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, December 12, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, December 12, 2010

Iraqi security forces stand guard while a street sweeper cleans up after a car bomb attack in Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. A suicide bomber blew up his car Sunday outside government offices in a province west of the Iraqi capital, killing and wounding scores of people, including women and elderly people waiting to collect welfare checks, officials said. (AP)

Reported Security Incidents


Suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint near Anbar provincial offices kills 12 people, including 6 police, injures 41. AP gives a higher death toll, 17, but a lower total of injured. Anbar's Deputy Governor says the government offices were the target. This account also says police found, and safely defused, a second bomb.

Gatoun, Diala Province, west of Baquba

Suicide bomber attacks a Shiite religious procession, killing 2 and injuring 3.

Later in the day, the province's police director, Brigadier Raghib al-Umeiry, escapes an assassination attempt when a bomb explodes near his caravan as he goes to inspect the site. An undetermined number of police are injured in the attack.

Nu’maniya township, near Kut

This somewhat confusing dispatch from Aswat al-Iraq seems to say that U.S. forces have raided a housing compound in search of evidence in the death of a U.S. soldier by sniper fire last week. Apparently the mayor (called here the "governor") of the development is under suspicion in the case.

Other News of the Day

Kurdish Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani says Kurdistan has the right of self-determination, and that Kirkuk belongs to Kurdistan. Just in case you thought they had everything figured out . . . Excerpt from Reuters story:

Barzani's region and Iraq's central government have argued for years whether Arbil had the right to sign oil development contracts with foreign oil companies. Baghdad says Iraqi oil resources are under its jurisdiction and calls the Kurdish region's contracts illegal. The disagreement shut down oil exports from the region last year and they have yet to restart, although the oil ministers of both sides have said recently that exports should begin early next year.

Central to the territorial disputes is the fate of Kirkuk, which U.S. officials say may be sitting on 4 percent of the world's reserves. The city's population is a mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and others. Iraq recently postponed a national census that could determine what percentage of Kirkuk's population is Kurdish, a key step toward resolving whether the city should be part of Kurdistan. Tensions surrounding the census have escalated recently. Some Arab families have said they are being ordered to leave the city before the population count.

Oh, by the way, lots of people in the region are still a wee bit ticked off about Guantanamo. KUNA reports:

Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah Al-Sabah on Friday described the continued presence of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp as "a disgrace" to the US justice system. The minister's outburst came whilst he was responding to reporters' questions before leaving for Bahrain to attend meetings of the joint Kuwaiti-Bahraini Committee. . . .

He expressed his belief that Obama's decision to close the facility had been the right one, explaining the facility "reminds us of World War II and detention camps made by the Nazis and fascists." He also warned that "the US is endangering its international reputation, while this illegal state of imprisonment continues.

Afghanistan Update

NATO reports six service members killed in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. As usual, they provide no further details pending notification of next of kin. AP also reports the killing of a Taliban leader and one other individual in a separate action; and the capture of a Haqqani network leader in Khost.

Rahim Faiez and Heidi Vogt report for AP that a crisis is brewing over the recent elections. Excerpt:

The head of Afghanistan's election commission warned Sunday that a push by the attorney general to challenge the results of September's parliamentary vote could spark a national crisis.

Final results from the Sept. 18 vote were announced on Dec. 1 but uncertainty has continued to surround the poll because of charges by Attorney Gen. Mohammad Ishaq Alako that votes were bought and sold to such an extent that the results could be invalid. . . .

Election Commission Chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi said that annulling the vote goes well beyond the authority of the attorney general's office. He said the law provides only for the election commission and the dedicated fraud investigation panel to alter the results of the vote. . . .

"If they want to have any debate about electoral law and the constitution of the country, we are ready for that," Manawi said. "But if they just want to exert power and authority I think that this country will go into a crisis."

He declined to be drawn into the nature of the crisis he was predicting, saying only: "Over these decades of war and conflict in our country, we all know what a crisis looks like."

Nazari also said they intend to prosecute 14 top members of the Independent Election Commission and the fraud-investigating Electoral Complaints Commission. "We have collected more than 20 pieces of evidence against them and based on this evidence we have demanded that they be punished," Nazari said. The evidence includes written agreements for payouts concerning the election, along with falsified documents from the commission, he said.

James Risen of the NYT reports on Afghan drug lord and CIA asset Hajji Juma Khan. (So what else is new?) Excerpt:

When Hajji Juma Khan was arrested and transported to New York to face charges under a new American narco-terrorism law in 2008, federal prosecutors described him as perhaps the biggest and most dangerous drug lord in Afghanistan, a shadowy figure who had helped keep the Taliban in business with a steady stream of money and weapons.

But what the government did not say was that Mr. Juma Khan was also a longtime American informer, who provided information about the Taliban, Afghan corruption and other drug traffickers. Central Intelligence Agency officers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents relied on him as a valued source for years, even as he was building one of Afghanistan’s biggest drug operations after the United States-led invasion of the country, according to current and former American officials. Along the way, he was also paid a large amount of cash by the United States.

Quote of the Day

Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in [2003] as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.

But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.

Alfred W. McCoy