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 8, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, November 8, 2009

A general view of the city of Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009. Iraqi politicians are debating with new hostility over control of Kirkuk, a shabby northern city set near rich oil fields that both the self-ruling Kurds and the central government want. Iraqi lawmakers have only a day left to agree on a new bill that would enable the country to hold key parliament elections in January, according to remarks Wednesday Nov. 4, 2009 by the country's election commission chairman. (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed) And, of course, parliament has again delayed the vote as of November 8.

Reported Security Incidents


An employee of North Oil Company is injured by unknown gunmen near his house in downtown Kirkuk. Reuters says it was a drive-by.


Police find the body of a 30 year old woman, bound hand and foot and shot in the neck.


Two gunmen shoot and injure a police man. A suspect is later arrested.

Reuters also reports two people killed when a bomb they are planting explodes.


One attacker killed and one police man injured in attack on a police checkpoint.

Other News of the Day

Parliament again fails to approve an electoral law, despite reports earlier in the day that a compromise had been reached. The elections scheduled for January 16 are now in jeopardy.

IWPR's Abeer Mohammed discusses the controversy over religious studies in the new public school curriculum. Excerpt:

Zuhair Jerjis and Ahmed Mohammed are both ten years old and often meet after school to play video games. Though they enjoy each other's company, Ahmed wonders whether he will one day have to kill his friend.

The boys go to the same school and share a ride home to the same district of Baghdad, but their parents do not share the same faith. Zuhair's family is Christian and Ahmed's is Muslim. Recent religious lessons at school have left Ahmed questioning what end awaits his friendship.

"When I study that we have to fight the unbelievers in the name of jihad, I think, 'Will I kill Zuhair one day?' .... Our teacher tells us it is forbidden in Islam to make friends with unbelievers," he said. . .

Critics of a new curriculum, introduced gradually since the US-led invasion in 2003, say it has failed to tackle the causes of religious and sectarian hatred that have fuelled the violence of the last six years. Worse still, they accuse it of laying the foundations for future strife.

The main concerns about the school programme are that it favours the Shia interpretation of Islam and doesn't offer clarity about Islamic concepts that might have violent connotations. Additionally, there's a worry that some teachers are focusing on subjects not directly addressed in the curriculum such as the treatment of non-Muslims and jihad, or holy war.

Supporters of the new curriculum, however, say it merely rectifies past bias in religious education and accurately reflects Iraq's identity.

For whatever it's worth, AFP visits relatives of Nidal Malik Hasan in the Palestinian town of Al-Bireh. Opinions about his motives and how his actions should be viewed are decidedly mixed. (Doesn't seem like a good idea to excerpt this -- read it if you're interested. -- C)

The UN reports that food insecurity is on the rise in Iraq. Excerpt:

Reduced domestic agricultural production, inflation, unemployment and a crumbling system of subsidized food distributions have hit poor people the hardest.

"There is still a big percentage of Iraqi people who can't secure enough food. With unemployment running at 18-20 percent they can't buy what they need," said Muna Turki Al-Mousawi, head of the state-run Centre for Market Research and Consumer Protection, adding that about 20 percent of Iraq's 25 million people live below the poverty line.

Domestic agricultural production - already affected by reduced rainfall - has also been hit by a lack of government support and lax controls on cheap food imports, with which farmers cannot compete in some cases, she said.

On 31 August, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Iraq had its worst cereal harvest in a decade and that its wheat harvest was set to fall to one million tonnes, from an average of 3.5 million tonnes per annum over the past decade. Domestic rice production also fell from an average 500,000 tons a year to an estimated 250,000 tons this year. Iraq imports more than 80 percent of its food needs, al-Mousawi told IRIN.

Afghanistan Update

Details are scarce, but a NATO air strike apparently killed 7 Afghan security personnel and injured many others in northwestern Afghanistan, during a search for two missing U.S. paratroopers. ISAF says a total of 25 U.S. and Afghan forces have been killed or injured during the operation, not all of them in this specific incident. Five U.S. troops are said to have been injured.

British soldier killed in an explosion on Saturday in Helmand.

Hamid Karzai says there will be no place for corrupt officials in his new government. He claims much corruption is the fault of international donors who do not structure projects properly.

Karzai then departs for the 25th Economic and Trade Forum of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Turkey.

Afghan Foreign Ministry objects to UN envoy's call for reform of the government. As the story notes, however, Kai Eide's comments are similar to comments by Gordon Brown and Barack Obama. Excerpt:

“Kai Eide’s comments exceeded international norms and his authority as a representative of an impartial international organization,” Ahamad Zahir Faqiri, foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

On Thursday, Kai Eide said that the international community did not want to see warlords in Karzai’s new government and called on president Karzai to bring significant reforms.

President Karzai has announced that fighting against corruption, bringing reforms and rule of law are his next government priorities to implement.

However, the Afghan foreign ministry says that over the last few days diplomatic circles and propaganda agencies of certain countries have intervened in Afghanistan’s internal affairs by issuing instructions over the composition of next government organs and political policies.

New polls show two-thirds of British public think Afghan war is "unwinnable", an equal number want UK forces out.

Quote of the Day

In Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, it simply does not matter whether the United States wins or loses. It makes no sense for the Obama administration to expend more blood and treasure to vanquish the Taliban. The United States should accept defeat and immediately begin to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.

John J. Mearsheimer