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 29, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, November 29, 2009

British soldiers search Iraqis on the outskirts of Basra in 2003. Britain was told days before invading Iraq that its weapons of mass destruction may have been unusable, a top official told a public inquiry Wednesday, adding the overall intelligence picture was patchy. (AFP/File/Odd Andersen)

Reported Security Incidents


Baghdad city council member Waddah Saadi Saleh al-Obeidi is murdered in a drive-by shooting in al-Ghazaliya.

Near Baquba

Sahwa council member killed, 2 injured -- 1 critically -- in bomb attack on a checkpoint at al-Ghalbiyah town, 16 km northwest of the provincial capital.

One civilian killed, one injured, by roadside bomb near Saif Sa'ad villages, 27 km northwest of the provincial capital.

Other News of the Day

Judges in Mosul live under constant threat of death, reports Deepa Babington of Reuters. Excerpt:

"I know that at any time I can get killed," said the 60-year-old [judge], as he sat behind a wooden desk in his courthouse office and rattled off names of fellow judges who had been killed. He declined to be identified for fear of retribution. "All the judges here get threats. They call me on the phone or send me notes saying, 'If you don't release this person, then we'll kill you or put a bomb in front of your house'."

In the past month alone, there have been at least four attacks on judges in or around Mosul, said an official from the U.S. provincial reconstruction team, which works with judges. . . .

Keen to ensure Iraq's fragile judicial system does not come off the rails, U.S. officials are training local Iraqis to serve as bodyguards for judges. But a basic training exercise outside a Mosul courthouse showed how steep the learning curve is. Four would-be bodyguards surrounded their judge and waved AK-47s about with stern expressions, but recklessly ran over a sandbag and tin bottle -- dummies for roadside bombs. . . . One trainee, Ahmed, 25, had foreseen an even bigger problem.

"We're not allowed to carry any guns," he said, complaining that as civilian bodyguards they had no authorization to carry weapons and that the AK-47s on display were just on loan. "How can we protect anyone without any guns? They'll shoot us at checkpoints if we carry weapons."

The UK is having the inquiry into the Iraq war that the U.S. is apparently never going to have, because we're "looking forward." However, since Blair and Bush were joined at the hip on the Iraq war conspiracy, the UK inquiry is telling us most of what we need to know. Not that the congress or the corporate media are paying any attention. -- C Here's the latest, as reported by Simon Walters of The Mail:

An explosive secret letter that exposes how Tony Blair lied over the legality of the Iraq War can be revealed. The Chilcot Inquiry into the war will interrogate the former Prime Minister over the devastating 'smoking gun' memo, which warned him in the starkest terms the war was illegal.

The Mail on Sunday can disclose that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wrote the letter to Mr Blair in July 2002 - a full eight months before the war - telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law. It was intended to make Mr Blair call off the invasion, but he ignored it. Instead, a panicking Mr Blair issued instructions to gag Lord Goldsmith, banned him from attending Cabinet meetings and ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out.

He even concealed the bombshell information from his own Cabinet, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt. The only people he told were a handful of cronies who were sworn to secrecy.

AP's Pamela Hess reviews the case of Michael Speicher, shot down in the first Gulf War, abandoned by George HW Bush and then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (no search and rescue operation was undertaken), and used in the propaganda campaign to justify the invasion of Iraq by Vice President Cheney and GW Bush.

Middle East On-line, in an unsigned analysis, says Hashemi's veto of the election law has backfired and left the Sunni Arabs with an even worse outcome. Excerpt:

"It is simply a catastrophe for the Sunni Arabs," said Ibrahim Sumaidie, a regular writer in the Iraqi press said, referring to Hashemi's November 18 veto of the law. The vice president was seeking to grant votes for Iraqis living abroad, including those who fled after the US-led invasion. There are estimated to be as many as four million such voters, who could boost the Sunni presence in parliament against a probable Shiite-dominated government.

But Hashemi's hazardous hand turned to dust when parliament voted -- at the instigation of Shiites -- for a new distribution of seats. The new provisions do not take into account a real increase in Iraq's population since 2005 and instead increase by 2.8 percent annually the number of seats given to each province, a move that actually harms the Sunnis. "The Kurds are the sole beneficiary of what passed, and this is a slap in the face for the Sunni Arabs," said Sumaidie. "It is a mistake that will have disastrous consequences for the country's political process," he predicted.

Election officials and international observers have said the election will be delayed, possibly until March, but no new date has yet been fixed.

Afghanistan Update

ISAF says it killed 20 people in an airstrike, all of them said to be Taliban, in Khost, after they attacked a police checkpoint.

Jay Price of the Charlotte Observer says Afghan police leave something to be desired. Price also describes a dismal situation facing U.S. occupiers. Worth a read. Excerpt:

Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion, the police appear to be years away from functioning independently. U.S. trainers say they must tell the Afghans repeatedly to do the simplest things, such as separating passengers they've searched from ones they haven't when they stop a vehicle.

The police suffer from a range of problems besides corruption, their U.S. trainers say. Illiteracy is the norm - [U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Hans] Beutel thinks that only about 10 percent of the police officers he works with can read - and drug abuse is common.

Fuel is often in short supply. The central police headquarters in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, provides the district police with whom Beutel works one tank of diesel fuel a month per truck. That often means that when Beutel wants to mount a mission, he has to carry American fuel in jerrycans for the Afghan vehicles.

As we already know, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora. We still don't exactly know why, but he was much more useful to the Bush administration alive and at large than any other way. Res Ipsa Loquitur. That's all I've got to say about it. -- C. A report prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviews the incident. Excerpt:

"Removing the al-Qaida leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat," the report says. "But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism."

The report states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops at least. It says that a review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants "removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora."

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, bin Laden and bodyguards "walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area," where he is still believed to be based, the report says.

Gordon Brown is willing to throw in his lot with Barack Obama's esclation of the Afghanistan war, but only if it's labeled as a way out. Excerpt:

Britain aims to set clear goals in Afghanistan at top-level talks next year to move towards bringing its troops home, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said amid public anger at the war.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and major contributors to the coalition fighting in Afghanistan including the US as well as regional neighbours will be invited to the London conference on January 28.

Brown made it clear the international community expected Karzai, who has been slipping from global favour amid widespread allegations of corruption, to step up and assume his responsibilities.Karzai has to realise ‘"that there will be milestones by which he’s going to be judged and he’s got to accept that there will be benchmarks which the international community will set", Brown said.

Quote of the Day

President Obama made the war in Afghanistan his war. The anti-war people are silent because he's their man. Leading Democrats in the House are proposing a "surtax" on income to be used for paying the mounting costs of battling insurgents on the other side of the world. And we're reduced to shouting "C'mon man" as we are driven over that cliff.

Ron Smith