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 31, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, January 31, 2010

This is the McClatchy Bureau office in the Hamra Hotel after the attack on January 25. Go here for the McClatchy reporters' blog.

Reported Security Incidents


Suicide bomb attack on a restaurant frequented by police and Sawha members kills 2, injures 25 on Saturday evening.


Note: Shiites are headed to Karbala to mark Arbaeen, the 40th day after the death of Imam Hussein.

Roadside bomb in al-Saydiya injures 2 pilgrims who were walking to Karbala.

Four pilgrims walking to Karbala injured by bomb attack in Yarmuk.

Three pilgrims walking to Karbala injured by bomb in Mashtal.

Reuters reports 4 pilgrims injured by a hand grenade in "Nusoor" (Nisoor?) Square. Whether this corresponds to one of the incidents reported by VoI and one or the other report is erroneous in both location and mode of attack is not clear. -- C


Woman killed in a home invasion.

Tal Afar

Man with an explosive belt apprehended at a checkpoint.

Other News of the Day

Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, leader of the Anbar Awakening Council, is considering calling for an election boycott by Sunni Arabs, in response to the purge of hundreds of candidates by the electoral council. "They will not care about the election — they will ignore it, maybe, if these decisions stand," Abu Risha said at his sprawling compound just outside Ramadi, about 115km west of Baghdad. "I will make my decision later about encouraging people to go to vote or not."

Russian company Lukoil signs a contract to develop the West Qurna-2 oil field.

Afghanistan Update

More details emerge on "friendly fire" death of 4 Afghan soldiers on Friday. "Saturday's fighting erupted about 3am when a group of US Special Forces and Afghan commandos approached a remote Afghan army outpost that was set up about 18 months ago to guard the main highway between Kabul and Kandahar. NATO said the Afghan soldiers believed the unit was the Taliban and started shooting. The joint force returned fire and called in the air strike, which killed the four Afghan soldiers, NATO and the Afghan Defence Ministry said."

Pakistan says it is investigating reports that Hakimullah Mehsud died after a U.S. drone strike in mid-January. It seems clear he survived the attack but the rumors are that he died later of injuries.

Two Afghan soldiers killed, 3 wounded by roadside bomb in Uruzgan. Reuters also reports a 13 year old boy injured while planting a bomb in Badghis.

Quqnoos reports 4 Taliban killed in a gun battle with security forces in Herat, 2 more killed in Badghis after they attacked a relief convoy.

And one more thing . . .

U.S. Speeds Arms Buildup with Gulf Allies, says WaPo's Joby Warrick. "The Obama administration is quietly working with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies to speed up arms sales and rapidly upgrade defenses for oil terminals and other key infrastructure in a bid to thwart future military attacks by Iran, according to former and current U.S. and Middle Eastern government officials. The initiatives, including a U.S.-backed plan to triple the size of a 10,000-man protection force in Saudi Arabia, are part of a broader push that includes unprecedented coordination of air defenses and expanded joint exercises between the U.S. and Arab militaries, the officials said. All appear to be aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran." (Read the whole thing.)

Quote of the Day

It was a clever, lawyerly, almost Ciceronian performance in which Blair trotted out all the usual arguments and gave a display of his question-dodging skill. But it would have been much more revealing to see Blair quizzed by the parents, many of them present at the inquiry, of the British soldiers killed in Iraq. Then perhaps he wouldn't have got away quite so easily, as he did here, with murder.

Michael Billington