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, March 14, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, March 14, 2010

A woman wails outside a hospital where her son is treated after a bomb attack in Baghdad March 14, 2010. A pair of roadside bombs killed two people and wounded 19, including four policemen, late on Saturday in the Shula district of northwestern Baghdad, police said. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

According to Aswat al-Iraq, On Saturday evening, a sticky bomb explodes in al-Shula; after police arrive, a second explosion injures 2 police and 4 civilians. According to Reuters, the attack consisted of a pair of roadside bombs targeting a police patrol, and the toll is 2 dead and 19 injured, including 4 police.

Kirkuk

Sticky bomb injures 2 police officers

Police officer injured as he tries to defuse a bomb.

Mosul

Gunmen seriously injure an Imam.

Other News of the Day

Remember the hyper-competent Cheney administration? Since adults are back in charge in DC, they have decided to actually, you know, investigate the conduct of the occupation of Iraq. What a concept. James Glanz reports:

NEW YORK — Investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 new cases in the past six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions made by some of the Americans involved in the nearly $150 billion rebuilding program.

Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were allegedly moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees, and expensive jewelry or to pay off enormous casino debts. . . .

There have already been dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the new cases seem to confirm what investigators have long speculated: that the chaos, weak oversight, and wide use of cash payments in the reconstruction program in Iraq allowed many more Americans who took bribes or stole money to get off scot-free.


Early returns have Maliki's State of Law Alliance leading in Baghdad, suggesting they will ultimately gain the most seats in Parliament. However, formation of a government will require a coalition, and will be the result of a lengthy process of deal making.

Meghan O'Sullivan, who was Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan in the Cheney administration, notes some of the difficulties. This is a rather rambling and unfocused essay, so I can't give you a crisp excerpt. But essentially the transitional arrangements which guaranteed sectarian/ethnic representation have expired, and the political parties have also fractured to some extent. The rules are somewhat ambiguous as well. So the process of forming a government this time around has no precedent and is highly unpredictable.

Alan Block reviews the book "Terrorizing Ourselves". Excerpt:

Obviously, the U.S. has not figured out how to cope effectively with today's brand of terrorism. The main reason, as this book – composed of contributions from a wide array of experts in counterterrorism – argues in great detail, is that government policies have imposed greater costs on our society than the terrorist attacks themselves. "Overreaction does the work of terrorism. Ignorance of this cardinal fact is why U.S. counterterrorism policy is failing."

snip

An argument can be made – is made tentatively in this book – that an inordinate focus on terrorism in the wake of 9/11 contributed to the financial crisis that crippled us beginning in 2008, but so far our economy at least has proven more resilient might have been expected.

The same cannot be said for our institutions of justice and our respect for individual rights. The Patriot Act was passed in a flurry of panic, and the privacy of every American was compromised, with little or no impact on terrorist activities. It was recently renewed with little notice by a Congress peopled with politicians who had previously criticized it but found it acceptable now that a man with a D after his name occupies the Oval Office. Americans have become accustomed to removing their shoes and not putting shampoo in their carry-on bags and waiting in long lines to travel. Many Americans justify torture and indefinite detention without trial of people simply accused of cooperation with terrorists.

Several chapters dissect the threat posed by bioterrorism and find it minuscule, yet the government has spent $64 billion on it since 9/11, which has probably made us less rather than more safe. . .


Afghanistan Update

Taliban claim responsibility for yesterday's attacks in Kandahar, which are now said to have killed 33 and injured at least 50 people. Ahmad Wali Karzai, half brother of the president and head of the provincial council, says the main objective was to free prisoners, but the attacks failed in this regard.

CNN provides considerable detail on the coordinated series of attacks, and puts the death toll at 35.

Jeffrey Fleishman of the LA Times reports that military successes are of little value so long as Afghans have no economic opportunity. Excerpt:

As war with the Taliban rattles in the provinces, here in the capital, unemployment, poverty and corruption are regarded as more potent enemies. The national government extols the recent success of U.S. and Afghan troops pushing back militants in Marjah, but jobless computer technicians and laborers who can't buy bread have folded away all of the pretty promises they have heard.

"If the U.S. and other countries want a stable Afghanistan, they don't need war, they need to build industries," said Ahmad Morid Rahimi, a coordinator with a relief and job placement agency. "People join the Taliban. Why? To feed their families. Instead of sending 15,000 soldiers to fight in Marjah, why didn't the U.S. spend those millions of dollars creating jobs?"


Roadside bomb in Kandahar kills a Pakistani construction worker, injures 6 others. And oh yeah -- with Afghans out of work, why are Pakistanis employed on construction jobs? -- C

Site News: I am finally making progress on regaining control of the commenting and kicking out the trolls. With luck, we'll have it done by the end of the day. It should go without saying that people who would resort to such dishonest and abusive tactics are not interested in rational discussion, and in fact know they are incapable of it. They are idiots who do not understand the basic values of democracy and free speech. Their actions speak for themselves.