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 21, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, March 21, 2010

Police arrest anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan (2nd L) after she crossed a barrier in front of the White House during an anti-war demonstration marking the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, in Washington March 20, 2010. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana

Reported Security Incidents


Explosion near Tho al-Tabiqeen Bridge as a police patrol passes kills 1 officer, injures 2.

Assault on the motorcade of Hossam Abdullateef, the director general of the Social Care Department in the Ministry of Labor, results in injury to his driver. Adullateef is uninjured.


A woman is killed and a man injured in an armed assault on the home of a Sahwa member.

Body found of a policeman, dead of gunshots to the head.


IED attack on an Iraqi army patrol injures 2 soldiers.

Other News of the Day

Other News of the Day

As the tall continues, the al-Iraqiya bloc headed by former PM Iyad Allawi takes a slim lead in the nationwide popular vote. Nouri al-Maliki's coalition leads in 7 provinces, however, compared to Iraqiya's 5, and would probably have more seats in Parliament if present trends continue. (Remind you of any events in the U.S.?)

And so, right on cue, as Maliki's lead evaporates, he calls for a recount. President Jalal Talabani is also calling for a recount. However, UN observers have said there are no signs of large-scale fraud. CNN reports Maliki's statement:

In a statement released Saturday, al-Maliki said he was calling for the recount as the chief executive directly responsible for the planning and execution of the country's policies.

"The March 7th elections represented a big step on the road to reinforcing the democratic experience in Iraq; and because of the demands by a number of political blocs for a manual vote recount and in order to protect the democratic experience and preserve the integrity of the electoral process," he said.

"I call on the Independent High Electoral Commission to immediately respond to these blocs' demands in order to preserve the political stability and prevent the deterioration of the security situation and the return of the violence that was only defeated after effort, blood and hardship."

No surprise, Iraqiya has a response, as carried by Middle East Online:

"This is a clear threat against the commission that aims to put pressure on it, in order to carry out fraud in favour of (Maliki's) State of Law Alliance" said Intisar Allawi, a senior candidate of the Iraqiya bloc headed by Iyad Allawi. She added that Maliki's statement Sunday calling for a manual recount was a "contradiction" that was fuelled by news that Iraqiya had taken the lead in the nationwide vote tally.

"While he says that the election is accurate, fair and transparent, when Iraqiya takes the lead, he accuses the commission," said Intisar Allawi, a relative of Iraqiya's leader. She noted that a manual recount "would mean a delay of the results for several months. This would lead to a political vacuum that would affect the security situation."

And the Electoral Commission tells Maliki to go pound sand.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., while most people including politicians and the corporate media appear largely to have forgotten, thousands of demonstrators marked the 7th anniversary of the invasion in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Voice of America reports, under its "Asia" classification.

Several days of anti-war activities in Washington have culminated with the procession of symbolic coffins across the streets of the capital. Many demonstrators said they had supported President Barack Obama in his election in 2008, but were now disappointed in the lack of change from previous policies, and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The sound of drums rallied thousands of protesters who came together to denounce the use of American military force. . . .

Josh Stieber, an Iraq war veteran, explained his transformation from soldier to protester. "I guess it was a process of waking up to what I was actually doing and just as I am helping set up all these memorials out here, I think back to some of the things that were part of my day to day life in the military even before I got to Iraq, just how some of our battle cries would be things like kill them all," he said.

Abigail Fielding-Smith reports on the tense situation in the Arab-Kurdish border region. It's a lengthy piece. The snip below gives a flavor. It's worth reading for its richness of detail.

Under Saddam Hussein, the region's Kurdish minority was excluded from power, but it came to dominate the provincial government after Iraq's 2005 elections, which many Sunni Arabs boycotted. In power, Kurdish parties showed scant regard for bridge-building; in the 2009 provincial elections, Sunnis returned to the polls and al-Hadba, the Arab nationalist party to which al-Nujaifi is affiliated, refused to offer senior posts to anyone from the main Kurdish parties. A boycott movement sprang up, urging officials from Kurdish areas, such as al-Kiki, to cut their links with the provincial government.

So, on the morning that [Provincial Governor] al-Nujaifi appeared in [the Kurdish town of] Talkeef, a crowd of demonstrators started to gather. When al-Kiki [Kurdish head of the District Council] went to the town gate to explain the sensitivities of the situation, he was faced with five American trucks approaching the checkpoint, plus tanks and helicopters.

“The head of the peshmergas was talking to the Americans, and he received a call from above telling him to let al-Nujaifi go," al-Kiki told me. The armoured vehicles eventually passed through the gate, but were pelted with stones and tomatoes. Later, the governor travelled to another part of the region where a demonstration ended in gunfire and arrests. "I expec­ted bigger consequences," al-Kiki says. "If one peshmerga had decided to stop al-Nujaifi, there would have been a big fight."

Afghanistan Update

Apparent suicide bomb attack on an army convoy in Helmand misses its target. Ten civilians are killed and 7 injured. Al-Jazeera also reports a bomb attack in Khost kills 2 construction security guards, and explosions in Jalalabad cause no casualties. They were apparently intended to disrupt the ongoing Zoroastrian new year celebration. Bet you didn't know about that! -- C

Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, known as a hard-liner, expresses his support for the upcoming peace conference. This is seen as a step forward in Hamid Karzai's expressed desire to reach a political settlement of the conflict.

However, it appears the Obama Administration is considering expanding the use of the military prison at Bagram, essentially to replace Guantanamo as a place to hold and interrogate foreign prisoners out of reach of U.S. courts. This report on Military World, as usual, is worth checking out. I've bookmarked their home page. I wonder if they've thought about asking the Afghans how they feel about this. Or do they have nothing to say about it? -- C

Quote of the Day

Whenever there's an election in Iraq, U.S. triumphalism follows. In a recent column, Peter Wehner, my colleague, touts George W. Bush's war in Iraq and joins others in the it-hasn't-turned-out-so-bad chorus. But these pronouncements serve as a reminder that it's rather easy to be a freedom fighter with somebody else's blood.

David Corn