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 5, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, December 5, 2010

In this Nov. 30, 2010 photo, members of 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., walk toward a C-17 aircraft at Sather Air Base in Baghdad as they begin their journey home after a year in Baghdad, Iraq. More than seven years after 1st Brigade entered Baghdad as the first conventional U.S. forces in Iraq, its soldiers are coming home from a yearlong deployment that saw the end of combat operations. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)



Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

“Col. Yassar Mohammed Mirhij of the oil facilities protection police survives an assassination attempt when gunmen fire on his vehicle. Separately, a civilian is killed an another injured by gunfire as they are driving a vehicle belonging to their brother.

Qaem, Anbar Province

Two people are injured by a landmine explosion near their vehicle.

Mosul

Two police killed, two injured in attack on a checkpoint.

Other News of the Day

The Guardian posts a cable from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Iraq's relations with its neighbors, dated September 2009. Key points include Saudi antagonism to the Shiite-led government and support for Sunni political parties; and Iranian influence within the regime. The general picture is of Iraq as a ground of conflict in a sort of cold war between Iran and Sunni Arab regimes. Two excerpts will summarize:

For now the Saudis are using their money and media power XXXXXXXXXXXX to support Sunni political aspirations, exert influence over Sunni tribal groups, and undercut the Shia-led Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and Iraqi National Alliance (INA). NSC advisor QIraq (ISCI) and Iraqi National Alliance (INA). NSC advisor Safa al-Sheikh told us recently that Saudi influence in Iraq was significant, perhaps more significant than Iran's at the moment, given the financial and media assets at its disposal, and given Iran's recent internal distractions. . . . .

Some observers see a more malign Saudi influence. A recent Iraqi press article quoted anonymous Iraqi intelligence sources assessing that Saudi Arabia was leading a Gulf effort to destabilize the Maliki government and was financing "the current al Qaida offensive in Iraq." The article also quoted MP Haidar al-Abadi, a Maliki political ally, insisting that Gulf Arab neighbors wanted to destabilize Iraq. A few of our more senior contacts hint at similar malign intentions "by some neighbors," making clear without being explicit that they are referring to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian influence in Iraq remains pervasive, as Tehran manipulates a range of levers to mold Iraq's political, religious, social, and economic landscape. Overall, however, the GOI views its relations with Iran in a special category, posing risks that are manageable and not viewed as existential threats to the state. Obviously many Sunni contacts -- and many of our allies in the region -- see the situation in far starker terms and fear that Iraq could fall into Iran's political orbit and rendered unable to speak or act independently, once U.S. troops draw down. Iranian efforts are driven by a clear determination to see a sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak, disenfranchised from its Arab neighbors, detached from the U.S. security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran.

The Guardian's Simon Tisdall discusses this cable.

Drought in Kurdistan threatens to devastate agriculture. "An agricultural official from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is warning that if there is no rain by December 15th in areas around Erbil and southern Sulaimani, and by the end of this month in other areas of Kurdistan, 85 percent of farms will remain uncultivated this year."

Afghanistan Update

According to AP, Suicide bomber inside Afghan army base in Gardez, Paktia Province, kills two NATO troops and two Afghan civilians. The attacker targeted a marketplace inside the base where local shopkeepers sell to Afghan and foreign soldiers. Most of the NATO troops in Gardez are American. AFP's account is slightly different, saying the marketplace is just outside the base, and that the Afghan dead were soldiers. The AFP account also refers to numbers of wounded.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani returns home after two days of meetings with Afghan officials.

Quote of the Day

In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.

Rep. Ron Paul. (As I have said many times, we just quote 'em. No endorsement of the speaker, express or implied, is intended.)

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