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, December 25, 2011

News of the Day for Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reported Security Incidents

Afghan soldier in a gunfight with U.S. troops in Bola Boluk, Farah province, southwest Afghanistan on Christmas eve. The Afghan is killed and there are U.S. soldiers injured, but in line with policy, ISAF has not commented on non-fatal casualties.

Suicide bomb attack on a funeral in Taluqan, Takhar province kills 10 people including Abdul Mutalib, a member of parliament, and injures 39. The hospital says it has received 12 bodies, and other accounts report even higher totals. Security responsibility in Takhar is currently being transferred to the Afghan government.

A member of the Royal Air Force dies in the UK of injuries suffered in a bombing on Thursday. The MoD has not yet released any information about his identity.

A NATO helicopter is shot down by small arms fire in Helmand, but there are no injuries reported.

Fighting is reported overnight in Baghlan province, as foreign troops attacked militants in militants in the Chayabiha area.

Afghan Interior Ministry says NATO and Afghan forces have killed 30 insurgents in various operations around the country, giving no further details. (This is a pretty sorry Reuters Factbox, as that is the only item it contains. -- C)

Other News of the Day

Hamid Karzai says he will not sign a strategic partnership agreement with NATO until night time raids and house searches stop. The agreement, currently being negotiated, will govern relations between Afghanistan and U.S. troops after the scheduled withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014. "Arbitrary operations and home searches have been a serious problem between Nato and Afghanistan for several years," Karzai said in a statement. "This has been one of the main obstacles for signing the Afghanistan-US strategic partnership pact."

Afghan Airlines fears it will not survive a government decision to allow foreign competition.

Iraq Update

Three people killed, 12 injured in a suicide bomb attack on a checkpoint in Dujail, Salah al Din Province.

Former Saddam Hussein regime official Tariq Aziz, currently on death row, has been barred from calling his family, a privilege he was formerly granted when in U.S. custody. His family has complained about this today because he is a Christian.

Iranian armed forces chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi says Iran is prepared to expand its military and security ties with Iraq now that U.S. forces have departed. He adds, "I hope the humiliating failure of the United States after nine years of occupying Iraq will serve as a lesson for them to never think of attacking another country."

Tareq Hashemi, currently in exile in Kurdistan, calls the charges against him a plot to destroy PM Maliki's opponents, that threatens to reignite the sectarian civil war of 2005-2007. I find it particularly noteworthy that Jalal Talibani, who is the titular president of Iraq, is personally harboring Hashemi at his guest house in Sulaimaniya. Make of it what you will.

This is a bit complicated, but Iraq refuses to allow trucks carrying cargo from Jordan to Turkey to cross its territory, essentially as a gesture of solidarity with the Syrian regime. Traffic ordinarily transits Syria, but both Jordan and Turkey want to go through Iraq instead as part of the effort to isolate Syria, which reaps some economic benefit from the traffic. Malki's tilt toward the Assad regime angers the Sunni Arab population and further contributes to the sectarian tension.

Turkish commentator Omer Taspinar says Iraq is coming apart:

What is happening on the ground in Iraq looks like a return to the dark years of sectarian war, for which the American invasion is largely to blame. Turkey should pay much more attention to Iraq. It is with some chutzpah that a New York Times editorial advised the Obama administration that “regional allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia must be enlisted to help send an unmistakable message to Iraqi political leaders that political turmoil or the disintegration of Iraq into sectarian fiefdoms would be disastrous for the country and its neighbors.” As if such a message would change anything!