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 7, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mourners carry the coffins of victims killed in bombings in Kerbala, during a funeral in Diwaniya, 150 km (95 miles) south of Baghdad February 6, 2010. Twin car bombs killed at least 40 people and wounded 145 others on Friday in Iraq's holy city of Kerbala as hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims observed a major religious rite, health officials said. REUTERS/Imad al-Khozai This is just a part of the volatile mixture of violence and political conflict gong on in Iraq right now. -- C


Reported Security Incidents

Baquba

IED attack on Iraqi army patrol injures 3 soldiers, 1 critically.

Tikrit

In a political dispute following the dismissal of the Governor of Salah al-Din province, Iraqi troops block employees from entering the provincial capitol building. According to a federal government spokesman, the Prime Minister has ordered the building to be reopened under the Deputy Governor. I have not been able to find a great deal of information about this situation. Prime Minister Maliki apparently dismissed Governor Muttashar Hussein Ilaiwi on January 21. However, as far as I can determine these events have not been reported in any detail by English language media. If anyone knows more, please let us know. -- C)

Baghdad

Shiite Islamist group calling itself "League of the Righteous" posts video on the Internet of Issa T. Salomi, a civilian U.S. Defense Dept. employee missing since January 23. The same group, or one using the same name, was also responsible for kidnapping British IT expert Peter Moore and his bodyguards in Baghdad in May 2007. (The bodyguards were killed; Moore was eventually released.) They are demanding the prosecution of Blackwater employees for crimes against Iraqis, and the release of their imprisoned associates. The same group claims to be holding US army Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al-Taie, captured in October 2006.

A sticky bomb attached to a car killed one man and wounded another in the Adhamiya district, according to police.

Mosul

Reuters reports three incidents:

  • Clashes between gunmen and security guards of a private company left six gunmen and one guard dead and two guards wounded on Saturday in the Taleta district of western Mosul.

  • Gunmen killed a local official of a district in eastern Mosul when they stormed his office on Saturday, police said.

  • Gunmen killed an Egyptian man in central Mosul on Saturday, police said.


Rawa (Anbar Province)

Gunmen booby trapped a house of a government-backed militia leader, wounding his wife and his two children.

Other News of the Day

As Parliament prepares to meet to discuss the ban on political candidates said to be associated with the Baath Party, recently overturned by a court, there are anti-Baathist protests in Baghdad and Basra.

PM Nouri al-Maliki has denounced the court ruling and called an emergency session of Parliament, apparently in an effort to overturn the court ruling and reinstate the ban, which is widely seen by Sunni Arabs as an assault on their political participation.

This analysis for Reuters by Muhanad Mohammed highlights the underlying dynamics of the situation. Excerpt:

Sunnis largely boycotted the last national elections in 2005 and resentment at their loss of power helped fuel a ferocious insurgency. U.S. officials fear that Sunnis may take up arms again if they feel they are being disenfranchised this time.

The focus on Baathists benefits the ruling Shi'ite parties as it distracts attention from corruption, still creaky public services like power, and security breaches that have allowed several major suicide bomb attacks in recent months. Maliki has staked much of his re-election hopes on being credited for a sharp fall in violence over the past two years. The spotlight on the Baath party also brings Iraq's Shi'ite factions back together after Maliki had decided to run on his own against a coalition led by his former partners, ISCI.

That serves Iran's purposes, which would like to see a friendly Shi'ite-dominated government emerge in a neighbour with which it fought an 8-year war in the 1980s.


Iraqi authorities are clamping down on the retail trade in military and police uniforms, which are freely sold and easily obtained by insurgents. However, many doubt the effort will be effective.

Afghanistan Update

Remote control bomb under a bridge kills 4 police, injures 2 civilians in Kandahar.

Karzai tells Munich conference he is considering conscription to meet goals for developing the Afghan army. ""For the past many years I've been visited by Afghan community leaders who are advising me to go back to some form of conscription for the Afghan army so the young boys of the Afghanistan countryside can ... come to training centers, get acquainted with the rest of the country, get familiarized with other young men around the country and learn something and go back home." Good luck with that. -- C

Karzai also calls for stopping civilian casualties. "President Hamid Karzai called on Sunday for a halt to military raids on Afghan villages by the international coalition forces and a complete end to civilian casualties." He also implies that international aid agencies do not respect Afghan sovereignty. "Karzai said it was very important that foreign NGOs, international agencies and United Nations staff halted 'parallel activity' to the Afghan government and work as its supporter, not its rival. 'Any activity that is conducted in the manner of functions of government by our international friends as a parallel to the Afghan government ... is undermining in reality the buildup of the Afghan state and its institutions, and is not going to work,' he said."

Thousands of people flee ahead of a planned NATO offensive against Marjah in Helmand province. ""The government of Afghanistan will reclaim Marjah as one of its own," said the British commander of the operation, General Nick Carter. No irony intended, I'm sure. -- C

Quote of the Day

Atrios wrote the other day that a central prong in the Washington consensus is that "all it takes to nullify the constitution is to call someone a terraist." That's absolutely true, but a close corollary is that merely uttering the word "war" justifies the same thing. That's particularly dangerous given that, by all accounts, this is a so-called "war" that will not end for a generation, if ever. To justify the abridgment or even suspension of the Constitution on the ground of "war" is to advocate serious alterations to our Constitutional framework that are more or less permanent.


Glenn Greenwald