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 19, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mainly Iraqi Shiite Muslim pilgrims gather at the Imam Musa al-Kadhim Mosque in the Kadhimiya district of northern Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims thronged a Baghdad shrine on Saturday to commemorate a Shiite saint in a key test for Iraq's security forces less than three weeks after the US military withdrew from cities across the country.
(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye) The violence associated with the event this year was less than in recent years; Iraqi forces are claiming this as a success. See below. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


Three civilians injured, several stores damaged in bomb explosion in Abu Ghraib.

In a separate explosion in Abu Ghraib, a bomb planted near a police checkpoint kills an Iraqi soldier and injures a second soldier and two police.


Gunmen assassinate a civilian amputee in front of his house. The man had no arms. No motive is given. One suspects he was a veteran of some sort of combat, or had survived an earlier attack. But as he is as yet unidentified the story is mysterious. - C

Man throws a grenade at Iraqi soldiers accompanying a U.S. patrol. U.S. forces open fire and wound him, he is taken into custody.


A group of masked gunmen kill a civilian, later injure a police officer who pursued them.

al-Mada'in, south of Baghdad

Sahwa leader Mahmoud al-Jabalawi is killed by a roadside bomb.

Other News of the Day

Ninevah Operations Command imposes a curfew on the "left coast" of Mosul Saturday through mid-day Sunday. This is how VoI is describing the eastern part of the city. The Tigris flows through Mosul. The specific reason for the action was not announced publicly.

On the occasion of the murder of Sahwa leader Mahmoud al_Jabalawi (see above), Sunni Parliamentarian Amr al-Hijal accuses the Shiite-led government of failing to protect them, calls national reconciliation an "empty slogan."

Iraqi authorities arrest a man who they say has confessed to Saturday's mortar attack on U.S. base in Basra. (It's amazing how quickly they always seem to confess in Iraqi custody. - C) The Iraqis say he belongs to an Iranian-backed militia.

Kurds, Arabs argue over the presence of Peshmerga forces in Mosul. Could this have something to do with the curfew? Just speculation. Excerpt:

Kurdish Peshmerga militias have the right to remain in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, an Iraqi Kurdish general on Sunday said in defiance of the Arab nationalist governor there. General Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government's Ministry of Peshmergas, said Governor Athil al-Najifi had overstepped his authority when he recently promised to eliminate Peshmerga paramilitary fighters from Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital.

'Al-Najifi's recent statements reflect his personal views, and possibly the opinion of his political bloc, but do not necessarily reflect the position of the constitutional authorities of the federal government in Iraq or its laws. His statements are unenforceable,' Yawar told the German Press Agency dpa.

'The Kurds have no doubt that the situation in Mosul ... has changed,' al-Najifi told dpa a week before US soldiers' withdrawal from Iraqi cities last month. 'They will come to grips with the changed situation. 'I expect that the Kurds will withdraw from the city and there will be a single security force in the city, with not a single Kurd or Peshmerga in it,' he said.

AP's Deb Riechmann and Bushra Juhi discuss the ongoing scandal over mistreatment of prisoners by the Iraqi authorities. Excerpt:

Iraqi officials outraged by the abuse of prisoners at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison are trying to contain a scandal of their own as allegations continue to surface of mistreatment inside Iraqi jails.

Accounts of Iraqis being beaten with clubs, blindfolded and coerced into signing false confessions are attracting increased attention partly because the United States is getting out of the prison business in Iraq. The U.S. has transferred 841 detainees into Iraq's crowded prison system, and more are on the way.

Allegations of mistreatment have persisted since 2005, when U.S. troops raided an Interior Ministry lockup in a predominantly Shiite area of southeastern Baghdad and found scores of emaciated prisoners. The matter returned to the spotlight after the June 12 assassination of Sunni lawmaker Harith al-Obeidi, an outspoken advocate of prisoner rights.

The issue is a test of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment to the rule of law and to reconcile with the Sunni minority, who account for most of the prisoners held in security cases. Sunnis say they are being unfairly singled out by security forces run by al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government.

There is no shortage of antiques in Iraq, but no-one is buying:

"The story of Iraq is here if you care to look closely," Abdul-Kareem Yahya, a 51-year-old father of five, said from behind a desk at his downtown antique shop. Behind him sat Ottoman-era swords, engraved silver trays and a tea set bearing the image of Iraq's last king. . . . Yahya said the lack of business for antique shops reflects Iraq's isolation from the rest of the world and the still tenuous security situation. While he and other dealers say the pullout of U.S. soldiers from Baghdad last week under an agreement with Iraq's government removes one magnet for insurgent attacks, they concede they're not soon likely to see a rush of tourists to buy their wares.

Iraqi forces claim success as only 3 people are killed and 30 injured in violence during the annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Moussa Al-Kadhim. BBC's Gabriel Gateouse writes "In most countries this would be considered a tragedy. In Iraq, it is counted as a success." Security measures included a partial curfew and multiple cordons of security forces around the area.

Afghanistan Update

Sixteen civilians are killed, others injured in a helicopter crash on takeoff from NATO base at Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. No further details are available as of 8:26 am ET.

Suicide bomber kills 2, injures others (the story is written in a confusing way, total casualties are unclear) in Torkham, Nangarhar province. According to another source, total injured was 7.

Australians identify a soldier killed on Saturday morning in an explosion in the Baluchi Valley as Private Benjamin Renaudo, 22 years old.

Quote of the Day

The Anti-War Movement in America, Canada, and Britain has virtually become a non-entity. . . . Thus President Obama had no one to oppose him when he decided to send more troops into Afghanistan. He did this to make his first term as “successful” as that of his predecessors, assuming that the time-tested American definition of success still holds good: America must be engaged in a war to be successful.

Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal