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, March 25, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, March 25, 2012

One U.S. soldier, 6 Afghan soldiers, and a translator are killed by an explosion in Kandahar province. They were approaching the device in order to defuse it when it exploded; it may have been remotely detonated. The incident occurred in Arghandab district, which borders Panjwai. Other reports give the total death toll as 9.)

The U.S. has paid financial compensation to families of the people killed in the massacre in Panjwai. In case you are wondering about the value of a child's life, it is "up to $50,000."

An anonymous U.S. official says that Robert Bales carried out the Panjwai massacre in two stages, returning to his base after one set of murders, then leaving again to kill some more. If true, this raises even more questions about security at the base and the competence of command.

ISAF says three NATO soldiers died on Saturday. One of these may refer to the IED incident described above. Another was from "an insurgent attack in the west," and the third non-combat related. No other details at this time.

Pakistanis protest reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

Afghan Ministry of Defense reports one soldier killed, 2 injured in past 24 hours. Interior Ministry says one militant killed, 7 detained, and explosives seized.

Iraq Update

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Araby arrives in Baghdad ahead of the Arab League summit scheduled to begin on Tuesday. This is the first time the League has met in Iraq in 20 years; the League obviously has a full agenda.

VP Tareq al-Hashimi, still in exile in Kurdistan, claims his bodyguard was tortured to death, and demands an investigation.

Prison officials and guards have been detained after a mass jailbreak in Kirkuk on Friday.

Reuters' Suadad al-Salhy reports that al-Qaeda holds sway in Mosul. Excerpt:

Arriving in Mosul from Baghdad, you feel the sinister lurch of going back in time to 2006 or 2007, the days of sectarian slaughter when Iraq's militant gangs stalked the streets and killed tens of thousands of their countrymen.

The familiar signs, long-since vanished from Baghdad, are all still here: the towering concrete blast walls, the dirt obstacles piled in the centre of the roads to slow down racing attackers, the buildings wrecked by the impact of shells.

Razor wire is rampant like a weed, shrapnel crunches under foot and the garbage lies rotting in heaps, because war makes basic civic duties like cleaning the streets seem like lunacy.


dancewater said...

Top 10 lessons of the Iraq war

Lesson #1: The United States lost. The first and most important lesson of Iraq war is that we didn't win in any meaningful sense of that term. The alleged purpose of the war was eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but it turns out he didn't have any. Oops. Then the rationale shifted to creating a pro-American democracy, but Iraq today is at best a quasi-democracy and far from pro-American. The destruction of Iraq improved Iran's position in the Persian Gulf -- which is hardly something the United States intended -- and the costs of the war (easily exceeding $1 trillion dollars) are much larger than U.S. leaders anticipated or promised. The war was also a giant distraction, which diverted the Bush administration from other priorities (e.g., Afghanistan) and made the United States much less popular around the world.

This lesson is important because supporters of the war are already marketing a revisionist version. In this counternarrative, the 2007 surge was a huge success (it wasn't, because it failed to produce political reconciliation) and Iraq is now on the road to stable and prosperous democracy. And the costs weren't really that bad. Another variant of this myth is the idea that President George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus had "won" the war by 2008, but President Obama then lost it by getting out early. This view ignores the fact that the Bush administration negotiated the 2008 Status of Forces agreement that set the timetable for U.S. withdrawal, and Obama couldn't stay in Iraq once the Iraqi government made it clear it wanted us out.

The danger of this false narrative is obvious: If Americans come to see the war as a success -- which it clearly wasn't -- they may continue to listen to the advice of its advocates and be more inclined to repeat similar mistakes in the future.

Lesson #2: It's not that hard to hijack the United States into a war. The United States is still a very powerful country, and the short-term costs of military action are relatively low in most cases. As a result, wars of choice (or even "wars of whim") are possible. The Iraq war reminds us that if the executive branch is united around the idea of war, normal checks and balances -- including media scrutiny -- tend to break down.

The remarkable thing about the Iraq war is how few people it took to engineer. It wasn't promoted by the U.S. military, the CIA, the State Department, or oil companies. Instead, the main architects were a group of well-connected neoconservatives, who began openly lobbying for war during the Clinton administration. They failed to persuade President Bill Clinton, and they were unable to convince Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to opt for war until after 9/11. But at that point the stars aligned, and Bush and Cheney became convinced that invading Iraq would launch a far-reaching regional transformation, usher in a wave of pro-American democracies, and solve the terrorism problem.

As the New York Times' Thomas Friedman told Ha'aretz in May 2003: "Iraq was the war neoconservatives wanted... the war the neoconservatives marketed.... I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office [in Washington]) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened."

dancewater said...

Re: payments to Afghan families for killing their family - usually, they get less than 2,000 per person. The payments of $50,000 are very high. That is about 100 times the annual income for Afghans in that area.

They are working hard to cover this whole mass murder up.

dancewater said...

photo caption: U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen is seen during his meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, unseen, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, March 19, 2012.

Who knew we had a "Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence"???

And what is he doing in Iraq?

Cervantes said...

What is he doing in Iraq? Prior to the U.S. invading the country, he'd have no reason to be there. But now Iraq is full of militant Islamist extremists, who are very well armed and well financed, of various stripes. Many of them use the al Qaeda brand, and they control territory north of Baghdad. They are involved in the conflict in Syria as well. He may also be concerned about the sanctions on Syria and Iran, which Iraq helps them evade. Lots of possibilities.

dancewater said...

He's probably there to fund al Qaeda, rather than convince others to de-fund them.

Several US Senators have called for arming and funding and training the al Qaeda folks up in Syria.