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 17, 2013

News of the Day for Sunday, March 17, 2013

A five year old boy, kidnapped in Kabul a week ago, is killed by his captors in Parwan province when his family fails to pay ransom. (This article does not state whether the perpetrators were trying to finance insurgent activities, or if this was a purely economic crime. In any case, it illustrates the lawlessness afflicting Afghanistan. Readers will recall that Iraq was horrifically afflicted by kidnapping for ransom after order broke down.)

U.S. delays hand over of Bagrham prison to Afghan authority for one more week. "Karzai reminded Hagel that the transfer has been delayed several times in the past and that this time the handover must take place, the statement added." Karzai has suggested that some of the 3,000 prisoners in Baghram will be freed once Afghanistan gains control of the facility.

It seems this delay is caused by side negotiations over the presence of U.S. special forces in Wardak. Apparently the U.S. is using control of the prison as a bargaining chip force Karzai to rescind his order expelling the forces from the province, after reports that they had been involved in the torture and murder of civilians, which the U.S. denies. ""There might be a compromise on Wardak when the Afghan side is given full control of Bagram prison, which would help President Karzai who views the issue as a matter of sovereignty," a senior government official told Reuters at the weekend, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about the matter," reports Hamid Shalizi.

However, it appears such a bargain would anger many Afghans. Khaama reports:

On Saturday, the influential Ulema Council, whose members are appointed by President Karzai and represent all of the country’s Islamic clerics, issued a threatening statement demanding the withdrawal from Wardak as well as a transfer of the American-controlled prison at Bagram to Afghan control. Also on Saturday, 300 demonstrators from Wardak Province staged a noisy but peaceful demonstration calling for Mr. Karzai’s order to be obeyed. Some were apparently relatives of people who disappeared in raids by Afghans who work alongside the Americans in Wardak, and they carried photographs of nine people who had disappeared after one of the night operations.

Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of the rampage murder of 16 Afghan villagers, faces a "sanity review." A panel of 3 doctors will report by May 1 on his state of mind and whether he is competent to be tried.

One NATO service member is killed in a helicopter crash in Kandahar province. As always, ISAF claims no indication of enemy activity, but the cause is under investigation.

The five Americans killed in a helicopter crash in the same area Monday are identified.


Dancewater said...

Five Myths about Iraq

1. The troop surge succeeded.

Dancewater said...

Epidemic of birth defects in Iraq, and our duty as public health researchers

War zones are heavily polluted with a variety of contaminants, and toxic metal mixtures are routinely found in these areas. Metal contaminants in war zones originate from bombs and bullets as well as from other explosive devices. Metals, most importantly lead (Pb), uranium (U), and mercury (Hg), are used in the manufacture of munitions. Their purpose and utility have been repeatedly described in US military manuals and bulletins (Departments of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Joint Technical Bulletin 1998; US Department of the Army Technical Manual 1990).

In addition, the US armed forces have used depleted uranium (DU) weapons in recent wars. DU weaponry was first extensively used in the US invasion of Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. At that time, an estimated DU expenditure of 320 to 800 tonnes was mainly shot at the Iraqi troops who were withdrawing from Kuwait to Basrah.

Later, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom shot ammunition made from DU at a wide variety of targets, including populated cities, power and sanitation infrastructure (electrical power plants and water and sewage treatment plants), and civil and agricultural infrastructure. Although the amount of DU used and the specific locations of DU releases are not well known, approximately 2,000 tonnes of DU may have been used in Iraq.

Large quantities of DU bullets were also expended in the Iraqi environment. Between 2002 and 2005, the US armed forces expended six billion bullets according to the figures of the US General Accounting Office. That is 250,000 bullets per "insurgent" killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. An accurate tally of the numbers of bombs and the locations of bombings in Iraq is being compiled by the US Air Force. This information can be utilised in future studies to assess Iraqi public metal exposures and possible differential exposures in that population.

Dancewater said...

A decade after the Iraq war began, we should make amends

Dancewater said...

Afghans protest US Special Operations in Wardak

Several hundred demonstrators are marching to the Afghan parliament building in Kabul, protesting the continued presence of U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan's troubled Wardak province.

Kabul's deputy police chief Gen. Mohammad Daud Amin says Saturday's demonstration of roughly 500 protesters has been peaceful.

The demonstrators are demanding the release of nine local citizens they believe were detained by the U.S. forces. U.S. officials have said only four of the nine missing men were arrested in joint U.S.-Afghan raids.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had demanded all U.S. commandos leave the province early last week, but agreed to give top U.S. commander Gen. Joseph Dunford more time to craft a solution that maintains security in Wardak, which is used as a gateway by militants to bring bombers and weapons into Kabul.

Cervantes said...

I'm thinking of resuming Iraq updates on Sundays, but I don't know if there's any demand for it -- anybody care to weigh in? I am personally very concerned about the ongoing violence there and the real possibility that the country will come apart at the seams, with unpredictable but likely very unhappy consequences.

Dancewater said...

If you want to do that, I say go right ahead.

Iraq is a horrible mess, and that is the way the US government wants it... along with the rest of the Middle East, except for Israel.