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, August 2, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, August 2, 2009

In this photo released by the Iraq Prime Minister's Office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, right, shakes hands with Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani at the Dokan resort west of Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Aug 2, 2009. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is visiting the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq for talks with Kurdish leaders over a range of issues that have long poisoned relations, like control of oil and territory.
(AP Photo/Iraq Prime Minister's Office, HO)

Update: This is really too much:

Baghdad police said yesterday that the gang of armed men who pulled off the city’s biggest bank robbery since the US-led invasion was made up of presidential security guards.

They killed eight bank staff last week and used dynamite to blast open the vault of the Rafidain Bank in the wealthy district of Karrada, making off with £4.3 million. On the run, the men passed through five official checkpoints and defied a night-time curfew in southern Baghdad without being challenged.

No wonder — their day job was to protect the Vice-President, Adel Abdul Mehdi, the highest-ranking Shia official in the country after the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. No street cop dared to stop them. The men later stashed their loot in offices belonging to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the second-largest Shia party, ISCI, and a close ally of the Vice-President.

Reported Security Incidents


Bomb explosion near a liquor store in Dora leaves no casualties.


Car bombing in a market place kills 7, injures 20. Four of the injured are in critical condition.

Camp ECHO, near Diwaniya

Two Katyushas land "in the environs" of the camp, in the second such attack in 24 hours. No word on damage or casualties.


Bomb blast in a sheep market injures 10 people, kills "a large number" of sheep. Earlier in the day, a bomb at the offices of the Islah party caused no casualties.

al-Asakra and al-Asriya villages, near Khanaquin

Iraqi forces detain six "suspects". Although no further information is given, the location suggests that these may be Kurdish militants or activists. -- C

Other News of the Day

PM Nuri al-Maliki visits Kurdistan -- notably, for the first time. He will meet with Kurdistan president Massud Barzani, joined by Iraq president Jalal Talibani, to discuss disputes between Kurdistan and Arab-ruled Iraq over territory and oil rights. This al-Arabiya article suggests that the meeting is at least partially in response to pressure from the U.S. to pursue negotiations. -- C

U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology identifies remains found in a desert grave in Anbar as those of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, shot down during the first Gulf War in 1991. Speicher had been found dead at the crash site by local Bedouins who buried his remains. For those of you who don't remember, the insinuation that Speicher was being held captive by Saddam Hussein was used by the Bush administration to add a bit of weight to the clamor for war. -- C

Three U.S. tourists hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan have been detained by Iranian authorities after apparently accidentally crossing the border into Iran. Their hotelier had warned them not to go to the area because it was too close to the border.

AP's Chelsea Carter notes that the Coalition of the Willing now consists of the United States and nobody. Excerpt:

At its height, the coalition numbered about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries— 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians. But most of the United States' traditional European allies, those who supported actions in Afghanistan and the previous Iraq war, sat it out.

It effectively ended this week with Friday's departure of Australian troops and the expiration of the mandate for the tiny remaining British contingent after Iraq's parliament adjourned without agreeing to allow the troops to stay to protect southern oil ports and train Iraqi troops.

Anthony Shadid discusses the Prime Ministership of Nuri al-Maliki. He maintains that Maliki, chosen originally as a compromise candidate because he was perceived as weak, has been trying to establish himself as a dominant political figure, but Shadid sees his position as fragile and his often authoritarian tactics as alienating to other factions.

Afghanistan update

Three U.S. troops killed in an assault on their convoy in eastern Afghanistan, but the military is releasing no further information, including the location of the attack.

Two ISAF soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan, their nationality has not been announced.

On Saturday, three U.S. soldiers were killed by a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan, and a French soldier died in fighting north of Kabul.

A leaked memo from the British Ministry of Defense asserts that many of Britain's combat troops are too fat to fight effectively. Shameless self-promotion department: I have been discussing the problem of obesity on my own blog, from a public health perspective. -- C Excerpt:

The Army needs to "reinvigorate a warrior ethos and a culture of being fit", according to the leaked memo apparently sent to all Army units and obtained by the Observer newspaper. The memo from Major Brian Dupree, of the Army physical training corps in Wiltshire, said basic fitness policy "is not being carried out". Units were routinely failing to fulfil the Army's basic fitness regime of two hours of physical exercise a week, he added.

The memo leaked to the paper said: "The numbers of personnel unable to deploy and concerns about obesity throughout the Army are clearly linked to current attitudes towards physical training." There are 3,860 Army personnel classified as PUD - personnel unable to deploy - with a further 8,190 regarded as being of "limited deployability" for medical reasons, it was reported.

Major Dupree added: "The current Army fitness policy states that to be fit to fight requires a minimum of two to three hours of physical activity per week. It is clear that even this most basic policy is not being implemented.

Afghan government warns against any violent post-election protests.

Quote of the Day

U.S. intelligence agencies have obtained new information indicating Iraq is holding captive a U.S. Navy pilot shot down during the Persian Gulf war, The Washington Times has learned. British intelligence provided the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with the new information several months ago, and intelligence officials said it could assist in the ongoing investigation into the fate of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher.

Cmdr. Speicher was declared killed in action in 1991 after his F-18 Hornet was shot down over Iraq. But last year he was re-classified as "missing in action" by the Pentagon, based on information from an Iraqi defector. According to U.S. intelligence officials, the British intelligence information was based on an additional intelligence source; someone who had been in Iraq and said he had learned that an American pilot is being held captive in Baghdad.

The British report stated further that only two Iraqis were permitted to see the captive American pilot: the chief of Iraq's intelligence service, and Uday Hussein, son of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The new intelligence has led some Pentagon officials to believe Iraq is holding Cmdr. Speicher prisoner. One U.S. official said the new agent offered to identify the exact location in Baghdad where the American is being held and also offered to obtain a photograph of the prisoner.

A defense official said the new information is not related to an earlier report from an Iranian pilot who was repatriated recently to Iran and said that he had seen an American held prisoner in Iraq. "That was checked out, and the intelligence community didn't find anything about it," the defense official said. . . .

President Bush has been briefed on the new intelligence on Cmdr. Speicher and the likelihood of an American POW in Baghdad is being factored into U.S. policy toward future operations against Iraq, the officials said.

Bill Gertz, the Washington Times, March 11, 2002

Lest we forget -- the final lie debunked. -- C