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 3, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, January 3, 2010

Former Blackwater Worldwide security guard Dustin Hard arrives with lawyer David Schertler at the U.S. District Court before surrendering to authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, in this December 8, 2008 file photo. Iraq will help victims of a 2007 shooting file a U.S. lawsuit against employees of security firm Blackwater who were accused of opening fire on civilians, the government said on Sunday. REUTERS/Chris Detrick/Files

Reported Security Incidents

A fairly quiet day so far. Let's hope it stays that way.


Sniper for security forces mistakenly shoots and injures a guard in a passing convoy. No further details are provided.


Three guards (apparently civilian security guards) killed by unknown gunmen.

Body found of a man who had been strangled.

Shepherd injured by a mortar round.


A high-ranking member of the National Front for Free Iraqis is seriously injured in a drive-by shooting.

Other News of the Day

Baghdad Operations Command claims to have defused 2 car bombs and over 100 IEDs over Ashuraa, along with other seized munitions.

VoI reports on four police arrested for armed robbery in Wassit, and and another arrested in Sinjar for counterfeiting.

Iraqi government spokesman says the body of a fifth hostage, the last of four security guards who had been guarding British computer programmer Peter Moore when they were captured in 2007, may be handed over soon. Moore was released alive last week; bodies of the other three guards were returned last year. The identity and motives of the perpetrators are still not publicly known. David Williamson of Wales News discusses the questions concerning this matter, including speculation about the involvement of Iranians, and the possible implications.

Jalal Talibani gives an extensive interview to Asharq Al-Awsat. It's mostly vapid politico-speak, I don't see any particularly interesting revelations in there, but if you're a tea leaf reader you might want to see what you can divine. You may not have known, however, that the tri-partite presidency can be abolished by Parliament, an outcome Talibani hints he favors. That could inflame sectarian tensions. You will note that much of the interview concerns navigating the political minefields of sectarianism and the problem of Iraqi national identity. -- C

Gen. Odierno says plans for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq remain on track in spite of the delayed election . . . buuuttt if there is a resurgence of violence you never know. . .

A female British soldier has been accused of sexually humiliating and abusing prisoners in Iraq in a series of claims about British troops in Basra. "The Joint Forward Intelligence Team (JFIT) between 2003 and 2007 routinely practised sexual abuse, it is claimed, when the unit ran the Divisional Temporary Detention Facility based at the Shaibah Logistics Base near Basra. Among the allegations is at least one case of male rape."

Afghanistan Update

Afghan Parliament rejects 17 of Karzai's 24 cabinet nominees. LA Times Laura King reports:

Of the nominees rejected by parliament in complicated, daylong secret balloting, the most prominent was Ismail Khan, a onetime militia leader who runs what amounts to a fiefdom in the west of the country. He had been tapped by Karzai to serve a second term as energy minister.

Saturday's rebuke by lawmakers deepens the political disarray that took hold in August in the wake of a fraud-marred presidential vote. Karzai was eventually declared the winner, but it was a drawn-out and bruising battle.

The Afghan leader, increasingly unpopular in recent years as public anger has grown over fraud and incompetence in his government, emerged from the electoral contest beholden to a number of warlord-like figures such as Khan, who had the ability to deliver votes in parts of the country where they hold sway.

UN envoy Kai Eide warns of Afghanistan may "flounder" without a functioning government. However, he sees promise in the willingness of parliament to assert itself:

With MPs due to start a six-week winter recess soon, Mr Eide said it was unlikely that the President would get his cabinet in place in time for a major international conference on Afghanistan, due to take place in London on January 28. “It will take weeks,” Mr Eide said. “It could take more than weeks.”

It is not yet clear whether the nominees will stay on as acting ministers until their replacements are approved, or whether their deputies will take over.
It’s for the Afghan government to resolve,” said a Western diplomat. “We will continue to engage with whoever remains in place.” Mr Eide said that the only positive thing to come out of parliament’s almost total boycott was that “it proves the institutions work”. He added: “Parliament has made full use of its authority under the constitution and that must be respected. We’ve seen it’s not a rubber-stamping parliament, which we see in quite a lot of other countries.”

U.S. Drone crashes in Paktika. As usual, U.S. says it's a malfunction, Taliban claim a shoot-down.

Governor of Kunduz says coalition forces killed 25 militants on Saturday.

Quote of the Day

The U.S., whose current military budget is at Cold War, which is to say at the highest of post-World War II, levels, also officially accounts for over 41% of international military spending according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report on 2008 figures: $607 billion of $1.464 trillion worldwide. On October 28 President Obama signed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act with a price tag of $680 billion, including $130 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That figure excludes military spending outside of the Department of Defense. The American government has for several decades been the standard-bearer in outsourcing to private sector contractors in every realm and the Pentagon is certainly no exception to the practice. According to some estimates, American military and military-related allotments in addition to the formal Pentagon budget can bring annual U.S. defense spending as high as $1.16 trillion, almost half of official expenditures for all of the world’s 192 nations, including the U.S., last year. With a census of slightly over 300 million in a world of almost seven billion people, the U.S. accounts for over 40 percent of officially acknowledged worldwide government military spending with a population that is only 4 percent of that of the earth’s.

-- Rick Rozoff