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 3, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, May 3, 2009

An explosives expert pins down a suicide bomber during his arrest in a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad May 1, 2009. Police said they averted a suicide attack inside a mosque in southern Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, when they detained a man who intended to detonate himself during Friday prayers. REUTERS/Iraqi Police/Handout I use this just because it's rather dramatic. It's a police photo but I'll assume it's legit.

Reported Security Incidents

Near Mosul

Iraqi soldier kills two U.S. soldiers at a combat outpost on Saturday evening, injures three. The attacker was then killed. A second gunman then fired at other U.S. troops, and escaped. According to Middle East Online, the attacker was named Hassan al-Dulaimi. Various reports say he was what we would call a military chaplain, although apparently that role also included bearing arms.


Car bomb injures three civilians. The bomb was located at the Sunni Endowment Funds Investment Authority, but exploded as a military vehicle was passing by. The army patrol is said to be unaffected.

Car bomb attack on an Iraqi army patrol injures three soldiers. (This does not appear to be the same incident reported above by VoI, unless one of them has the details radically wrong.)

Also, Booby trapped car explodes in a repair shop, killing 3.


Three katyusha rockets land near the U.S. consulate, causing minor damage to nearby buildings.


Two police injured by IED attack on their patrol.


Iraqi and U.S. forces arrest Mullah Nadhim Mahmud Khalil, Nadhim al-Jubouri, leader of the local Awakening Council, and his two brothers, on charges dating to the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-2007. Jubouri is accused of being an al Qaeda in Iraq leader responsible for the killing of Shiites in Dujail.

Unspecified location on the Iran-Kurdistan border

Iranian helicopters attack positions inside Iraqi Kurdistan. There is little further detail on the incident but the Kurdistan regional government has condemned the Iranian actions, while also calling on Kurdish militants to cease hostile activities. (The Kurdish militant group fighting Iran is called the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). We tend to hear more about the PKK, which is fighting Turkey. They are closely allied with each other.)


This incident apparently occurred on Wednesday but is just being reported today. "An effort by members of Parliament to prosecute what they say is a nest of corruption in the Trade Ministry led to a gun battle between ministry officials and Iraqi soldiers and the sudden disappearance of the trade minister and several senior ministry officials." The detailed report by NYT's Sam Dagher makes interesting reading.

Other News of the Day

Three men arrested in Arbil for attempting to sell a child's kidney. Evidently they already had the kidney and had brought it from Baghdad. No information on how they obtained it.

Officials kill the wild boars in the Baghdad zoo over swine flu fears. Now this is completely insane. The ridiculous hype and overreaction to this perfectly ordinary epidemic of influenza which causes perfectly ordinary disease is far more damaging than the disease itself. It has got to stop. BTW Iraq has zero reported cases of swine flu. -- C)

Two Airmen from Wyoming sue KBR Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC; and Halliburton, claiming open-air trash burning near bases in Iraq damaged their health. Apparently similar suits are being filed elsewhere in the U.S. "Waste burned in the pits included trucks, tires, latrine waste, asbestos insulation and "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles," according to the suit. It said that burning plastic emits dioxins, which cause cancer." Obviously, such trash incineration is illegal in the U.S. But who cares about the air quality in a country you are occupying?

Afghanistan and Pakistan update

Taliban in Swat, Pakistan, behead two government officials in revenge for killing of two Taliban by security forces earlier.

Taliban in North Waziristan kill an Afghan national who they accuse of being a U.S. spy.

Pakistani military claims to have killed 80 militants since launching a counteroffensive in Buner, says it has lost 3 dead and 8 wounded. Also claims to have killed 16 in Mohmand. Of course there is no way to judge the veracity of these claims, or how many of the dead were really combatants. -- C

A 12 year old girl, on her way to a wedding party with her family, is killed by NATO forces on the road to Herat. The troops in the area are from Spain and Italy.

Afghan troops claim to have killed 19 militants in Kunar.

14 Afghan Army personnel captured by Taliban in Kunar. (In this case, local Afghan officials confirm the claim, but the defense ministry denies it.)

Bicycle bomber in Girishk District, Helmand, kills 3, injures 8.

Afghan officials dispute a U.S. State Department report which claims Iran aids the Taliban. Indeed, that seems preposterous. The Taliban are Sunni radicals who believe the Shiite government of Iran is heretical and would murder any Ayatollah they encountered. It is sad that the State Department appears to be continuing to spew the Bush era propaganda line on the situation in Afghanistan -- C). Excerpt from report by Tamim Hamid for Quqnoos:

Officials in Afghan foreign office confirmed a better relation status between Kabul and Tehran, denying the charges, saying no evidence is on hand to prove that Iran backs the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Two days ago, the US State Department released the annual international terrorism report. Taliban insurgents are on the top of the statement, terming it a serious threat to the global security.

Iran is also accused for supplying and training the Taliban militants to fight the international troops in Afghanistan.

"We do not have any evidence, better not to blame the Islamic Republic of Iran for being involved in destructive activities inside Afghanistan,” Sultan Ahmad Behin, the spokesman for Foreign Ministry said.

Al-Qaeda is mentioned a major peril in the US report, but confirmed that Al-Qaeda leaders have been less involved in masterminding the recent insurgencies. Some experts said Al-Qaeda leaders were not in the leading position even in the Taliban era in Afghanistan.

“Even before September the 11th, Afghanistan was a country with less foreign relations," Wahid Mujhda, an Afghan political analyst said.

Quote of the Day

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don't know. And we don't care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That's why we don't know the figure. That's why we left Basra yesterday.

Robert Fisk