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, June 21, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, June 21, 2009

People sit in the rubble of destroyed homes after a truck bombing near Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 21, 2009. The truck bombing struck on Saturday near a Shiite mosque following prayers, police said, making it the deadliest blast in nearly two months. (AP Photo/Emad Matti) Yes, the usual gruesome photos are available but I found this one more eloquent. -- C

Reported Security Incidents

Update on Taza Bombing

Death toll from Saturday's truck bombing is now given as 80, with 211 injured and 50 buildings destroyed. AP's Kim Gamel has some additional details. Al Jazeera has eyewitness accounts and reaction from the Turkmen front. (In case you didn't know, Taza is a predominantly Turkmen town and this is widely seen as an attack on the Turkmen ethnic group more so than the Shiite sect.)


Two police officers gunned down in al-Jamea, western Baghdad.

AFP reports four police killed in a similar incident late Saturday, in the same neighborhood. "All (four) were killed by insurgents carrying silencer pistols who passed nearby, opened fire, and fled immediately," a police source told AFP of Saturday's incident.


IED attack near the provincial building kills one, injures three, including a police officer.

Saturday evening, two police injured by a car bomb.

Gunmen kill a police man.

Two Iraqi civilians injured in collision with U.S. military vehicle. No further details available.


Commander of Sahwa forces survives assassination attempt that kills 3 of his guards, injures 4 civilians late Saturday.

Other News of the Day

The bodies of two British citizens who were among 5 abducted in Baghdad in May, 2007 have been identified but their identities have not yet been made public. They are believed to be two of the body guards of computer programmer Peter Moore. The circumstances under which the bodies were returned are unclear. Excerpt from The Guardian's Baghdad correspondent:

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government moved to distance itself from the handing over of the bodies, which the foreign secretary, David Miliband,yesterday said had been facilitated by Iraqi officials. Ali al-Dabbagh, an Iraqi government spokesman, said: "We are not a participant in these negotiations, but we knew there has been indirect contact to learn the fate of these hostages. "I deny what David Milliband said about the Iraqi government handing over the bodies of the hostages."

Throughout two years of largely secret talks, British, US and Iraqi officials have denied directly negotiating with the hostage takers, a group of Shia Islamist extremists who aim to exchange prisoners. The five contractors were seized by about 40 armed men, wearing police uniforms, at the Iraqi finance ministry.

Meanwhile, belatedly, Tony Blair is beginning to face demands for accountability. Sam Coates of Times Online gives an update on the pending Iraq war inquiry. (Might be kind of nice to have one of those in the U.S., no? Remember the "Downing St. Memo"? Oh yeah, we've forgotten all about that. -- C):

Tony Blair tried to stop the Iraq war inquiry being held in public as new evidence emerged suggesting he knew Saddam Hussein may not have weapons of mass destruction.

The former Prime Minister lobbied Sir Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, fearing a public appearance at the inquiry, headed by Sir John Chilcott, could turn into a “show trial”.

The move appears to have backfired this weekend, as it emerges that part of the inquiry will now be heard in public and Mr Blair is the focus of calls to appear.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said this morning that the former Prime Minister cannot appear before closed doors and must speak under oath. Otherwise “people (will) feel this is just a grand cover-up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since Suez”. . . .

A memo dated January 31, 2003, by Sir David Manning, then Mr Blair’s policy adviser, outlines how President Bush told Mr Blair he had decided on a start date for the war - almost two months before the invasion. Paraphrasing the President’s comments at the meeting, Sir David noted: “The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for March 10. This was when the bombing would begin.” . . . In public at this time, Mr Blair was justifying plans for an invasion on the grounds that Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction.

A strangely anonymous Reuters reporter does a "man on the street" story about popular reaction to the upcoming U.S. withdrawal to bases. A few tidbits:

Iraqi taxi driver Haitham Nief is looking forward to the partial pull out of US combat troops this month from the northern city of Mosul and elsewhere. . . . "Anyone who wants to fight them can go there and attack their bases without harming civilians," he said. . . .

Six years after US soldiers invaded to topple Saddam Hussein, 28-year-old Iraqi market porter Ahmed Salih just wants them to go home. "Life here is dead because of their presence," he said, gesturing around him at the once busy Dawasa market, the scene of many explosions and shootings in Mosul. "We are full of desperation. . . no jobs, no income, just because of them." . . . .

At the Baghdad Hotel, a forest of barbed wire blocks the front gate. Travel agencies and other hotel shops nearby are crumbling, their windows boarded, letters falling off signs. "We're very happy. This hotel has a great history, but it was strangled by US roadblocks. The Americans were staying in rooms near the hotel, and no one could come in except the staff," said hotel manager Amir Hussein Salman. "You couldn't speak or reason with the Americans."

Afghanistan Update

Rocket attack on Bagram Air Base kills 2 U.S. military personnel, injures 6 other Americans including 2 civilians. Three rockets are reported to have landed inside the perimeter, one outside. A Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.

British soldier killed in Helmand.

Eight civilians killed, 13 wounded, in roadside bomb attack in Zabul.

Afghan government claims poppy crop has been entirely eradicated in Herat, but local residents beg to differ.

NY Times reporter David Rohde and Afghan reporter Tahir Ludin, captured by Taliban in November near Kabul along with their driver, escape from captivity in North Waziristan. Media have cooperated to keep news of the abduction from the public until now in order to protect the captives. The driver, Asadullah Mangal, apparently remains in captivity. Further information on the men's ordeal has not yet been released.

Quote of the Day

We have nearly 10,000 agents, including women and all the different religions and ethnicities, and we play a major role in the stabilisation and improvement of the security situation in the country. But our biggest obstacle is that parliament has still not adopted a government bill legalising our existence and, therefore, we do not have a budget. We are under the supervision of the cabinet.

-- General Talib al-Kenani, Director of Iraq's Counter-Terrorist Agency. This is somewhat arcane but the point is, the agency is controlled directly by Nuri al-Maliki.