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, April 18, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, April 18, 2010

The family of Army Spc. Thomas 'T.J' Barbieri, from Gaithersburg, Md., sit around his grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Sunday, April 11, 2010, as they get ready to celebrate what would have been his 28th birthday. Barbieri was killed south of Baghdad, Iraq, in August 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Reported Security Incidents


A U.S. helicopter crashes in the early morning in bad weather. At this time, no information on the model of helicopter or any casualties. UPDATE: Military issues a statement saying that one soldier is dead, 3 injured, in the crash, offers no further details.

Anbar Province

Police arrest a member of the Islamic State of Iraq, 2 police officers and the arrestee are injured in a shootout. (VoI places this event in the "Rawa District," I have not been able to determine exactly where that is.)


After a grenade attack on the house of a Sahwa member Friday kills the man's wife, injures him and his son, police arrest two people they say may have been involved. The report of this on Saturday did not say that the man himself was injured, so consider this an update of the casualty toll. -- C


Body of a Shiite civilian, shot in the head and chest, is found on farmland. I have noticed that this pattern of gunshots to the head and chest is typical of assassinations in that area lately. -- C

Other News of the Day

This widely distributed AFP report discusses the recent tactic of renting apartments or shops, and then blowing them up, called by the U.S. military the "House-Borne IED" or "H bomb." According to the report, the tactic is considered disreputable even by segments of the insurgency. Brian Fishman is quoted saying "al-Qaeda in Iraq's propaganda arm has disavowed the tactic and urged supporters to distribute their statement widely ... but that doesn't mean they are not doing it."

In Ohio, "an Iraq War veteran wearing military fatigues stood in predawn quiet Friday at a monument to soldiers and fatally shot himself with an assault rifle outside the Veterans Affairs medical center where he had been a patient, authorities said."

Clive Stafford Smith says the UK has secretly rendered two apparently innocent men to the U.S. Gulag in Afghanistan, into which they have disappeared.

Iraq joins Syria and Lebanon in backing Iran's nuclear program, calling for Israel to give up its nuclear weapons. Excerpt:

We reject any threat against Iran and insist on Iran's rights to use peaceful nuclear energy, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi foreign minister said. The three leaders, however, strongly urged Zionist regime to join the NPT.

The major threat in the region is Israel which has nuclear warheads. Israel must join this treaty and take quick steps to destroy its nuclear weapons which number over 200 warheads, Muallem said. Shami said Zionist regime needed to be stripped off its nuclear arsenal.

There is more need to strip Zionist regime of its nuclear arsenal, as the international community is aware of its nuclear weapons capability and that this regime has defiantly declared it will use these weapons whenever it wants, he said.

"Since the atomic weapons of the Zionist regime are not inspected, there is a danger of these weapons being used in future. This regime must join the NPT without any conditions.", Shami added. Zebari said Zionist regime must allow UN inspectors in to its nuclear facilities.

Afghanistan Update

Two Dutch soldiers are killed in a roadside bomb attack in an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan. This Quqnoos report gives their nationality as unconfirmed, but later reports seem to confirm it.

Apparently a third NATO soldier, of undisclosed nationality, was also killed in a separate incident.

Afghan Interior Minister spokesman Zemeri Bashary says 29 militants killed in fighting in the north to protect supply routes. Evidently all were killed by NATO air strikes. At least three Afghan police and four German soldiers have also died in the battle, which continues. Bashary says he has no information about civilians casualties.

Mullah Omar reportedly has indicated interest in peace talks. Excerpt:

In an interview with The Sunday Times, two of the Taliban's senior scholars have relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban’s ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. According to the report of the British newspaper, the Taliban supreme leader was prepared to engage in "sincere and honest" talks.

A senior US military source said the remarks reflected a growing belief that a "breakthrough" was possible. "There is evidence from many intelligence sources [that] the Taliban are ready for some kind of peace process," the source said.

At a meeting held at night deep inside Taliban-controlled territory, the Taliban leaders told this newspaper that their military campaign had only three objectives: the return of sharia (Islamic law), the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of security.

Quote of the Day

After all, nine years earlier U.S. envoys had taken a huge gamble: rescuing this president from exile and political obscurity, installing him in the palace, and ousting a legitimate monarch whose family had ruled the country for centuries. Now, he repays this political debt by taunting America. He insists on untrammeled sovereignty and threatens to ally with our enemies if we continue to demand reforms of him. Yet Washington is so deeply identified with the counterinsurgency campaign in his country that walking away no longer seems like an option.

This scenario is obviously a description of the Obama administration’s devolving relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul this April. It is also an eerie summary of relations between the Kennedy administration and South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon nearly half a century earlier, in August 1963. If these parallels are troubling, they reveal the central paradox of American power over the past half-century in its dealings with embattled autocrats like Karzai and Diem across that vast, impoverished swath of the globe once known as the Third World.

Alfred McCoy (and do read the whole thing)