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, January 10, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, January 10, 2010

A member of Iraq's Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team participates in the Iraqi Police Day's 88th anniversary celebration in Baghdad January 9, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen Make of this what you will.

Reported Security Incidents


One civilian killed, 5 injured in a gun battle. (From the description, this seems to be a tribal feud, but it's not entirely clear.)

Khan Bani Saad

Roadside bomb injures two civilians


Three university students injured by a sticky bomb on a bus. The VoI story implies they were targeted because they are Christian.

Sixteen year old boy killed by a bomb late Saturday.

Dorra village, near Kirkuk

Body is found of a young man dead of gunshot wounds.


IED attack on U.S. patrol vehicle on Saturday, no word on casualties as of now.

Other News of the Day

Mahdi Abdul-Khadir, injured in the Nisoor Square shooting, says he will not accept compensation offered by Blackwater. "Another plaintiff had said the company had offered $30,000 for each person wounded in the 2007 incident in Nisoor Square and $100,000 to the families of the 17 killed."

IRIN gives an update on internally displaced persons in Iraq. Although this story puts a positive spin on the situation initially, it is clear that progress is slow. Excerpt:

Since July 2008, the government has made a concerted effort to encourage the return of IDPs and refugees to the areas of origin. One element of this initiative was to crackdown on squatters by offering them a one-off payment of 1.8 million Iraqi dinars (US$1,525) to assist them in finding legitimate accommodation to rent. In early 2008, the displacement ministry released its first report on the number of illegally occupied houses - 3,491 in nine provinces: Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, Salaheddin, Ta'mim, Babil, Kut, Nineveh and Muthana. These included houses, flats, land and other buildings.

Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament's committee on displacement and migration, said the evacuation decree “has not been implemented properly, as only a limited number of people have returned to their houses so far and the majority is still waiting as their houses are still occupied by other families”.

He said the worst squatter neighbourhoods of Baghdad were al-Jamia in western Baghdad, al-Hurriyah in the north, al-Dora in the south and Saidiya in the southwest of the capital. "I swear that I have not heard until now that even one family has been paid the one-off payment,” Zankana told IRIN. He blamed long-winded procedures and bureaucracy.

Electoral Commission is deciding whether to ban as many as 15 political parties due to alleged links to the former Baathist regime. In fact, this is widely perceived as way of weakening Sunni Arab political influence. Excerpt:

Iraqi voters will be closely scrutinizing the list for signs of bias. The country is struggling to overcome years of sectarian violence pitting its minority Sunni population against the majority Shiites. The Sunni-dominated province of Anbar became a heartland of the al-Qaida linked insurgency after Sunnis largely boycotted the 2005 polls. But in the past three years, many Sunni militias have turned against the insurgents and are now working alongside the Shiite-dominated government, albeit in a strained and uneasy relationship. Analysts say the promise of political inclusion was a key part of persuading the militias to change sides.

Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq has already said he is on the list because his popularity threatens the Shiite dominated government. He heads the second-largest bloc of Sunni seats in parliament and is building an alliance with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, and current Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi.

And indeed, The Iraqi List is threatening to boycott the elections. "A political group including leading members of Iraq's Sunni minority has threatened to boycott national polls in March after one of their leaders was targeted for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party. The Iraqi List, headed by Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite, and MP Saleh Al-Mutlaq, an influential secular Sunni politician, blasted the decision from an independent state committee to ban Mutlaq from the elections."

Afghanistan Update

IED attack at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan kills a U.S. Marine, a British Journalist, and an Afghan soldier. A British photographer and four Marines were injured.

Three aid workers killed in a bombing in Uruzgan.