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, November 15, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, November 15, 2009

D.C. Anti-War Network activist Jose J. Rodriguez takes part in a demonstration to oppose "American violations of international human rights" at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by U.S. military personnel, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in this February 9, 2005 file photo. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has filed a notice with the Supreme Court that will likely block the release of photos "depicting abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan by their U.S. Captors," according to a Politico report on November 14, 2009. Picture taken February 9, 2005. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Reported Security Incidents


IED attack on Iraqi army patrol in western Mosul injures 3 soldiers. All three have been transported to a hospital.

A child and five other civilians are injured by a bomb explosion. The VoI story says the child was playing with the device.

al-Saadiya, near Khanaqin

Two brothers injured by IED.


The Health Department says it has buried five bodies of unidentified men who were "terrorists." This rather mysterious announcement does not say how the men died or why they are presumed to be terrorists. Hmm.

al-Neda, Diyala Province

Roadside bomb attack on a minibus kills 1, injures 3. One of the wounded passengers is in critical condition.

Jedidat al-Shatt, near Baquba

Three police injured by a roadside bomb. The bomb also destroys several buildings. According to this Xinhua report, security forces also detained 13 suspects in Diyala during the day.

Other News of the Day

Iraqis accuse British soldiers of torture and abuse inspired by U.S. actions in Abu Ghraib prison. A huge scandal is erupting in the UK over multiplying allegations. There has been a great deal of reporting on this issue in the British press, but Robert Verkaik of The Independent appears to have first broken the new allegations made by attorney Phil Shiner on behalf of 33 complainants. Excerpt:

Disturbing graphic allegations of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers are among 33 new torture cases being investigated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The fresh claims include allegations that female and male soldiers sexually abused and humiliated detainees in camps in southern Iraq, prompting comparisons with the torture practices employed by US soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

In one case, British soldiers are accused of piling Iraqi prisoners on top of each other and subjecting them to electric shocks, an echo of the abuse at the notorious US detention centre that came to light in 2004.

Lawyers and human rights groups warned yesterday that the British Army may face hundreds of claims of sexual and physical abuse after it was revealed the MoD was investigating the 33 cases.

Meanwhile, a British mercenary accused of killing two of his colleagues is set to be tried under Iraqi law. His family is bidding to have him returned to the UK for trial. His trial in Iraq has been postponed due to the destruction of the Ministry of Justice building by a truck bomb.

A huge epidemic of birth defects and early childhood cancer in Fallujah appears to be a legacy of war. Clusters of infant tumors have also been noted in Basra and Najaf. (I note that neural tube defects are among the abnormalities noted. These actually may be attributable to maternal malnutrition. Not that that's any excuse. -- C) Martin Chulov of The Guardian reports. Excerpt:

Doctors in Iraq's war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The extraordinary rise in birth defects has crystallised over recent months as specialists working in Falluja's over-stretched health system have started compiling detailed clinical records of all babies born.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems - are unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

A group of Iraqi and British officials, including the former Iraqi minister for women's affairs, Dr Nawal Majeed a-Sammarai, and the British doctors David Halpin and Chris Burns-Cox, have petitioned the UN general assembly to ask that an independent committee fully investigate the defects and help clean up toxic materials left over decades of war – including the six years since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

AFP investigative report says Camp Bucca, where the U.S. held thousands of Iraqis, was a "breeding ground" for militants. Excerpt:

Iraq's Camp Bucca, the US-run jail where around 100,000 prisoners were kept over six years, was a breeding ground for the Al-Qaeda terror network, according to police and former inmates. Bucca, located in an isolated desert north of the border with Kuwait, was a school for scores of Takfiris, or Sunni extremists who usually ended up in Al-Qaeda, said Abu Mohammed, freed in 2008 after 26 months behind its bars.

"The illiterate and straight-forward people were the easiest prey for indoctrination," said the 32-year-old resident of Ramadi, the former insurgency stronghold 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Baghdad.


"The two suicide bombers and the majority of suspects detained after the twin bombings of August 19 against the foreign affairs and finance departments, which killed 95, were released shortly before from Camp Bucca," a senior interior ministry official told AFP.

"We reached the same conclusion for the double attack of October 25 which left 153 dead," the official said of the almost simultaneous blasts at the justice and public works ministries, after which 73 people were arrested.

Afghanistan Update

Two incidents in Nuristan leave Taliban and Afghan Army casualties. An attack on a NATO outpost is said to leave six attackers dead including a senior Taliban commander. Meanwhile three Afghan soldiers were killed and two injured in an attack on their camp.

French and Afghan troops launch an offensive in the Tagab valley just east of the capital, which is said to have been a base for attacks.

Helicopter of German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg comes under fire near Kunduz. There are no injuries.

Also in Kunduz, a roadside bomb injures two employees of a construction company.

Afghan MPs criticize Pakistan for its treatment of refugees from Afghanistan. Excerpt:

There are reports that some areas where Afghan refugees live have been destroyed by Pakistan Police and they have been warned to leave the country. “Even Afghans, who go by passports, face different kinds of treatment by the government of Pakistan.” Yonus Qanuni, speaker of Afghan parliament said.

“Afghans are illegally detained, they are taken hostage and are not allowed to walk freely, and they all are the violation of the protocol signed between two countries.” Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament said. Meanwhile, some other MPs say that Afghans face the same problems in many other countries.

Patrick Cockburn reports that it is customary for Afghan soldiers to rape boys. I kid you not. Excerpt:

There was a horrified reaction across Britain last week when a 25-year old policeman called Gulbuddin working in a police station in the Nad Ali district of Helmand killed five British soldiers when he opened fire with a machine gun on them. But the reason he did so, according to Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times, citing two Afghans who knew Gulbuddin, was that he had been brutally beaten, sodomised and sexually molested by a senior Afghan officer whom he regarded as being protected by the British.

The slaughter at Nad Ali is a microcosm of what is happening across Afghanistan. It is why Mr Fox is wrong and General Eikenberry is right about the dangers of committing more American or British troops regardless of the way Afghanistan is ruled. Nor are the events which led to the deaths of the young British soldiers out of the ordinary. Western military officials eager to show success in training the Afghan army and police have reportedly suppressed for years accounts from Canadian troops that the newly trained security forces are raping young boys.

and we'll just give Cockburn the last word here . . .

Quote of the Day

[O]ne reason Afghan villagers prefer to deal with the Taliban rather than the government security forces is that the latter have a habit of seizing their sons at checkpoints and sodomizing them.

Patrick Cockburn