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, May 17, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, May 17, 2009

raqi men pray over the body of a little boy killed in a rocket attack in Baghdad on May 16. An Iraqi toddler and four policemen were killed in the latest violence to rock Baghdad on Saturday as the US military captured three men suspected of links with a Syria-based Al-Qaeda leader. (AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

Note: Today's post will include some news from yesterday, May 16

Reported Security Incidents for May 16

A Multi-National Division- South Soldier was killed in action today [Saturday, May 16] in southern Iraq. Note: This is unusual, the Basra area has not seen attacks on occupation forces recently.

Reuters Factbox for May 16 includes the following highlights. They have tended to give very incomplete reports recently but fortunately for me, this one is more thorough:

JALAWLA - U.S. troops shot and wounded a bystander when they fired a warning shot at an approaching car in Jalawla, 115 km (70 miles) northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

MOSUL - A roadside bomb killed one soldier and wounded two people in southern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded three others in the Ghadir district of eastern Baghdad, police said.

ABU GHRAIB - A roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded seven people, including two policemen, in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, police said.

SAMARRA - Militants attacked a checkpoint in central Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, wounding two policemen and one member of a local government-backed militia, police said.

SADR CITY - A rocket attack killed a child and wounded three members of the child's family in the Sadr city area of northeastern Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Police arrested three suspects in the kidnapping of a relative of Essam Ayid, an Arab member of the Nineveh provincial council. Ayid's relative was kidnapped on Thursday in western Mosul.

VoI reports that U.S. forces shot and wounded a farmer in Hilla. The U.S. military later issued a statement that the man had failed to obey their instructions. Since Hilla is not Jalawla (they aren't even in the same province), I'm assuming this is not the same incident reported by Reuters, but you never know.

Tal al-Hawa, near Mosul

U.S. and Iraqi forces arrest three people said to be associates of Abu Khalaf, described as a facilitator of smuggling militants and arms from Syria.

Reported Security Incidents for May 17

Mahaweel, near Hilla

U.S. troops opened fire on a Caprice vehicle carrying al-Qadissiya university professor Abdulhussein Abbas,leaving him wounded. No explanation for the incident is given. This seems to be a trend ... --C


Gunmen kill an off-duty prison guard.

Police find the decapitated body of a man.

Car bomb attack on a police patrol kills one officer, wounds 2, also injures 2 bystanders. Xinhua also reports a second officer killed by gunfire elsewhere in the city.


Iraqi security forces arrest 35 people in a sweep. Note: VoI has reported smaller numbers of arrests around the country today in Missan province, Diala, Basra, and Kirkuk. I think this probably reflects fairly routine activity but the government decided to issue a lot of press releases. The VoI security index page is here.

Other News of the Day

Iraqi forces arrest two police officers accused of being leaders of the Islamic Army of Iraq, a Sunni militant group accused of attacks on security forces and abductions of foreigners.

McClatchy's Corinne Reilly reports on the deterioration of Iraq's health care system. Excerpt:

Stories of missing drugs, of desperately ill-equipped doctors and of patients left to suffer the consequences are everywhere in Iraq's public health care system. Some hospitals are filthy and infested with bugs. Others are practically falling down. More and more, the blame is being placed on Iraq's U.S.-backed government, which by many accounts is infested with corruption and incompetence.

There's no doubt that years of economic sanctions, followed by years of war, have taken a heavy toll on all public services in Iraq. However, with violence down and some tentative sense of normalcy returning, improvements in health care should be coming far faster than they are, according to doctors, patients, aid organizations and some public officials.

They fault widespread problems at all levels of Iraq's government, and the examples they cite are troubling. Health ministry workers routinely siphon drugs from hospital orders to make extra cash on the black market. Bribery is rampant. Millions of dollars meant for clinics and equipment have gone missing. Millions more have been wasted on government contracts to buy expired medicines. The health ministry's inspector general openly admits the problems. Even so, the culprits are rarely punished.

Abdulaziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, has returned to Iran for cancer treatment. Iranian president Ahmadinejad is said to have visited him in the hospital. It's no mystery why he isn't being treated in Iraq -- see above.

After a long legal struggle, 9 Iraqis who were abused by British troops have been awarded more than £100,000 each. In the 2003 incident, "The young men were forced to simulate sex acts on each other, and one was hoisted into the air with a forklift truck."

According to WaPo's Ernesto LondoƱo, Sadr City resident fear renewed sectarian violence when U.S. forces withdraw. I'm never sure how much to make of this sort of "random quotation" journalism. You find a person here and a person there to say something, so it must be true. I am certainly convinced that the Iraqi security forces are riddled with corruption and sectarianism. I'm not sure how things will play out, but I suspect that Sadr City residents are probably not among those who should have the biggest worries at this point. -- C

Afghanistan Update

Six Afghan police killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Helmand. Also, IED attack in Zabul kills an Afghan soldier and injures 2.

Five police killed in a separate incident in Nimroz.

Four "contractors" from the Security Firm Formerly Known as Blackwater are held for investigation after they killed an Afghan man following a car crash. The men were apparently off duty at the time. The incident occurred on May 5.

2,500 fresh U.S. troops arrive in Kandahar.

Quote of the Day

If people in the Middle East would get so angry at seeing some more photographs depicting sex abuse of prisoners at the hands of U.S. personnel that U.S. national security would be threatened, as Obama and the Pentagon are now claiming, doesn’t it stand to reason that they’d get just as angry, if not more so, over the much worse things that the U.S. government was doing in the Middle East prior to 9/11? And doesn’t that imply that the “they hate us for our freedom and values” line was bogus from the get-go?

Jacob G. Hornberger