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, November 14, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Iraqi soldier salutes along with US soldiers during the handing over of the Rashad US base to Iraqi forces in June. A roadside bomb on Sunday killed three soldiers in Rashad, a tow south of Iraq's ethnically mixed northern oil hub of Kirkuk.(AFP/File/Marwan Ibrahim)'=

Reported Security Incidents


Car bomb attack on an Iraqi army checkpoint kills 2 soldiers, injures 8. A nearby house collapsed, and civil defense forces were trying to rescue people trapped under the rubble.

A visitor to the city is killed in a drive-by shooting.


A leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, Nawzad Rahim Khardal, is killed by a bomb placed in his car in Saadiya village on Saturday.

Near Kirkuk

IED attack on an Iraqi army foot patrol kills 3 soldiers in the town of Rashad.

Also, in the town of Leylan, a man is killed in a drive-by shooting. The motive is unknown.


A government employee is killed by a sticky bomb in central Baghdad. One of his escorts and 3 passersby are injured.

Also, 5 people injured by a bomb near Ibn al-Haitham Education College in northern Baghdad.

Other News of the Day

Members of the Iraqiya bloc returned to Parliament on Saturday, after lawmakers agreed to start a process of lifting the bans on 4 Iraqiya members with past Baathist ties. It appears that a power sharing agreement will be implemented, with Nouri al-Maliki remaining as Prime Minister.

However, Iyad Allawi has apparently rejected the deal. "[I]n comments to CNN television late Friday, Allawi said he would not take part in the al-Maliki government and described the power-sharing deal as dead. Allawi did not attend the parliament session, and other lawmakers said he had already left the country."

Nevertheless Iraqiya member Osama Al-Nujaifi has accepted the role of Speaker of the Parliament in the power-sharing deal. His first apparent official act was to receive the Iranian ambassador and promote the ties between the two countries.

Juan Cole analyzes the situation. He still sees the agreement as tenuous, and notes that presidnet Talabani has yet to formally ask Maliki to form a government; and furthermore it will be some time before he actually does so. Meanwhile distrust remains high. Excerpt:

Apparently Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi had hoped as late as early Thursday that he could find a higher post for his party. He had wanted to be president, and the Obama administration had apparently put enormous pressure on the Kurds to step aside and allow an Allawi presidency. Allawi, a secular ex-Baathist from a Shiite background, had emerged as leader of what was largely a Sunni bloc in parliament, with 91 seats out of 325. If Allawi could not get the presidency, he plumped for an alternating prime ministership, with himself first, for 8 months, after which incumbent al-Maliki could return to the post.

The USG Open Source Center translated the following passage, which sheds light on this issue:

“Al-Bayyinah al-Jadidah on 11 November publishes on page 2 a 200-word report citing Iraqi National Congress Chairman Ahmad Chalabi as saying that Kurdish President Mas’ud Barzani and President Jalal Talabani came under great US pressures recently and that Talabani informed President Barak Obama that they will not allow the Trojan horse (Ba’th Party) to infiltrate the political process.”

In other words, the Kurds, who were the swing vote, viewed Allawi and his Iraqiya as far too close to the Arab nationalist emphases of the old Baath Party, and so they joined with the Shiites to deny Allawi either the presidency or an alternating prime ministership.

The election of Talabani as president on Thursday angered most of the Sunni Arab members of parliament, insofar as it reduced them to holding the office of speaker, which they saw as a lesser position incommensurate with their having won the largest bloc of seats last March. Some Sunni Arab tribal leaders were saying that they would henceforth forbid their tribesmen to vote, since the exercise had only led to their loss of face.

Afghanistan Update

Three Afghan police killed by a roadside bomb in Uruzgan.

ISAF says two troops killed in separate incidents, gives no further details, but Afghan sources say one of the incidents occurred in Spin Boldak.

Update: NATO now saying 3 more troops killed in Eastern Afghanistan, bringing the total KIA today to 5. Again, no further details at this time.

Twelve NATO fuel tankers are set ablaze in the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, after the attackers chase off the drivers.

Karzai calls for the U.S. to scale back military operations. Excerpt:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the U.S. military to scale back the visibility and intensity of its operations in Afghanistan and end night raids that he said incited people to join the Taliban insurgency, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

"The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai told the Post in an interview. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan ... to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."

The Post said his comments put him at odds with General David Petraeus, who has made "capture-and-kill" missions a central part of counterinsurgency strategy. . . .

A senior Afghan official was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Karzai had repeatedly criticized the night raids in meetings with Petraeus and was seeking veto power over the operations.

"The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away," Karzai said in the interview.

"The Afghan people don't like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us," he said.

A senior Afghan diplomat, kidnapped by unknown gunmen over two years ago, has been freed in Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan, the Afghan government confirmed Sunday. The atmospherics around this may signal a bit of a rapprochement between Pakistan and the Karzai government, but I could be reading too much into it. -- C

Quote of the Day

[I]t bears emphasis that the former President's acknowledgment that he authorized torture is absolutely without parallel in American history. The admission cannot be ignored. In our system, no one is above the law or beyond its reach, not even a former president. That founding principle of our democracy would mean little if it were ignored with respect to those in whom the public most invests its trust. It would also be profoundly unfair for Mr. Durham to focus his inquiry on low-level officials charged with implementing official policy but to ignore the role of those who authorized or ordered the use of torture.

The ACLU, Reported by Dan Froomkin.