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, March 27, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reported Security Incidents


Policeman injured by IED attack on a patrol.

Gunmen kill an electrician. No motive or explanation is offered.


Nine civilians injured by IED in Iskan district.

Other News of the Day

McClatchy and the Center for Public Integrity find that the Pentagon's 5 year, $17 billion effort to develop technical means to counter roadside bombs has failed. Excerpt:

In February 2006, with roadside bombs killing more and more American soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon created an agency to defeat the deadly threat and gave a retired four-star general the task of running it.

Five years later, the agency has ballooned into a 1,900-employee behemoth and has spent nearly $17 billion on hundreds of initiatives. Yet the technologies it has developed have failed to significantly improve U.S. soldiers' ability to detect unexploded roadside bombs and have never been able to find them at long distances. The best detectors remain the low-tech methods: trained dogs, local handlers and soldiers themselves.

Jalal Talabani, in the guise of Iraqi president, is visiting Iran, where he says the two nations share a common experience of struggling against dictatorships [sic] and calls for strategic ties.

Meanwhile, Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki says intervention by Sunni neighbors in Bahrain could ignite a sectarian war. Speaking to the BBC Arabic service, he said 'We did not move to support the Shias in Bahrain but we called for interference in Bahraini affairs to be stopped and don't want to make it a sectarian issue. Because if it happens, it will be like a snowball, it will get bigger if it is ignored ... The region may be drawn into a sectarian war.' Uh oh. Is that a threat?.

Afghanistan Update

Taliban kidnap dozens of off-duty policemen in Kunar province. The men were unarmed and in civilian clothing, traveling from Nuristan for leave after completing training. The Taliban give the number of people seized as 50, though other accounts have slightly fewer. Note that the Taliban must have had intelligence info that led them to the target. -- C

Although other reports have it that an official decision has yet to be made, the WSJ reports that Kabul bank will be liquidated next month. As you may recall, the bank was essentially looted by cronies of president Karzai. This AP story gives more background info.

But, you don't have to be Afghan to be corrupt. Two U.S. soldiers are charged with embezzling precisely $1,297,959.31 in vendor payments owed to an Afghan company. Edwin Vando and Juan Lamboy Rivera worked at camp Eggers in 2009, overseeing payments to commercial vendors.

Well, this hardly ever happens: A provincial governor in Afghanistan’s dangerous south said yesterday that seven civilians were accidentally killed when a NATO helicopter fired on two vehicles believed to be carrying Taliban fighters. The incident happened Friday in Helmand province. The dead included 2 women and 3 children. Five other civilians were injured.

Afghan activist Malalai Joya speaks in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (where Cervantes lived until last month and where I'm still trying to sell my condo, in case anyone is interested). A former member of the Afghan Parliament who was expelled for "insulting" fellow lawmakers, she was initially denied a visa to come to the U.S. "She said she did not fear a US troop withdrawal, which Obama has said would occur by 2014. “We have three enemies: the warlords, the Taliban, and foreign occupation. When the occupation ends, we’ll only have two.'"


The Wiz said...

I heard from several different people, while discussing Libya, that 20% of the foreign fighters that went to Iraq to fight the US were from eastern Libya. That got me wondering....just how many foreign fighters went to Iraq to fight the US?? Was it 10,000?? 25,000??? 50,000 or more? Is it broken down by country somewhere? I figure you guys would be the experts on this issue.

( I know that Suzy won't be able to resist stating the obvious that the US troops are foreign fighters but the more rational people here will know what I am asking)

amagi said...


Your numbers are off by orders of magnitude, at least according to the below entry on Andrew Exum's blog:

Also check out the report referenced in that entry.

The Wiz said...

amagi; thanks for the link interesting read. But I am not convinced my numbers were wrong "by orders of magnitude."

It appears that they found the records of 600 to 650 people. That's was for one year but there were only three fighters that crossed into Iraq Feb-April that year so that indicates the records are incomplete as stated in the report. . . . not surprising for battlefield documents. Extrapolating would bring the number to roughly 850 for the year.

They also state that it is believed that there were probably more fighters streaming in during the earlier years. If early years averaged 1200 fighters (and it may have been higher) times 5 years that equals 6000 in the first five years. Drop that down to 850/yr for the second five years you get 4250 for a total of 10,250.

I realize that I made a lot of assumptions there but consider that these were incomplete documents that represented the fighters that entered via Syria, it may have been for only that ratline. There had to be many that came directly from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries. And these records are for only one of the insurgent organizations and there were other groups involved in the insurgency.

This also doesn't count the thousands that poured into the south from Iran to join the Shia-based insurgencies. And how many came from Kuwait or Turkey?

No, the total of foreign fighters could easily have been 20,000 or more. And I suspect it was much more.

whisker said...

For whatever it's worth there were almost no Libyaian fighters among the Iraqi insurgency. In fact almost all the fighters were Iraqis, I believe I have read over 99% so. Obviously the majority of the foreign fighters not including the Americans or their cohorts were Saudis (which the military and western press tried to hide for obviously reasons), Egyptians, Syrians, Yemanians and Jordanians with a smattering of people from other countries. There were also reports of some small amount trans-Caucasus insurgents in northern Iraq The only basis for any count on this subject is from the military from captures and killed counts and has to be subject for suspicion of lack of accuracy. In other words no one really knows.

The Wiz said...

whisker; Its obvious that the majority of foreign fighters were Iraqis. But there were substantial numbers from other countries. From what I can gather, the majority of suicide bombers were foreign fighters as most Iraqis do not have extreme enough religiousness to be suicide bombers. And there were certainly a lot of suicide bombers.

There are so many groups monitoring the war that somebody other than the military has to be tracking the national origin of the foreign fighters, at least the national origin of those that died fighting.

whisker said...

Wiz you don't know what the hell you are talking about. Not to mention "Its obvious that the majority of foreign fighters were Iraqis" is an ignorant comment, Iraqis are not foreign fighters. If 99% - 99.9% of the insurgency were Iraqi then by basic mathematics you can deduct from an estimated insurgent figure of about 100-150k, (I believe this to be a low number) that there were only 1k/1.5k - 100-150 outside fighters in the country at any given time. This is a demographically meaningless number. Now ever if 5% of those were Libyans there would be like 5 of em in country, 50 tops.

The Wiz said...

Whisker; Its obvious that I didn't mean Iraqis are foreigners in their own country, I shoulda said "insurgents." I shouldn't be posting so late and rushing through it.

But your numbers are just as nonsensical.

If 99% - 99.9% of the insurgency were Iraqi then by basic mathematics you can deduct from an estimated insurgent figure of about 100-150k, (I believe this to be a low number) that there were only 1k/1.5k - 100-150 outside fighters in the country at any given time.

So what was it....1k/1.5k or 100-150? It can't be both.

And the captured documents linked to by amagi showed 450 to 500 for a nine month period in 2006-2007 just from Libya. If you have any evidence to support your position I would like to see it.

By all accounts, there were lots of foreigners in Iraq fighting the coalition forces. From el Queda fighters to suicide bombers to the Bhadr gangs and more. First hand reports of US soldiers on the ground give lots of examples of foreign fighters. There were pitched battles between the Sunni-based Iraq Awakening uprisings and el Queda fighters from other countries. These battles obviously had more than "100-150 outside fighters" as the back and forth went on for months.

It could easily have been 10,000 to 50,000 over the span of the war. I don't know because no one has documented the numbers that I know of. I imagine the military has decent estimates but I haven't seen them as of yet.

Cervantes said...

The Badr brigades are Iraqis -- they are the militia of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the ruling party.

The Wiz said...

C; I know that they are mostly Iraqi...but can you verify that no Iranians came to Iraq and joined the fight? Or any of the other Shia based groups? I have little doubt that lots of Iranians joined the fight.

dancewater said...

The Wiz said...

whisker; Its obvious that the majority of foreign fighters were Iraqis.


says it all......

The Wiz said...

Nice move there Dancewater, argue over a editing mistake so you can ignore any other points made. What a great debating style....