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 23, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, August 23, 2009

Residents of a house damaged in a bomb attack are seen in a yard that serves as their home after a massive truck bombing in front of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday that those who carried out bombings that targeted government buildings in the Iraqi capital received help to pull off the attacks, possibly from Iraqi security forces.
(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Reported Security Incidents


Gunmen attack a checkpoint in Adhamiya, killing 2 soldiers and injuring 1.

CNN also reports a roadside bomb injures 2 people in Saidiya, southeastern Baghdad.


Four Iraqi soldiers killed, 1 injured in car bomb explosion.

Policeman killed with silenced weapon at a checkpoint.

Unidentified body of a man in his 20s is found near near al-Khadraa neighborhood.


Two separate roadside bombs injure 11 police.

Zumar (near Mosul)

Two Iraqi soldiers killed, 1 injured in bomb attack.

Hamrin (near Khanaqin)

Three mortar shells kill 1 man, injure 2 people.

Ahsi village, near Fallujah

Three bodyguards injured in IED attack on Sheikh Taleb al-Hassanawi, a senior chieftain of the al-Bu Issa clans, who escapes unharmed.

Other News of the Day

Abdulaziz Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (the largest Shiite party) suffers a health crisis and is rushed to a Tehran hospital. Hakim has cancer and has been staying in Iran for treatment. His son has been running the party. At this point, his death or incapacitation will probably have little impact. -- C

As Ramadan begins amid continuing violence, PM Nuri al-Maliki makes his first public remarks since the massive bomb attacks on government buildings on Wednesday. Maliki assures Iraqis that the government will defeat terrorism, and that the perpetrators of Wednesday's attacks have been captured. However, Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari says the government is promoting a false sense of security and that the situation is deteriorating. He accuses elements of the government of collaborating with attackers. Excerpt from Khalid al-Ansary's summation:

Many ordinary Iraqis blame intra-Shi'ite rivalry ahead of the election, or lingering disputes between majority Shi'ites, once dominant Sunnis and minority Kurds, for the bomb blasts. Security experts cite nonchalance, disorganization and internal rivalries among the Iraqi military, intelligence and police forces as underlying causes for security lapses.

Maliki pledged to purge the police and army of those who were loyal to factions or parties rather than the country. He reiterated government accusations that al Qaeda and supporters of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party were responsible and said the culprits had been captured. He also repeated allegations that unnamed countries in the region were fomenting violence in Iraq.

It was difficult to ascertain how much credence to give to the reported detentions. Previous claims of major arrests have not been borne out and officials did not explain why the news was only released after two days and following stiff criticism.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Abbas discusses the deteriorating situation in Anbar. Excerpt:

Anbar, Iraq's largest province, is viewed by the U.S. military as a victory trophy because it was once lost to Sunni Islamist militants. After at least a year of relative quiet, the province has again been rocked by bombs in recent weeks. Sunnis under Saddam were the country's elite, but complain of being marginalised since his ouster in 2003. Iraq is now led by its Shi'ite majority, oppressed under Saddam's rule.

"We Sunnis are being sidelined. We're losing Kirkuk and can barely hold Mosul," said one Anbar police officer, referring to two Iraqi cities whose control Sunni Arabs fear they may lose to ethnic Kurds, now a powerful Iraqi group since Saddam's fall.

The officer, despite his official job and uniform, asked to be described as a member of Saddam's army. The Baath party was outlawed and Saddam's army dissolved soon after the U.S. invasion more than six years ago.

Trial of security officers accused of a deadly bank robbery on July 28 is disrupted by relatives of the victims. Talk about a rush to judgment. A capital trial takes place less than one month after the crime. -- C

U.S. agrees to give names of detainees in its secret prison system to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Just to clarify what we're talking about here:

Unlike the secret prisons run by the CIA that President Barack Obama ordered closed in January, the US military continues to operate the Special Operations camps, which it calls temporary screening sites, in Balad, Iraq, and Bagram, Afghanistan. As many as 30 to 40 foreign prisoners have been held at the camp in Iraq at any given time, military officials said; they did not provide an estimate for the Afghan camp but suggested that the number was smaller.

The ICRC is allowed access to almost all American military prisons and battlefield detention sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Special Operations camps have been excluded. . . .The New York Times reported in 2006 that some soldiers at the temporary detention site in Iraq, then located at Baghdad international airport and called Camp Nama, beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces, and used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball.

Blast walls in Baghdad start to go back up.

Afghanistan Update

Attack on German troops in Kunduz causes no casualties, according to Germany's Provincial Reconstruction Team.

John Swain of the Sunday Times finds Afghan election soaked in blood, marred by fraud. Excerpt:

Hamidullah lost his life trying to vote. Had he voted, his age would have been an insignificant fraud in an election that included the registration of thousands of phantom women voters by husbands or village elders, the widespread sale of voter registration cards and the coercion of voters by regional chiefs working for President Hamid Karzai or his primary rival Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister.

As Karzai claims victory, Abdullah claims the vote was rigged.

Rosie Dimanno agrees with Abdullah. Excerpt:

What the observers saw: Underage voters, illiterates being told who to mark their ballots for, monitors ejected from polling centres, men acting as proxy voters for women and, in at least one case, somebody hauling a pre-stuffed ballot box into a polling station.

After the big whew of a presidential election pulled off with minimal violence – the Taliban could not fatally sabotage the affair, as vowed – alarms are being raised about the skulduggery and bamboozling on election day.

And while insurgents did lob scores of rockets at polling stations, allegedly cut off the fingers of two voters in Kandahar province, ambushed election staff and forced a British Chinook helicopter to make an emergency landing in Helmand after its engine was set ablaze by enemy fire, little of the voting chicanery could be blamed on militants.

Ballot box bunco of a more prosaic variety is coming to light, with much of the flim-flam hung on local partisans and the regional agents of leading presidential candidates President Hamid Karzai's big political machine most frequently accused. He, of course, had the entire apparatus of the state at his beck and call, as rivals had complained throughout the campaign.

Quote of the Day

Perhaps it is one of those infamous paradoxes of counterinsurgency that while the ISF is not good in any objective sense, it is good enough for Iraq in 2009. Despite this foreboding disclaimer about an unstable future for Iraq, the United States has achieved our objectives in Iraq. Prime Minister (PM) Maliki hailed June 30th as a “great victory,” implying the victory was over the US. Leaving aside his childish chest pounding, he was more right than he knew. We too ought to declare victory and bring our combat forces home.

Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq.