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, February 6, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reported Security Incidents


Sticky bomb injures 2 civilians in al-Rashied market in Doura.


Roadside bomb attack on an Iraqi army patrol injures 1 soldier.


Bomb attack on a funeral procession kills Hamid al-Halbousi, the chief of al-Halabsa clan in al-Anbar province, and injures 2 other tribal leaders on Saturday evening.


Explosion near he al-Askari Imams shrines injures 6 Pakistani and Iranian pilgrims, plus 2 Iraq police and 1 civilian.


Car bomb near a shrine injures 5 Iranian pilgrims and 2 Iraqis. Note: The VoI dispatch on the incidents in Samarra and Balad also states there were two deaths, but does not specify where.

Other News of the Day

PM Nouri al-Maliki says he will not seek another term in 2014, and calls for term limits on his successors. He denies this has anything to do with recent protests over poor government services, unemployment, and food shortages.

And speaking of food shortages, wheat prices in Iraq have tripled recently. The government blames inexperienced import companies for failing to secure supplies for which it had contracted, and promises the problem will be resolved shortly. Note that 60% of Iraqis depend on government food rations.

Maliki denies a report by Human Rights Watch that he operates a secret prison where detainees are tortured. Well, he wasn't likely to confirm it -- C

Without any fanfare, the government has started to restore the crossed swords monument constructed by Saddam. They present this as a move to reconcile with the past rather than suppress historical memory. Iraqi-born architect Kanan Makiya says, "I am glad it is being restored, not because it is a great work of art but because it is such a perfect symbol of the Baathist experience. It is vulgar, but vulgar in an unspeakably horrible, terrible - and therefore unique - way."

Afghanistan Update

British soldier killed by an IED in Helmand. The soldier, from 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was attempting to secure an area in the north of Nad-e Ali when he was hit by the improvised explosive device Saturday.

At the global security conference in Munich, Karzai says the transfer of responsibility for security from international to Afghan forces will begin on March 21, which is the Afghan new year. What this will mean in practice, if anything, is unclear. -- C

Karzai also criticizes the practice of the international community of bypassing his government in the delivery of aid. At the same time, he appears to admit that the government is incompetent and corrupt. His argument seems to be that building an effective civil infrastructure requires that aid be directed through the government. I'm not sure how that will go over, but it is a true dilemma. -- C

Quote of the Day

Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington’s policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control” (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored—unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.

Noam Chomsky