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, November 13, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reported Security Incidents

Quandil Mountains, Kurdistan

Turkish military hits suspected PKK position with an airstrike. No further details or casualty reports currently available.


Saboteurs damage a pipeline carrying oil to the Baiji refinery on Friday, causing minor damage. (Not reported here previously.)


Aswat al-Iraq reports 3 separate attacks, killing 2 and injuring 7. A bomb in Tarmiya injured 5 civilians; an Iraqi soldier was killed and 2 injured in an assault on an army patrol in Raghba-Khatoun, with the assailants escaping; and a driver was killed and a passerby injured by a sticky bomb.

al-Hajjaj village, north of Tikrit

Assistant Commander of the Iraqi Army's 4th Battalion, Col. Shahin Adid, is killed in a bomb attack on his motorcade. His bodyguard is seriously injured.


Police officer killed in a bomb attack.

Other News of the Day

It is revealed that Exxon signed a contract to invest in the oil industry in Kurdistan in October. Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani condemns the deal, which the central government considers illegal. Exxon is the first major oil company to strike a separate deal with Kurdistan; others have demurred not wishing to jeopardize their relationship with Baghdad. NYT reporter Andrew Kramer writes, "Critics say that oil companies that made deals with Kurdistan after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government were pursuing development in a manner that has heightened ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds and that has done little to contribute to economic stability. . . The State Department and the military have sought to tamp down antagonism between Kurdistan and the central government for years, and American troops have died trying to keep the peace along that internal border. With the American withdrawal imminent, concerns are mounting that ethnic tensions could again threaten stability."

Iraq appears to be one of Bashar al-Asad's three remaining friend in the Arab League. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh calls the suspension of Syria from the Arab League "unacceptable" on al-Iraqiya. Iraq was the only league member to abstain from the vote. Only Yemen and Lebanon voted no.

Afghanistan Update

Roadside bomb in Lagham Province kills 9 civilians. (At one point this story says 6 dead; other reports have 8 dead.) Also, a bomb in Herat injures 2 police and 2 civilians.

The Afghan Air Force now has 5,000 personnel and 66 aircraft, mostly Russian. However, due to a shortage of competent maintenance personnel, the operational tempo is low.

British Chief of Staff Gen. Sir David Richards says hundreds of UK troops will remain in Afghanistan as trainers after the scheduled withdrawal of combat troops in 2015.

The head of an Afghan policy think tanks says the U.S. is trying to postpone the convocation of a new Loya Jirga out of fear it will oppose the new security pact between Afghanistan and the U.S., currently being negotiated to replace the agreement with the Bush administration in 2005. "While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stressed that any agreement with the US should receive the approval of Loya Jirga first, many members of the former Loya Jirga have already voiced strong opposition to a strategic deal with the US." (In case anyone doesn't know, a Loya Jirga is a traditional assembly of tribal and other indigenous leaders. Afghanistan has always been a loosely organized, essentially feudally structured society, so this is how big decisions got made. The current effort to build a unified nation-state with a strong central government is historically unprecedented and, in my personal view, feckless. -- C)