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 28, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

U.S. troops kill an Iraqi civilian on the airport road when, according to the U.S. account, his vehicle approached their convoy and did not respond to hand gestures. The slain man turned out to be an airport employee. Kind of reminds you of the old days, doesn't it? -- C KUNA says the man's name was Hassan Hilwas, and that the airport was closed for more than 2 hours following the incident.

Bomb attack on a police patrol near the Baghdad mayoralty garage injures 7 people, including 3 police.

Aswat al-Iraq reports 2 additional explosions in Baghdad, both planted in the victim's cars, injuring a total of 4 people. At least one of the targets was a government employee.

Hilla

Six mortar shells are launched at the U.S. military base, resulting in injuries to 3 Iraqis including a policeman. It is not known what damage may have occurred to the base, or whether any U.S. personnel were injured.

Other News of the Day

Iraqi security forces arrest 12 people who they say are associated with the Oct. 31 attack on a church that led to the deaths of 46 people. The government says they include the military commander of an al-Qaeda cell in Baghdad. As usual, they all instantly confessed. Strange how that happens . . . -- C

Iranian Foreign Ministry bickers with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit's remark that Iran should not interfere in the affairs of Iraq.

IRIN, the UN humanitarian news service, reports on the status of women in Iraq. Not so good. Excerpt:

Women may hold 25 percent of seats in the Iraqi parliament, but one in five in the 15-49 age group has suffered physical violence at the hands of her husband. Anecdotal evidence alleges that “many women are being kidnapped and sold into prostitution”, and female genital mutilation is still common in the north, the report notes.

“The situation many Iraqi women and girls face is beyond words,” journalist Eman Khammas told IRIN in a telephone interview. “Before, I was a journalist, a professional; now, I am nothing.”

Khammas noted an underlying social climate of intolerance that has become increasingly poisonous for women. She was forced to flee Iraq after receiving death threats that effectively stopped her - like thousands of other Iraqi women - from working. She now lives in Spain.

Maliki says the agreement requiring U.S. troops to leave Iraq entirely by the end of 2011 is still in effect and he expects it to happen.

Mark Brunswick of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that many female veterans feel dissed by the VA. Excerpt:

Women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan tell similar stories: Home loan paperwork from the Department of Veterans Affairs made out in the names of their husbands. VA hospital care where women are such an afterthought that examination rooms face out toward crowded hallways. Insufficient job-training programs. Family-outreach programs blind to the idea that some of the spouses left struggling at home are husbands, not wives.

Nearly 250,000female soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. More and more of them are coming home. But the military is often struggling to serve their needs.

In Minnesota, home to more than 20,000female vets, women who were once in or near the thick of the fight say they feel that the military and the civilian worlds overlook or discount their service. Some feel so marginalized they are reluctant even to seek help for emotional and other problems that arise once they're back home.
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Here's a perspective on the political situation in Iraq from a partisan Shiite news service, which seems particularly sympathetic to the Sadrist movement. This is particularly interesting to me because they claim, with some evidence, that the U.S. attempted to prevent the re-appointment of Nuri al-Maliki and even pressured Jalal Talabani to resign the presidency as part of its effort. They claim the U.S. is very concerned about Sadrist influence in the new government. Although I'm not really sure why they should be -- what are the Sadrists supposed to do that is so bad for the U.S.? Yes, they were bitter opponents of the occupation, but isn't that about to end anyway? Why should we care whether the Sadrists are influential in Iraq after we're gone? -- C

Afghanistan Update

DPA rounds up political violence in Afghanistan today.

* Abdulah Ahmadzai, senior secretary for the provincial council of the eastern province of Logar, was killed in an ambush along with two others, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.
* An explosive-laden bicycle was remotely blown up in a busy market in Taleqan, the provincial capital of the northern province of Takhar on Sunday, killing one civilian and injuring the other, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.
*A suicide bomber on Sunday became the sole victim in an incident in the western province of Ghor when his bomb went off, a provincial official said.

The U.S. has now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviet Union. Our mission, of course, has been to fight the Freedom Fighters we sponsored against the Soviets. If the Russians knew how to beat them, I'm sure they'd give us some tips.

And our freedom-loving Afghan allies don't disappoint either. "Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity, including a Red Cross employee, could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, told AFP."

The International Crisis Group says NATO should fuggedaboudit. And I'll leave this as the Quote of the Day. Excerpt:

As violence has increased, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have proven a poor match for the Taliban. Casualties among Afghan and ISAF forces have spiked, as have civilian casualties. Afghanistan still lacks a cohesive national security strategy and the Afghan military and police remain dangerously fragmented and highly politicised. On the other side, despite heavy losses in the field, insurgent groups are finding new recruits in Pakistan’s borderlands, stretching from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to Balochistan, and using the region to regroup, reorganise and rearm, with the support and active involvement of al-Qaeda, Pakistani jihadi groups and the Pakistan military. This strategic advantage has allowed the insurgency to proliferate in nearly every corner of the country. Contrary to U.S. rhetoric of the momentum shifting, dozens of districts are now firmly under Taliban control.

Nearly a decade after the U.S. engagement began, Afghanistan operates as a complex system of multi-layered fiefdoms in which insurgents control parallel justice and security organs in many if not most rural areas, while Kabul’s kleptocratic elites control the engines of graft and international contracts countrywide. The inflow of billions in international funds has cemented the linkages between corrupt members of the Afghan government and violent local commanders – insurgent and criminal, alike. Economic growth has been tainted by the explosion of this black market, making it nearly impossible to separate signs of success and stability from harbingers of imminent collapse. The neglect of governance, an anaemic legal system and weak rule of law lie at the root of these problems. Too little effort has been made to develop political institutions, local government and a functioning judiciary. Insurgents and criminal elements within the political elite have as a result been allowed to fill the vacuum left by the weak Afghan state.

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