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

Friday, July 3, 2009

News of the Day for Friday, July 3, 2009

An Iraqi shop owner surveys the damage in a popular market in the center of the northern city of Kirkuk, 225 kms from Baghdad. Bombings in the lead-up to the pullback of US forces from Iraq's towns and cities, resulted in the bloodiest death toll seen in the conflict-hit nation in 11 months, official figures showed Wednesday. (AFP/Marwan Ibrahim)

Reported Security Incidents


Body of a woman with bullet wounds to the head is retrieved from the Euphrates.

Reuters also reports three judges traveling together in a car wounded by gunfire Thursday evening.


Car bomb Thursday evening near al-Zab police station, south of the city, kills 2, injures 9.

Other News of the Day

For those who haven't seen it yet, on Wednesday attorneys representing Iraq families in a lawsuit against Blackwater (now called by the unpronounceable name Xe) filed amended allegations in federal court including:

  • the shooting of three Iraqi families in a mini-van that killed nine-year-old Akram Khalid Sa'ed Jasim and wounded his three-month-old sister, who was shot in the face, his mother, his father, and uncle in July 2007;

  • the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Suhad Shakir Fadhil as she was driving home from work in the so-called Green Zone in February 2007;

  • the shooting of Maulood Mohammed Shathir Husein, a 31-year-old married professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Baghdad in August 2005;

  • the fatal shooting of 65-year-old Khalis Kareem Ali Al Qaysi, who was killed while he was being driven in Baghdad in March 2005;

  • the severe beating of 35-year-old Iraqi photographer Safeen Hameed Ahmed Qadir in April 2008 as he took photographs at a Ford automobile branch in the Arbil province that was visited by a U.S. diplomat, and;

  • the shooting of Husam Hasan Jaber, who was driving three passengers in Baghdad in a taxi cab he owns and operates.

VP Joe Biden is stuck in Camp Victory due to sandstorms, so he's been meeting with U.S. officials. He plans to meet PM al-Maliki later today, and President Jalal Talabani tomorrow.

Democracy Now! interviews Iraqi reporter Sahar Issa, and American reporter Jeremy Scahill. Very brief excerpt from Issa's remarks:

At the same time that [Iraqis] are happy to gain control over their streets and cities, there is a doubt in their hearts whether the Iraqi security forces are actually adequate to the task that is in front of them in the coming days, weeks and months of keeping the peace and keeping the population secure. This is at the bottom of the doubt that you see, is—is the Iraqi force actually adequate to the task?—that the Iraqi force is infiltrated by many. The Iraqi force has been formed upon somewhat sectarian lines. The Iraqi force also, because of the administrative corruption, has many people who have brought in their relatives, their friends, their neighbors, people who are not professional. . . .

[I]f you look back a little bit, you will find that with the height of violence that only started coming down in the beginning of 2008, and while human life was at stake, violence was like a blanket, cutting off a cross-section of what is really happening inside the Iraqi government, because everything was so clouded, people were hurt, they couldn’t look further than their lot.

But when the violence ebbed after the beginning of 2008, people started picking up the reins of their lives, looking around to see what was going on. And they found, horrendously, that the government is totally riddled with corruption. It is totally built on tribal and sectarian bases, where people have their relatives in very sensitive places simply to make the profit. And the confidence in Iraqis that they had at first when they went to elect their government, they lost this confidence. They said, “Then what is the difference, if it is going to be tribal again? What is the difference between this government and the past, even if it is elected, if it is going to use the same lines?”

And that is, of course, part of the problem, is that it is not a matter of just putting the government out there. The problem is this government needs to gain the confidence of the people. It needs to give them something that they can hold onto. It needs to look at their very difficult lives. They didn’t have electricity when the—you know, outside this building, if I walk out now, it is so hot, toys will melt in cars. To just to give you an idea, toys will melt in cars. That is the heat. And people don’t have electricity. After six years, they don’t have water in their homes.

Afghanistan Update

Marine advance into Helmand Valley continues with little resistance. "Troops are moving through towns and villages to “separate the population from the insurgents,” [Capt. Bill] Pelletier said. They fought “light skirmishes” with gunmen who then fled, he added."

Meanwhile British troops continue to secure territory between Helmand Province capital Lashkar Gah and the city of Gereshk.

The Ministry of Defense announces that one of two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb on Thursday was Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe, 40, the commanding officer of the Welsh Guards. He is the highest ranking British officer killed in action since the Falklands war. This article also describes the more powerful bombs the Taliban have developed of late. "The devices have been packed with up to 350kg of homemade fertiliser, triggered by mines or shells salvaged from old arms dumps. They have become so large that on one occasion a 65 tonne Leopard 2 tank was blown onto its turret by one of the bombs."

Two female candidates for president complain that lack of security hinders their ability to campaign.

Quote of the Day

This troop movement should not be confused with a troop withdrawal from Iraq. In reality, this is a small step toward Iraqi sovereignty as Iraqi security forces begin assuming greater control over security operations, but it is a long way from independence and a withdrawal of the U.S. military presence.

-- Dennis Kucinich