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 24, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

An explosion near a government building on al-Nidhal street injures 4 building guards and 2 civilians.

Reuters reports a bomb attack on a police patrol on Nidhal Street injures 2 police and 1 civilian. This is very different from the above account but gives a similar location. Conceivably they are different versions of the same incident, no way to tell.

Attack on a police checkpoint in southeast Baghdad, using silenced weapons, kills 1 officer.

Garma Township, near Falluja

An "assistant doctor" is killed in an armed home invasion. (I'm not sjure what an "assistant doctor" is but it could mean something like a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner. -- C)

Baquba

The Deputy Police Chief of Diyala Province, Colonel Mudhaffar al-Magdamy, is injured along with 2 of his bodyguards, while a bystander is killed and 4 injured in a bomb attack on Saturday.

Zubair

Sheik Mohammed Fayek, a top aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sastani, is reported to have escaped an assassination attempt on Friday. A bodyguard is injured. This incident was not reported until today.

Other News of the Day

Iraqi police say they have taken down an al Qaeda cell in Baghdad which is responsible for some of the most notorious recent attacks, including murders of police, soldiers, judges and public officials. The cell is said to have consisted of ten people.

Reuters reports that the U.S. congressional Commission on Wartime Contracting will soon report that the U.S. has wasted $34 billion on private sector contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report will decry lax oversight and the difficulty of overseeing chains of subcontractors.

As the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq, the State Department is quietly hiring a mercenary army of 5,500 to protect its facilities in the country. The Department is being highly secretive about the effort. Excerpt:

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.

Afghanistan Update

The New York Times reports on Saturday that NATO killed 80 people in an assault on a Haqqani Network stronghold in Paktika. "Most of the dead were from the tribal areas of Pakistan, NATO and local officials said. The tribal areas on the Pakistan side of the border are populated by Pashtuns of similar background to those on the Afghan side and are home to many Afghans who fled their country during the Russian occupation here. A NATO spokesman declined to give any information on how many of the insurgents were Pashtuns from Pakistan and how many were foreign jihadi fighters."

NATO and Aghan forces are said to have killed 5 militants in 2 separate operations in Helmand Province.

In the next in a series of symbolic gestures [my interpolation - C], NATO hands over the peaceful and fiercely anti-Taliban Panjshir Valley to Afghan forces.

The Taliban are reported to have kidnapped and murdered the 8 year old son of a policeman in Helmand after the officer refused to comply with their demands. The Taliban deny the allegation.

Pakistani sources say there has been a dramatic increase in attacks on Pakistani security installations near the Afghan border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Although the headline characterizes these as "cross-border" attacks, the body of the story does not confirm that. -- C

Pamela Constable is not exactly full of optimism about the future for Afghanistan. Excerpt:

Despite assurances by Eikenberry and other officials that the United States will maintain a robust presence after most of its fighting forces leave by 2014, many Afghans believe that the end is near. After 1989, the last time a great foreign power pulled out, civil war soon erupted, and Afghanistan nearly destroyed itself. No one knows what will happen this time, but everyone is bracing for the worst. As one American diplomat said last month, “In their hearts they want us to leave, but in their heads they want us to stay.”

Already, there is a growing sense of order unraveling. The assassination of the president’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai — a powerful and controversial man with many enemies — is an example of the brutal pre-transition power struggle. There have been other signs of trouble, such as the missing Central Bank president who surfaced in Northern Virginia last month, saying he feared for his life after exposing high-level official involvement in a private banking scandal.

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