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, July 10, 2016

Update for Sunday, July 10, 2016

Iraq Interior Minister Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban's resignation is accepted by PM Abadi on Friday, following bombings in Baghdad and the shrine of Imam al-Sayed Mohammed bin Ali in Balad. Abadi also fires Baghdad Operations commander Abdul Amir al-Shammari, and other officials.

The Balad attack killed 50 people.

Asharq al Awsat provides the interesting insight into Iraqi politics that Abadi requires the approval of the Badr organization to appoint a successor to Ghabban. (The Badr organization is a Shiite political party that succeeds the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a militia sponsored by Iran. The former Badr brigade, it's military arm, is now part of the "popular mobilization" Shiite militias that fight alongside the Iraqi army.)

Iraq says it has captured the Qayara air base, a step in the campaign to recapture Mosul.

An Israeli diplomat in the U.S. says that Israel would recognize independent Kurdistan. 

Tony Blair continues to face serious repercussions over the Chilcot report, although oddly George W. Bush does not. In fact the report has been largely ignored in the U.S., although it is just as much about the U.S. as it is about the U.K. Former Deputy PM John Prescott says the war was illegal and that Blair deceived him and the rest of the cabinet.

Sarah Helm, the wife of Blair's chief of staff, claims to have overheard the following phone call between Bush and Blair two weeks before the invasion, as reported by the tabloid Daily Mail. I leave it to the reader to decide on the veracity of this, but it's certainly amusing. "Cojones" is Spanish slang for testicles.

Bush: Hello, hello.
Blair: Hi, how are you?
Bush: I’m fine. Fine. But, hey, most important, how are you… you’re being so courageous. Really, really brave. Your body language. Truly. I watched you on TV. Terrific. Real leadership will be remembered. Believe me.
Blair: Yeah, well. It’s hard sometimes. Believe me. But you’re doing pretty well yourself.
Bush: What me? I’m just ready to kick ass.
(Blair laughs nervously, then says French President Jacques Chirac is ‘causing trouble’ over Blair’s hopes of a second UN resolution backing war.)
Bush: Yeah, but what did the French ever do for anyone? What wars did they win since the French Revolution?
Blair: Yeah, right. Right.
(More jokes about the French. Blair tries again.)
Blair: So, er… where do we go from here?
Bush: I’d like to do the second [UN] resolution Friday. We need closure… call in the chips with Chile, the Mexicans… close it down.
(Pause. Sound of breathing. Bush says new intelligence suggests Saddam is about to ‘offload’ weapons of mass destruction (WMD).)
Blair: Yeah. Well, er, let me explain how we see it… I want to take the Europeans with me so Friday might be a little early…
(Long silence. They deride Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector who had not found any WMD and wanted war delayed. Bush mocks ‘that no count’ Blix.)
Bush: And you know what? We could put a bug in on this and make sure Chirac gets to hear it. When that son of a bitch [Saddam] hits Europe, they’ll be saying: ‘Where were George and Tony?’
(Laughter.)
Blair: We’ve got to make people understand we aren’t going to war because we want to but because there is no alternative.
Bush: Yeah. I’ve got a big speech coming up tomorrow so I’ll put some words in on that… but I have to do something about my body language. Your body language is great. How do you do it?
Blair: Yeah.
(Blair’s attempt to get through to Bush on the timing of the new resolution, and hence the war, has failed. He knows it. Before he hangs up, Bush tries to bolster Blair.)
Bush: Y’know, Tony, the American people will never forget what you’re doing. People say to me, you know, is Prime Minister Blair really with you all the way? Do you have faith in him? And I say yes, because I recognise leadership when I see it. And true courage. He won’t let us down.
Blair (laughing): Well, it might be my epitaph.
Bush (laughing): Like, RIP here lies a man of courage, you mean?
Blair (nervously): Yeah, right.
(Blair pleads with Bush for ‘words’ on a possible Israel-Palestine peace deal but an impatient Bush wants to go.)
Bush: I’ve got to hop off to Texas. Hang on in there. And – cojones.
 Blair may face a vote of Contempt of Parliament.

UNICEF says more than half a million Iraqi children are working rather than in school due to displacement and economic desperation.

Regarding Afghanistan, following the NATO summit in Poland NATO commits to funding Afghan security through 2020Canada pledges $440 million in military and civilian aidThe UK commits to keeping 450 troops in the country through 2017. South Korea, which had observer status at the summit, pledges $135 million. Note that Afghanistan is completely dependent on foreign support for its military.

U.S. drone attack said to kill 16 mililtants in NangarharSeparate attack attributed to NATO, but probably meaning U.S., kills 5 in Kunar.

U.S. General John Nicholson says Afghan forces are suffering rising casualties due to Taliban attacks on fixed positions.  

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