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 28, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, February 28, 2010

Protesters gather at a demonstration against recent attacks on Christians near Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. (AP Photo) (Sorry I couldn't find out more about this particular demonstration. Only a smaller demonstration in Baghdad got coverage in English.

Reported Security Incidents

Khadiyah, a Ramadi suburb

Car bomb attack on a campaign convoy of Ashur al-Karbouli, a candidate on the al-Iraqiya list, kills 2 and injures 3. Iraqiya is the secular party headed by former PM Iyad Allawi. Karbouli was not present.

Baghdad

IED in a liquor store injures 1 person, causes damage to the business and ones nearby.

Sticky bomb injures four in Shula district late Saturday.

al-Yousifiya, south of Baghdad

IED injures 2 people.

Kirkuk

Police find the body of a man wearing a "Kurdish uniform," dead of gunshots to the head.

Other News of the Day

Christians demonstrate in Ferdus Square in Baghdad to protest the continuing murders of Christians in Mosul.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani calls for clergy to remain neutral in the upcoming elections. A member of the Marjaiya, Ayatollah Bashir Al Najafi, has recently publicly criticized several allies of Nouri al-Maliki for corruption. One wonders if this could emerge as a test of Sistani's authority. -- C

Tariq Alhomayed discusses Maliki's announcement that he will reinstate officers from the Saddam era army. As with all pundits, readers may decide for themselves to what extent they agree with Alhomayed. I occasionally link to his column because I think his pro-secular viewpoint is useful to hear. In the U.S., we are often given the impression that it is uncommon in the Arab world. -- C

Jack Kimball of Reuters says Kurds will hold the balance of power in Parliament after the election. His analysis underlines the inherent instability of Iraq's factional politics.

Kimball and Muhanad Mohammed also discuss the state of development of the Iraqi army. Not good: "Iraq's armed forces will not finish a modernisation programme until 2020, several years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country is completed, the defence minister said."

U.S. forces patrol jointly with Iraqi army and Peshmerga in the Kirkuk region. According to the Iraqi government, of course, the Peshmerga per se does not exist. "Several distinctive camouflage uniforms are being worn, but all are sporting black armbands embroidered with the head of a golden lion." This is apparently an experiment intended to prove that everybody can get along, but it strikes me as also more than a little bit weird. It takes for granted that the Iraqi and Kurdish armies really are separate entities and creates a new joint force under imaginary auspices, whose mandate and loyalty is undefined. What does the golden lion represent? -- C

The world's tiniest violin plays for Tony Blair, who was so depressed by the debacle of the Iraq war that he wanted to resign. "Mr Blair confided to friends he ''spaced out'' several times during his weekly session of parliamentary questions, according to the latest serialised extract from The End of the Party, by political journalist Andrew Rawnsley." Awwwww.

Afghanistan Update

Bomb kills 11 civilians on a bus in Helmand.

Five killed, 2 injured in a home invasion in Kabul. Not clear if the crime was politically motivated.

ISAF member killed by small arms fire in Western Afghanistan. No further details, including the individual's nationality, are available at this time.

Magnitude 5.7 earthquake in the Hindu Kush. No reports of significant damage at this time.

Senior police officials resign following Friday's deadly assault on Indian nationals in Kabul.

Quote of the Day

There is a fairly good chance that a good number of the [perpetrators of the Friday attack on Indians] had taken an amount of money to participate because they were tired of watching their families starve. . . . There may have been some hard-core jihadists from the Arab, Al Qaeda side, but for the most part, as former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry (now ambassador, who opposed the surge,) told Congress: "Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families" Unemployment is 40 percent, and starvation is of the literal, ribcage showing kind. This war is pointless, futile, and unnecessary. For what we spend in 2 months on military hardware and jet fuel contracts, we have done the math, you could take every one of these desperate, unemployed men and put them to work for a year.


Ralph Lopez