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 31, 2010

News of the day for Sunday, October 31, 2010

In this Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006 file picture, U.S. soldiers adjust an American flag over the coffin carrying the body of Staff Sgt. Angel D. Mercado Velazquez, minutes after arriving from Iraq, inside a hangar at Muniz Air National Guard Base, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The 24-year-old Velazquez had been a squad leader and paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division serving in Yusifiyah, Iraq, where he and two other members of his unit died last week from wounds sustained from mortar fire. Puerto Rico has been under U.S. jurisdiction since 1898, and its people citizens 1917. The island is home to 150,000 military veterans, and three-quarters of its National Guard troops have been deployed overseas since the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet Puerto Ricans can't vote for president, and their representative in Congress can't vote either. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) I have a personal connection to Puerto Rico, otherwise no particular occasion for this. -- C

Reported Security Incidents


Six police killed, 4 injured in bomb attack on a police garage.

A separate attack on a police patrol in southern Baghdad injures 3 police and 1 civilian.

And, another explosion in southern Baghdad injures 5 civilians.

Sahwa commander Adnan Atallah of al-Masrah village is killed by a bomb placed in his car. Three other people are injured.

Other News of the Day

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia offers to facilitate talks to form a new Iraqi government following the Hajj. He states:

Dear proud Iraq,

For all of what I have said, I invite His Excellency President Jalal Talabani of the brotherly Republic of Iraq, all parties that participated in the elections, and political actors, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to meet, after the holy Hajj period, in Riyadh under the umbrella of the Arab League, in order to seek a solution for every problem facing the formation of the government which has long remained unsolved, and in order to consult and decide which noble way you take and which honorable direction you choose. He who holds the reins to the resolution ought to possess the wisdom and its dictates. Destruction has so many smooth roads, but construction, after the blessing of Almighty, calls for a strong will.

However, Shiite bloc and Kurdish politicians appear to reject the offer, even as neighboring countries welcome it, including The UAE, Kuwait, and Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, (although I suspect Lebanon's Shiites may not agree. It seems clear that the Shiite and Kurdish coalitions are intending to form a government and expect that Saudi and Arab League participation would favor Iraqiya.) The AFP report seems to make this clear:

In Baghdad, an MP close to Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, who is seeking to keep his job, scorned the invitation. “This Saudi initiative is not positive, and that country does not have a role to play because it has not been neutral in recent years; it has always had a negative attitude toward (Maliki) and (his) State of Law” bloc, Sami al-Askari said.

Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish MP, said Iraqis should sort out their own problems.

French airline Aigle Azur makes the first direct flight from western Europe to Baghdad since before the Gulf War. However, it's a symbolic gesture. Regularly scheduled flights have yet to begin. It's not that big of a deal anyway. You can fly to Baghdad, you just have to change planes in Turkey or Abu Dhabi.

The Arab League called on Friday for those behind the "crimes against humanity" contained in leaked Iraq war documents published by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks to be brought to justice. This probably doesn't make Maliki feel any better about Arab League participation in formation of the government, if you know what I mean.

Afghanistan Update

Hamid Karzai denounces the joint U.S.-Russian raid on heroin labs, calling it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. "Any repetition of such acts will prompt necessary reaction by our country," the presidential palace warned. Hmm. Would it be irresponsible to speculate on exactly why the president is so protective of heroin labs? Quoth Laura King of the LA Times, from the above link: "In the past, U.S. officials have suggested that the lucrative drug trade in Nangarhar, part of a complex web of organized crime, bears hallmarks of complicity by some local government figures."

Two German soldiers injured by roadside bombs in Kunduz, and 2 U.S. soldiers injured in a gun battle in Baghlan.

Office of the Governor of Helmand Province says 17 Taliban and 2 Afghan soldiers killed in fighting on Saturday. Taliban spokesman denies any Taliban deaths.

Quote of the Day

They behead – we do it with smart bombs. There is, of course, an ugly truth to this recently minted axiom: the horror of state terrorism is that the overwhelming machinery of death in the hands of all-powerful governments far outweighs individual atrocities by madmen, small groups and non-state entities. While, with their beheadings and murders of innocents, the heathen thugs and killers may indeed be barbarians, it is almost impossible to accomplish with their amateur methods the slaughter of half a million children, as did the Anglo-American/UN sanctions in Iraq.

Daniel Patrick Welch