parker, there are two basic groups in Iraq: those that have power and those that by and large do not. (Lynch and Parker refer to these two groups as the Powers that Are and the Powers that Aren’t.) Power in this case is a large enough stake in the government to feel represented and effect change. Those that have this power--the Islamic Mission Party (Dawa), the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and its paramilitary, the Badr Corps, the Kurdish Parties, and the Sunni Parties-- all have one thing in common. They are really not all that concerned about Iraq as Iraq. ISCI and Badr are Iranian creations and their leadership, along with that of the Dawa Party, is composed of exiles that largely do not have an indigenous constituency and are widely recognized as Iranian proxies.

Adam L. Silverman