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 31, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, May 31, 2009

A worker adjusts a valve of an oil pipe at Taq Taq oil field in Arbil, 310 km (190 miles) north of Baghdad May 30, 2009. The oil companies developing Taq Taq oil field in Iraq's northern Kurdish region expect to boost current production of 40,000 barrels per day to 60,000 bpd by November, officials from one of the companies said on Saturday. Picture taken May 30, 2009. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari (IRAQ CONFLICT ENERGY BUSINESS) Kurdistan plans to begin exporting this oil on Monday, much to the displeasure of the central Iraqi government. See below. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


IED attack on an Iraqi army patrol kills an officer and a soldier, injures a civilian.

Three bystanders wounded in IED attack on an Iraqi army patrol on Saturday. I believe this was reported too late to make it into Whisker's post.


A man is injured by a land mine. Aswat al-Iraq notes "There are a large number of landmine fields to the west and east of Basra left from previous wars in Iraq. The victims are mostly civilians, particularly women and children who shepherd in these areas and also search among the scraps for copper and aluminum to sell in order to eke out a living." (I haven't found any information that an effort is being made to clean up this problem. - C)


IED attack on a police patrol kills 4 police officers, injures 2.

Thi Qar

Security forces defuse a bomb placed on the railway. The device consisted of an unstated number of 60 caliber mortar shells.

Near Baquba

A six year old child is shot dead by unknown assailants near his house on Saturday. Police believe the motive may be that his father is an Awakening Council member.


Four Iraqi soldiers injured by roadside bomb.

Other News of the Day

Former Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani, wanted on corruption charges, is arrested after trying to flee the country. He was aboard a flight to Dubai when police realized he was on it and ordered the pilot to return to Baghdad. Among other crimes, Sudani is charged with having supplied spoiled food rations to poor Iraqis.

Iraqi Kurdistan to begin oil exports on Monday despite objections from the central government. This is, obviously, not a positive development for those hoping for a unified Iraq. Excerpt from the DPA story:

The government in Baghdad has repeatedly said it does not recognise the legitimacy of the Kurdish export contracts.

'Iraq's oil ministry considers the contracts signed by the Kurdish government with the international oil companies illegitimate and illegal,' Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told Iraqi state television two weeks ago.

[Taqtaq oil company official Mohammed] Okotan said the oil fields at Taqtaq produce about 50,000 barrels of oil per day, 10,000 of which go to the local market. The other 40,000 will travel by tanker truck to Kirkuk, and from there to Ceyhan, Turkey, via pipeline.

WaPo's Anthony Shadid discusses the impact of the U.S. occupation on Iraqi culture. This is often quite droll -- C Excerpt:

All occupations eventually end. When this one does, history's narratives will be shaped by the cacophony it wrought — the carnage unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion that threatened Iraq's notion of itself as a country and that will haunt generations to come.

But the whispers may linger just as long — the far quieter way in which two cultures that often found it difficult to share the same space intersected to reshape Iraq's language, culture and sensibility. From tattoos of Metallica to bellybutton piercings, from posters for a rap concert in Baghdad to stories parents tell their naughty children in Fallujah of the Americans coming to get them, the occupation has already left its mark.

There is the bellicose language of the checkpoint: "Go" and "Stop" (often rendered as "stob" in a language with no "p"), along with a string of American expletives that Iraqi children imitate with zeal. In parks along the Tigris River, they play "tafteesh," Arabic for inspection. Iraqi troops, sometimes indistinguishable from their U.S. counterparts, don the sunglasses considered effeminate in the time of Saddam Hussein.

Afghanistan Update

Taliban attack a paramilitary camp near the Afghanistan border in South Waziristan, Pakistan. Pakistani army claims 40 Taliban and 4 government forces were killed in the fighting.

According to an AP report, Afghan and NATO forces claim to have killed 18 Taliban Khaki Safed, Farah, though sources give varying numbers. Also, 4 Afghan police killed elsewhere in Farah in an attack on a checkpoint. Quqnoos in particular gives differing casualty numbers for these incidents, 12 militants killed in the first one, 6 (not 4) police killed in the second.

Leaders of parties representing Hazara and Uzbek ethnic groups say they will back Karzai for re-election.

Two British soldiers killed in Helmand on Saturday in a bomb attack, details not disclosed.

Quote of the Day

In April 2003, North Korea drew the obvious conclusion from the US and British aggression against Iraq. The war showed, it commented at the time, "that to allow disarmament through inspections does not help avert a war, but rather sparks it". Only "a tremendous military deterrent force", it stated with unavoidable logic, could prevent attacks on states the world's only superpower was determined to bring to heel.

The lesson could not be clearer. Of Bush's "axis" states, Iraq, which had no weapons of mass destruction, was invaded and occupied; North Korea, which already had some nuclear capacity, was left untouched and is most unlikely to be attacked in future; while Iran, which has yet to develop a nuclear capability, is still threatened with aggression by both the US and Israel.

Seumas Milne