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, January 29, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, January 29, 2012

A member of the Afghan Peace Council, Shafiullah Shafi, is reported kidnapped in Kunar. He had gone to that province to try to recruit insurgents to the peace process. No one has so far claimed responsibility for seizing him.

Police foil a plot in Kandahar province, seizing a motorbike rigged with explosives.

And, an Afghan soldier is arrested in Herat with an explosive motorbike.

Afghan President Karzai meets with British BP David Cameron in London. Cameron warns against precipitous withdrawal of foreign forces. On Saturday, the two signed a strategic pact to govern relations after 2014.

Meanwhile, British Chief of Staff David Richards, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2006-2008, has been talking out of school, telling a journalist that the military effort in Afghanistan is "amateurish, and "verging on the complacent," while the British have failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq war or provide adequate resources. (I don't know how it works in Britain but were he a U.S. general, he'd be home tomorrow tending his tulips. -- C)

Pakistan FM Hina Rabbani Khar will visit Kabul February 1 to try to make nice, in the wake of the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani and accusations that Pakistan is harboring Afghan Taliban. She will be the first woman to lead a Pakistani delegation to Afghanistan.

Iraq Update

Xinhua reports several incidents: a civilian is killed by a sticky bomb in Maqdadiyah; in Baquba, a sticky bomb attack on a police officer injures him and 2 bystanders; while in Bani Sa'ad an attack on a Sahwa checkpoint injures 2. Finally, an explosion in southeast Baghdad injures 8 people. Apparently one person did in fact die in the Baghdad blast, which targeted a police patrol.

In Samarra, attackers invade the home of an official of the Iraqi Reconciliation Institution, seriously injuring him and killing a guest.

Ancient Mandaean sect is disappearing from Iraq. In addition to facing religious persecution, their traditional livelihood of gold- and silversmithing has become impossible in an environment of uncontrolled crime.

St. Louis throws a parade for Iraq vets.

U.S. VP Joe Biden has been calling Iraqi leaders to try to facilitate factional reconciliation. However, Iyad Allawi tells Asharq alawsat (here via Aswat al-Iraq, the original interview does not appear to be available in English) that he fears for his personal safety, and:

"The situations are heading towards very difficult trends for several reasons, in their forefront of which is the nature of the political process that was built on erroneous basis, including marginalization and political sectarianism, thing that led for non-building of State institutions, able to present proper services for citizens, especially in the security field and non-implementation of the conditions, cited in the national partnership, agreed upon, thing that also led for difficult tensions facing the country nowadays, such tensions that were stepped up for serious practices, including the case of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimy and Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq," Allawi said in the interview.

"There are no laws in the country, where the law is politicized and the laws are under politicization, along with measures that are taken outside the limits of the law and against the Constitution; that is why there is no concept for the sovereignty on the law, complete disrespect for the sovereignty of the Constitution," Allawi added.