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, July 12, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, July 12, 2009

Men carry the coffin of three year old Hussein Ali, who was killed a day before when a bomb exploded in the Kasra market in northern Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

UPDATE: Four U.S. Marines killed by bombs in Helmand. No further details given at this time. Separately, a U.S. "service member" injured in June is reported to have died of his injuries on Friday.

Reported Security Incidents


Bomb explodes in a billiard hall near Kahramana square; a second bomb explodes outside the building after police and paramedics respond. According to VoI, a total of 2 people are killed, 11 injured, including two police. The AP account says 4 were killed and 15 injured in the initial explosion, and 6 police injured in the second

AP also reports a sticky bomb in Southwest Baghdad kills a "junior cabinet official" and one other person.


Car bomb Saturday in Kokgli neighborhood kills four children and one adult, injures 52, and destroys 5 houses. This incident was reported too late to make it into Saturday's post. AP states that this is a predominantly Shiite village. However, DPA says the village was Shabak, and quotes Hanin al-Qadu, who represents the Shabak in parliament, as blaming Kurdish forces for the attack. I'm not going to get fancy here. To learn about the Shabak, go ahead and start with Wikipedia. -- C


Aziz Razqo Hanna, Director of the city's Financial Control Department is assassinated in front of his daughter. Other sources give his last name as Nisan. DPA emphasizes that he was a Christian, but that may or may not have been part of the motive. The principal fault line in Kirkuk is between Kurdish and Arab claims to the territory. -- C

Jurf Al-Sakhar

Brother of a "government backed militia leader" is assassinated. (Presumably Sahwa)

Other News of the Day

Five Iranians freed by the U.S. on Thursday return home. (They had been held for 30 months after U.S. forces arrested them in Arbil, Kurdistan, over the objections of Kurdish officials. The U.S. accused them of supporting insurgents, but the Iranians insist they are innocent diplomats. The reason for their release at this time, at least on the surface, appears to pertain to the new security agreement which required that detainees be returned to Iraqi control; it was the Iraqi government which released them. I figured it was easiest to give my own summary. -- C

Lieutenant-General Charles Jacoby Jr. says Iraqis have not requested assistance from U.S. in urban operations since the new security agreement took effect June 30. However, "Iraqi troops have asked, however, for assistance in pre- and post-combat operations, such as intelligence assistance from U.S. forces with much more sophisticated technology, a vast fleet of planes and helicopters, and logistics resources."

Anthony Shadid detects some undemocratic tendencies in Nuri al-Maliki. He is rather circumspect in his characterization -- "tenacity," "brash style," but let's let the facts speak for themselves, shall we? Excerpt:

Although Iraq’s parliamentary elections are not until January, the campaign has already begun, and Maliki has shown a determination to fight with a tenacity and ruthlessness borrowed from the handbook of Iraq’s last strongman, Saddam Hussein. From Diyala, where men under Maliki’s command have arrested and threatened to detain a host of his rivals, to Basra, where security forces have swept up scores of his opponents since January, the message is: cooperate or risk his wrath.

While Iraq’s sectarian war has largely ended, and the Sunnis feel they lost, another struggle for power, perhaps no less perilous, has begun in earnest. Maliki has resorted to a more traditional notion of politics in which violence is simply another form of leverage.


Maliki’s ascent has become a familiar narrative in Iraq. In 2006, a reputation for weakness helped secure him the post. Opponents deemed him malleable. Since then, he has concentrated power in the hands of what critics call “the impenetrable circle’’ and taken command of military units that delivered him and his Dawa party what they had lacked since 2003: men with guns.

Afghanistan Update

Afghan Interior Ministry says U.S.-British campaign in Helmand has killed "150 to 200 enemy fighters," according to AFP. Weirdly, Xinhua quotes the same spokesman giving the body count as 70.

In more concrete information, five police killed by a roadside bomb in Logar province, while Afghan and NATO forces are said to have killed 12 militants in a coordinated assault in Uruzgan province.

A bombing at Hamid Karzai's campaign office in Panjshir province causes no casualties.

U.S. forces said to have a retired former head of the traffic department in Logar province, who according to the Governor, had no connection with any militant or illegal activity.

Obama comments to UK's Sky News on the Afghan situation during his visit to Ghana. Excerpt:

Obama said he wanted a new push after the election to train Afghanistan’s army and police so Afghans could take greater responsibility for controlling their own security. “I think we need to start directing our attention to how do we create an Afghan army, an Afghan police, how do we work with the Pakistanis effectively, so that they are the ones who are really at the forefront at controlling their own countries.

“All of us are going to have to do an evaluation after the Afghan election to see what more we can do. It may not be on the military side, it might be on the development side providing Afghan farmers alternatives to poppy crops, making sure that we are effectively training a judiciary system and a rule of law in Afghanistan that people trust.”

Quote of the Day

"[Robert] McNamara must not escape the lasting moral condemnation of his countrymen," editorialized The New York Times in 1995. "Surely he must in every quiet and prosperous moment hear the ceaseless whispers of those poor boys in the infantry, dying in the tall grass, platoon by platoon, for no purpose. What he took from them cannot be repaid by prime-time apology and stale tears, three decades late."

McNamara's change of heart came 58,000 American and 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives too late. If the dead could speak, surely they would ask: why couldn't you see then what you understand so clearly now? Why didn't you listen to the millions of experts, journalists and ordinary Americans who knew that death and defeat would be the only outcome? . . . McNamara is dead. Barack Obama is his successor.

Ted Rall