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, February 14, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Iraqi inspects the site of the previous day's attack targeting the Iraqi National Movement, led by former Shiite premier Ayad Allawi in the Azamiyah district of Baghdad, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010. A series of bombs Saturday targeted primarily Sunni political groups across Baghdad, signaling an escalation in political tension following the banning of hundreds of candidates from next month's parliamentary elections. Sign in background reads: ' The Iraqi National Movement, office of Rasafa Organizations'.
(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Reported Security Incidents


Bombs at the offices of 5 political parties late Saturday injure 11 people. Four of the parties are Sunni-led, but the independent Shiite party, al-Shaab was also hit. Among the targets is the office of Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent critic of Nuri al-Maliki, who has been banned from the election by the "Accountability and Justice Commission."

Two civilians wounded in bombing of a liquor store.

Lawyer and his wife killed in a home invasion.

Other News of the Day

Appeals panel upholds the banning of most candidates originally barred by the Independent Electoral Commission, threatening political turmoil. Excerpt from Muhanad Mohammed's report:

The panel that drew up the list of banned candidates is dominated by Shi’ite politicians and its actions were viewed by some Sunnis as an attempt to disenfranchise them. The list actually includes more Shi’ites than Sunnis, and appears to disproportionately target secular alliances expected to fare well against the religious Shi’ite Islamist parties that have dominated Iraq since the invasion.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Shi’ite leaders have jumped on the issue to stir up widespread fears among Shi’ite voters over a possible return to power of the Baath party, which brutally repressed Shi’ites and Kurds under Saddam. The tactic could deter Shi’ite voters from backing secular contenders, such as the Iraqiya list of former prime minister Iyad Allawi to which both Mutlaq and Ani belong.

“It is not a judicial decree, it is a political one for clear political effect, and it has a clear Iranian flavour,” said Ani, echoing perceptions of Tehran’s influence.

The Iraqi National Movement suspends campaigning, threatens to boycott the elections unless the ban on candidates is reversed.

Juan Cole discusses these events, drawing on Arabic language as well as English sources. He reports some additional facts, including "The Iraqi Nationalist Movement also issued a press release to its followers in Salahuddin, Diyala and Nasiriya Provinces, saying that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had launched a wave of arrests of political rivals, especially targeting members of the Iraqiya list, on a scale that threatens the integrity of the elections." Cole also reminds us that these events are tied to the original bamboozlement of the Cheney Administration that created the current Iraqi political situation:

The so-called Justice and Accountability Committee, which initiated the disqualifications, is the remnant of the 'debaathification committee' set up by the Neoconservatives in the Pentagon and their ally Ahmad Chalabi to ensure that Sunni Arab nationalists with sympathies for the Palestinians and a tendency to ally with the greater Sunni Arab world were excluded from office in the new Iraq, in favor of Shiites and Kurds. Chalabi is still around and on the JAC. He has sometimes been accused of being a double agent for Iran and of helping sucker the US into overthrowing Saddam Hussein for Iran's benefit. That the leadership of the committee that disqualified Mutlak is so obviously fundamentalist Shiites or Shiite politicians close to Iran infuriates Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

It is not then ironic, but rather to be expected, that Chalabi now accuses the U.S. of trying to interfere in the election:

Ahmed Chalabi said US Vice President Joe Biden and Washington's ambassador to Baghdad Christopher Hill applied pressure to a committee responsible for vetting candidates and on judges who ruled on who could stand for office.

"The appeal committee was submitted publicly to the pressure of foreign groups, like Vice President Biden who said when he was in Iraq (in January) that he hoped Iraqi justice will dissolve the committee of integrity and accountability," said Chalabi.

And Chalabi's dupe Dick Cheney is still appearing on TV to criticize Obama Administration foreign policy. Satire is obsolete. -- C

The Kurdish city of Chamchamal has descended into lawlessness due to a tribal feud and organized crime. Charles McDermid and Hemin H Lihony for IWPR:

Hundreds of security forces have been deployed in the Kurdish town of Chamchamal after a wave of unsolved murders moved residents to demand government intervention. Locals claim a bloody tribal vendetta has spilled onto the streets, making revenge killings and rapes a common occurrence in this community some 20 kilometres from the disputed town of Kirkuk. Residents also speak of "mafia groups" that operate with impunity, creating an atmosphere of fear and violence that has tainted the town’s reputation.

Experts say the town’s conflicts are worsened by years of forced relocation, unemployment and a well-known culture of lawlessness. "Chamchamal…has a long history of conflict and violence,” said Ali Kurdistani, a political analyst who conducted conflict resolution seminars in Chamchamal in 2008. “This history has deeply affected all aspects of daily life and now you can see this in terms of how the people treat each other."

The town was badly affected during the Anfal campaign in the 1980s, in which hundreds of thousands of Kurds were displaced and killed. Mass graves are still being discovered in the surrounding hills.

Afghanistan Update

The NATO assault on Marjah meets resistance, with little hard information available about the course of the campaign. NATO and Taliban spokesmen make wildly conflicting claims about casualties. A U.S. military spokesman says one U.S. Marine and one British soldier have been killed; Afghan provincial spokesman Dawoud Ahmadi says 27 Taliban have been killed. Taliban say they have lost six fighters and claim 192 Afghan and foreign troops killed.

NATO troops are airlifted into the center of the city, as booby traps slow the overland advance. Most civilians appear to have left the city.

Update:Twelve Afghan civilians died when two rockets fired by coalition forces missed their intended target in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province, where the offensive is taking place, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

Quote of the Day

If the Americans come to Marjah, it will be very difficult for us to earn enough to feed our families. They have already moved many of the labs up into the mountains, and it is a very long way to go. We are afraid that someone will report us to the Americans. The Taleban say they will fight them, but we do not know what will happen.

A 28 year old heroin factory worker. A key goal of the Marjah campaign is to eliminate the heroin industry, but don't forget, it is the people's only livelihood. This report by Aziz Ahmad Tassal is well worth reading. -- C