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, October 3, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, October 3, 2010

Iraqi security forces are seen at a bombing site in Baghdad. Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 3. 2010. Baghdad police officials say a bomb attached to a car has exploded, killing an employee of Iraq's Agriculture Ministry. The attack Sunday is the latest in a wave of blasts and shootings by suspected Sunni insurgents targeting security personnel or government workers. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Reported Security Incidents


One civilian is killed, his father in injured, by an IED in western Baghdad.

In a separate incident, a government employee injured by an IED.


A motorcade carrying three high-level security officials comes under attack from 2 IEDs, but they escape injury.

A man throws a hand grenade at a U.S. army patrol, escapes. No reported casualties from the incident. A U.S. army patrol? Well, at least we know this wasn't a combat incident. -- C

Gunmen invade the home of a shepherd in a village north of the city and kill him. No indication whether this was politically motivated, but such crimes often have to do with sectarian, factional or clan violence, retaliation against informants, extortion rackets -- in other words, it's not necessarily a meaningful distinction. -- C


Gunmen using silenced weapons attack a police checkpoint, killing 1 and wounding 1.


Iraqi forces raid the homes of senior security officers and arrest several of them. Those arrested reportedly include a brigadier general and security adviser to the provincial governor. (Baquba is the capital of Diyala province.) No reasons for the action have been stated at this time.

Other News of the Day

The Daily Mail obtains classified documents that show Gen. Tommy Franks secretly flew to Britain to plan for the Iraq war in April, 2002. Of course, the timeline really begins before Bush was even elected, as future historians will write the story.

Now that the Shiite factions have all decided to accept Maliki's re-election as PM, momentum seems to be building for the formation of a Shiite-Kurdish coalition government, excluding the Iraqiya bloc. Iraqiya has explicitly rejected collaborating with a Maliki-led government.

While most observers see these developments as essentially a victory of Iran, Tariq Alhomayed reports that many in the Arab world think Iran may have received tacit U.S. support for a Shiite dominated government in Iraq in exchange for concessions in other areas. While I personally doubt this, it is a good indication of the sectarian divide in the Arab world and how it is caught up in Iraqi politics. This situation may be dangerous. Alhomayed's analysis deserves to be excerpted at length. -- C Excerpt:

There is a belief amongst many of the Iraqi elite, as well as other Arab politicians, intellectuals and journalists, that the U.S. is conspiring with the Iranians on the issue of Iraq, and that there is a plot to divide the region. The allegation is that America is concluding a deal with its Iranian counterparts, to persuade Tehran to cooperate with America and the West on the subject of its nuclear program [in exchange for allowing the Iranians to politically intervene in Iraq]. This was already offered by the Iranians to the West, in particularly the Americans. Therefore Washington, according to those skeptical of U.S. intentions, does not see the harm in Nuri al-Maliki renewing his post for a second term, at the expense of other Iraqi components. This skepticism deserves to be analyzed, if only for the fact that it has spread like wildfire amongst the Iraqi elite, who generally do not believe in conspiracy theories, and mostly advocate rationality regarding relations with the West. . .

It is difficult for one to believe conspiracy theories easily. However, what is happening in Iraq today is highly serious, where half of the Iraqi population are marginalized or absent [from the political domain], leaving Iraq as a game in the hands of the Iranians, to form their government as they please. This suggests a fatal mistake on the part of the Americans, even if one assumes that their intentions are genuine. Washington’s fatal mistake was to accept Iranian interference, and to deal with it as inevitable. This helped to legitimize sectarian conflict in the region. If a country such as Lebanon, being so small in size, can cause a headache in the region for America and the West, then how about Iraq, considering its size, role [in the region] and potential?

If Nuri al-Maliki is accepted for a second term in office, this will mean the destruction of the Iraqi political system, which is already fragile. It will also mean the end of any credibility for the entire political process, that every sect in Iraq will shelter under their respective authorities, to ensure their survival. But most seriously of all, life would return again to as it was under the now-disbanded Iraqi Baath party. Ask the Americans, not forgetting that the army of Saddam Hussein’s former regime had more than half a million fighters, where are these men now? Are they guaranteed not to return again?

Afghanistan Update

The Afghan government reports that it has completed disbanding 8 banned private security firms, including The Company Formerly Known as Blackwater. (Unfortunately, unlike TAFKAP, TCFKAB isn't really pronounceable.) Many fear the action will damage security in the country, but "Karzai had accused the security companies of running an "economic mafia" based around "corruption contracts" favoured by the international community. He has said the firms duplicate the work of the Afghan security forces and divert much-needed resources, while Afghans criticise the private guards as overbearing and abusive, particularly on the country's roads."

A soldier from the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles is killed by an explosion during a patrol on Saturday in Helmand province.

NATO reports two coalition deaths, not clear if these include the above as no details are given.

A district police chief in Helmand says NATO air strikes killed at least 25 militants. However, the provincial police chief tells a different story, saying 17 militants and 3 civilians were killed.

NATO forces pursuing a suspected militant kill a civilian adult and a child in Kandahar.

Roadside bomb kills 8 civilians in Paktia.

Pakistani Taliban execute three men in North Waziristan for allegedly spying for the U.S.

Pakistan gives no date for re-opening the supply route for coalition forces in Afghanistan, saying it must wait for public anger to dissipate over NATO incursions.

An Afghan soldier reportedly summarily executed a prisoner at a British base in Helmand, according to an investigation by the Ministry of Defense. This report does not give the date of the incident.

Australian PM Julia Gillard visits Australian troops in Afghanistan, meets with Hamid Karzai. Australia has 1,500 troops in the country, mostly in Uruzgan. So far 21 have died.

Quote of the Day

Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private-security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion. Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government.

Spencer Ackerman (Ackerman goes on to explain that TCFKAB has used subsidiaries with an unrecognizable name to obtain the award.)