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, October 9, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reported Security Incidents


An explosion west of the city late Saturday injures six, including a police officer. In a separate incident, a woman is shot dead in front of her house. (No further information at this time.)

Diyala Province, near the Iranian border

Three Iraqi border police on a routine patrol are missing. A search mission is underway.

Other News of the Day

Iraq delays plans to hand over security in cities from the military to the police by the end of this year. AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports:

[T]he spokesman for the Baghdad military operations command, Qassim al-Moussawi, said Saturday that the military is worried that the police will not be able to handle security in all areas of the country. "We started to hand over gradually in some areas. But other areas we can't hand over to the police because still the Interior Ministry needs the support of the Iraqi army. It is not capable now nor by the end of 2011."

The Iraqi army's presence can be felt all over Iraq's quasi-militarized cities, where soldiers in helmets and flak vests and carrying AK-47's man checkpoints and drive around in Humvees. The army has received the bulk of the training and support from the U.S. military and is generally seen as more competent than the police. The police, since they tend to work and live in the same areas, have had problems with infiltration by various militant factions and are perceived as less willing to go after lawbreakers.

WaPo's Dan Zak reports that since Iraq has refused to grant immunity from Iraqi law to any U.S. troops that remain in 2012, the U.S. is looking for other ways of providing training. Civilian contractors or forces under NATO command might gain other legal protection. (It's hard for me to see how civilian trainers could gain immunity more easily than U.S. military. Nor does it seem like a good idea from Iraq's point of view. -- C)

NYT's Tim Arango reports that fears of Iranian influence over Iraq may be overblown. According to Arango, Iran is not popular in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. He attributes this largely to the weak Iranian economy and poor quality of Iranian goods, making other trading partners and foreign investors such as Turkey, China and Kuwait more respected and important. "One aim of the American invasion here was to establish a moderate center of Shiite Islam, democratically inclined and oriented to the West, that would be a counterbalance to Iran’s system of clerical rule. However, something like the reverse seems to have happened. As Iran has used its political connections to hold great sway over Iraq’s leadership class, and has backed militias responsible for assassinations and attacks on American bases, it has been less successful wielding other mechanisms of power at a grass-roots level."(Well, it's a story anyway -- C)

NYT's Steven Lee Myers discusses the book “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People” (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company), by former U.S. diplomat Peter Van Buren. I've heard Van Buren interviewed on the radio and it definitely sounds worth while. Essentially the Iraqi rebuilding effort consisted of little more than a vast series of Potemkin villages and movie sets. -- C Excerpt:

“No matter what Iraq and nature wanted, the American Embassy spent whatever it took to have green grass in the desert,” he writes. “Later full-grown palm trees were trucked in and planted to line the grassy square. We made things in Iraq look the way we wanted them to look, water shortages through the rest of the country be damned. The grass was the perfect allegory for the whole war.” ... He describes clashing with his superiors for trying to cancel programs that were clearly failing, like one to give sheep to widows that instead went to a corrupt sheik. He derides the distribution of humanitarian assistance (H.A.) as little more than photo opportunities that allowed commanders to check a box on progress reports.

Afghanistan Update

NATO reports two service members killed in an attack in Southern Afghanistan on Saturday. No further details at this time.

Former MP Simeen Barakzai, one of nine removed from office for alleged voter fraud in a move widely seen as an illegitimate exercise of power by president Karzai, is on the eight day of a hunger strike.

Members of an Afghan commission investigating the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani will visit Pakistan within a few days to seek assistance. (This should be interesting. -- C)

An Australian soldier says she was sexually assaulted on a military base in Afghanistan last month. (Of course, only a small fraction of these incidents are reported. My friends at the VA tell me sexual assault of male military personnel is common, but essentially never reported. It's just part of the culture. Hearsay, okay, but I thought I'd mention it. -- C)

Gun battle in Nimroz claims 8 insurgents and 1 police officer.