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, August 1, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, August 1, 2010

A man opens his shop in the Azamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 31, 2010. Authorities announced a partial lifting of a curfew imposed on the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah Thursday following a brazen daylight attack by al-Qaida militants who killed 16 members of the security forces at a checkpoint there before burning some of their bodies and planting the black banner of the terror network. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Reported Security Incidents


Three Iraqi soldiers and a civilian bystander are killed, 11 people are injured in a bomb attack in Rashid, on the southern outskirts of the capital. A first explosion caused no casualties, but it was followed by the second explosion when security forces responded, causing the casualties.


Four Iraqi soldiers are injured by a roadside bomb in al-Dhubat neighborhood, eastern Mosul.


Police arrest 20 men accused of belonging to the group Saif al-Haq. This means "Sword of Justice," according to aswat al-Iraq, which rather quaintly calls the detainees "swordsmen." "Truth" is a more common translation of al-Haq but I don't know anything about Arabic. The only thing I could find out about this organization is from the government news agency earlier in July: "Dhi-Qar Police forces warned the outlaws groups called "Saif al-Haq" that aim at destabilize the security situation in the province. A statement by media office of Dhi-Qar Police Department cited "These outlaws groups claim to order the people to do the kind acts and to forbid them from doing ugly acts," noting that "They are trying to destabilize the security situation in the province under such claims. Police forces will do their best to eliminate such strange phenomenon."

A truck driver is injured by a roadside bomb.

Other News of the Day

Death toll from violence in Iraqi in July was the highest in 2 years. (Every news story about Iraq is required, apparently by law, to include a disclaimer to the effect that "violence is down sharply in the country . . . ." after reporting on whatever violence just occurred. Maybe they'll lose that tic. -- C) Excerpt from Salam Faraj of AFP:

July was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008 with a total of 535 people killed across the country as a result of violence, according to government figures released on Saturday. The figures show a sharp upswing in the level of violence nearly five months after parliamentary elections which have yet to result in the formation of a new government and as the United States continues a major withdrawal of its forces.

A total of 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers died in attacks in July, data compiled by the health, defence and interior ministries showed. The death toll is the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence. July's figure is significantly higher than that for June, when 284 people died, and is nearly double the death toll from the same month a year ago, when 275 people were killed.

Saturday's figures also showed that 1,043 people -- 680 civilians, 198 policemen and 165 soldiers -- were injured in attacks this month, the highest such number this year. The data also showed that 100 insurgents were killed and 955 were arrested.

Former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says the intelligence which justified the invasion of Iraq for the government of Tony Blair was nothing more than "tittle-tattle." "He then held former US Vice President Dick Cheney [responsible?] for pushing with the military option, while acknowledging that the report by the Joint Intelligence Committee on the threat posed by Iraq was based on sufficient evidence. The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was launched under the pretext that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, the alleged WMDs were never found after Britain and the US secured control over the oil-rich country."

The Iraqi National Alliance will not support Nuri al-Maliki for Prime Minister. The INA is the Sadrist-dominated parliamentary bloc which joined with Maliki's State of Law bloc to form the Shiite-dominated alliance which has been vying with Ayad Allawi to form the new government. This represents a further setback in the political impasse. The Iraqi National Alliance is not to be confused with Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.

As Ramadan approaches, Ernesto LondoƱo reports that an Iraqi government is unlikely to be formed before autumn. I would say that is optimistic. Excerpt:

Iraqis increasingly speak disparagingly about their leaders, and imams around the country have spoken out against poor governance at Friday prayers.

“Now, everything is stopped,’’ said Nadjha Khadum, editor of the Ur news website. “There’s no work, no jobs. People are waiting. People are just buying food and saving money because they are afraid the situation will get worse in the future — worse than in 2006 and 2007,’’ years marked by a brutal insurgency.

Iraqi lawmakers began collecting their $10,000 monthly paychecks a month ago. But they have convened only twice since the ratification of the election results in June. Both times they adjourned quickly, having failed to elect a speaker.

But hey, the war is over, and we won! At least that's what John McCain says.

Afghanistan Update

Six civilians killed, 9 injured by roadside bomb in Kandahar.

"200 protest in Kandahar over the July 23 incident in the Sangin district of Helmand province, when President Hamid Karzai says a rocket strike by a helicopter gunship on a residential compound took place. The protesters shouted "Death to America" and carried banners calling for justice and pictures of children they say were killed in the strike in Regey village, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene." This is a strange matter. The Afghan National Security Council has investigated and says a NATO rocket hit a house killing 52 civilians. NATO claims it never happened.

The Netherlands has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan.

A former warlord named Selab, who now supported the government, is killed by a bomb at a football game. His bodyguard and a policeman are also killed, and 19 people are injured.

"Several" NATO troops injured in hard landing of a helicopter in Kunar. As usual, Taliban claim a shoot-down, NATO denies it.

U.S. is said to be giving up on that hearts-and-minds, nation-building thing, putting renewed emphasis on killing people. Helene Cooper and Mark Landler report:

When President Obama announced his new war plan for Afghanistan last year, the centerpiece of the strategy — and a big part of the rationale for sending 30,000 additional troops — was to safeguard the Afghan people, provide them with a competent government and win their allegiance.

Eight months later, that counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success, as demonstrated by the flagging military and civilian operations in Marja and Kandahar and the spread of Taliban influence in other areas of the country. Instead, what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Quote of the Day

When I kept reading (security services' reports), I kept thinking to myself, 'Is this intelligence?

Former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott