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, July 17, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

Roaside bomb in Amariyah, near the airport, kills one police officer and a bystander, injures three people.

Sherquat village, Salahudin Province

Brigadier General Ahmed Bdeiwi, head of the provincial major crimes department, survives and attack on his convoy with injuries. Three of his bodyguards are also injured.

Mahmoudiyah

Roadside bomb injures two people.

Banjaween district, Sulaimaniyah

Several fighters of the Iranian-Kurdish irredentist group PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) are injured, amid conflicting reports of whether the casualties result only from Iranian shelling, or whether there have been direct confrontations between Iranian and PJAK forces. A PJAK spokesman claims Iranian soldiers have been killed and injured.

Kirkuk

A pediatrician is released from 3-weeks captivity after payment of a $500,000 ransom. "A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there have been at least 45 kidnappings in Kirkuk since the start of the year, with the majority of the victims belonging to wealthy families. Since June 15, the official said, a total of $1.1 million has been paid in ransoms to secure the release of hostages." Note: Most of these go unreported in English-language sources. If we had the information, we would certainly provide it. -- C

Other News of the Day

Tensions rise in the Syrian town of Al-Bukamal, next to the Iraqi border, where the Syrian army is said to be preparing an assault. ""The situation in Al-Bukamal is explosive, so the army is preparing to intervene... because the authorities fear an armed revolt in this border town where (insurgents) can easily find logistical and political support. . ." reports Al-Watan.

A trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts, sent to the U.S. for restoration shortly after the 2003 invasion, has become a source of contention as Iraq asks for the return of the treasures, and the U.S. has delayed. The National Archive claims it only want to complete restoration and conservation of the material, but:

There are claims of Jewish pressure to prevent the return of the collection, and questions about why the U.S. didn't prevent the looting of Arab and Islamic treasures during the invasion but was able to bring the Jewish collection to safety in America. Among those voicing indignation about the transfer of the archive to America is Liwa Smaysim, the minister of archaeology, who belongs to a fiercely anti-American party in the government coalition.

On the other hand, once returned to Baghdad, the archive would likely be beyond the reach of Jewish scholars, especially Israeli ones, given the absence of diplomatic ties with Israel, and the anti-Semitism that exists here. Iraqi officials have vowed to restore the materials and digitize them so they're available outside Iraq as well.

Agreement is reached among Iran, Iraq, and Syria for construction of a natural gas pipeline to Lebanon and Mediterranean shipping.

Afghanistan Update

A British soldier is killed while on routine patrol in southern Afghanistan, amid unconfirmed reports that he was shot by an Afghan soldier.

NATO and Afghan forces kill 13 militants who had occupied a school in Khewai district, Nangarhar province. "Air support was called in and the building was totally destroyed." Leading one to question how much Afghan forces actually had to do with the result. -- C And indeed, TOLO's headline is rather different: Nato Air strikes Kill 13 Militants in E Afghanistan. TOLO also reports two employees of the school were killed.

Gunmen kill two, injure seven at a wedding party in northern Baghlan province. The identity and motives of the attackers are unclear.

A ceremony at the Bamyan police headquarters marks the official transfer of security responsibility from foreign to Afghan forces in that area. While this is billed by several sources as the beginning of the promised NATO withdrawal, it is of course entirely symbolic. Bamyan is a fiercely anti-Taliban region. It is the site of the famous Buddhist statues which the Taliban destroyed. Similar ceremonies will be held at additional sites in the coming weeks. - C

A healthy population of rare snow leopards is found in Wakhan. (This is a long, thin salient of territory that separates Tajikistan from Pakistan and connects Afghanistan to China. Although it is technically part of Afghanistan, it was created by British negotiations with Russia and India in the 19th Century. It is unaffected by the current fighting and has no real political connection to the Kabul government. - C

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