The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Sunday, December 20, 2009

News of the Day for Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Iraqi soldier takes up a sentry point overlooking one of Fakka wells near Amara, 300 km (186 miles) southeast of Baghdad, December 19, 2009. Iraq's oil industry will not be affected by a reported cross-border incursion by Iranian troops, which Iran denies, the government spokesman said on Saturday. REUTERS/Salah Thani (IRAQ - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS)

Reported Security Incidents

Unspecified location near the Turkish border

Oil exports from northern Iraq halted by a sabotage of the pipeline to Turkey. "A 55 kilometre section of the pipeline was damaged in the attack, causing a large oil spillage." While the exact location of the attack is not given, it is said to have occurred 325 miles north of Baghdad. You can refer to the map of Iraq's oil infrastructure. By my measurements, 325 Km north of Baghdad would place it close to the Turkish border, possibly near the IT-2A pump station. There are no nearby cities, though it is near a large reservoir on the Tigris. -- C


Eight civilians injured in IED attack on a car late Saturday.


Former member of Parliament Yashar Mohammed Shakir survives an assassination attempt by means of a bomb attack on his house late Saturday.


Three students injured in a roadside bomb attack.

Civilian injured by an IED attack on a police patrol.

Other News of the Day

Dispute between Iran and Iraq over well Number 4 in the al-Fakkah oil field appears to ease as Iraqi officials say Iranian soldiers have left the area. However, diplomatic wrangling over the issue continues, and reports are now emerging that the two countries' armies have been playing cat and mouse games over oil wells in the region for some time now. Reuters has the most specific information I can find on the current situation.

Iraqi government reaches a deal with Royal Dutch Shell and the Malaysian company Petronas to develop the Majnoon oil field. This is right on the Iranian border, near Basra; but it is not the field currently in dispute.

Turkish Interior Minister Be┼čir Atalay goes to Baghdad for 3-way talks with Iraq and the U.S. over the PKK. Turkey wants the Kurdish irredentist organization eradicated.

U.S. Senate passes massive defense spending bill including $130 billion for ongoing war operations. It does not include the additional funds to pay for President Obama's proposed escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan, which will be considered later.

Maj. General Anthony Cucolo declares pregnancy a cause for court martial. He says the policy applies to female soldiers deployed in combat zones and male soldiers who impregnate them. Cucolo commands troops in the regions of Kirkuk, Tikrit and Mosul. The order also bans sexual relations with Iraqis, and elective surgery. Whatever else you may find interesting about this, his stated reason is that he is shorthanded and cannot spare any personnel. This is rather telling given that troop withdrawals are slated to begin following the elections in March. -- C

Afghanistan Update

NATO announces the deaths of a soldier from the UK in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan; and a Polish soldier in Ghazni from small arms fire.

California National Guard unit ambushed in Kunar province on Saturday, survives a lengthy firefight without casualties. This story is interesting for a couple of reasons. This is officially not a combat unit, but rather is working on agricultural development. As such, women are fully integrated into the unit and this story includes a female soldier operating a 50 caliber machine gun who repelled the attack. The distinction between combat and non-combat forces in Afghanistan is not always very meaningful and it is clear that women in the U.S. armed forces are now exposed to, and participating in combat. As long as it's happening, they should make it official, it seems to me. -- C

Karzai reveals his cabinet sources, to generally good reviews from western observers but less enthusiasm among Afghans, according to WaPo's Karin Brulliard. Excerpt:

The holding over of several ministers was just one element that drew complaints from Afghan lawmakers. Some said Karzai had violated a recent parliamentary resolution by naming several people with dual citizenship, while others expressed disappointment that the cabinet would include just one woman.

Others said they were befuddled by the appointment of little-known figures to low-profile positions. Though many of those people appeared to be experienced or well educated, observers said, there was a widespread assumption that they were allies of some of Karzai's more dubious backers.

Jon Weiner smacks down the argument that we owe it to the Afghan people to sustain the occupation of their country. Excerpt:

For those of us on the left, the best argument in favor of the Afghan war is . . . that we have an obligation to the Afghan people -- especially to the feminists, secular teachers, labor organizers, health workers, democrats, all those working to build a secular, civil society. We encouraged them to help create a real alternative to religious fundamentalism. It would be wrong now to abandon them to the Taliban.

If we accept the argument that we have incurred an obligation to protect democratic activists in Afghanistan, what exactly do we owe them? First of all, we owe it to them not to support an undemocratic government there. The Karzai government exists only because the United States created and sustained it, despite massive election fraud, monumental corruption, and myriad failures to win popular support.

If we accept the obligations argument, we also owe it to the Afghans to fight a different kind of war – to stop attacking and killing large numbers of civilians. The way we have been fighting the war creates more enemies than are killed. . . . That means the US military must "stop killing civilians, work locally, disown corrupt officials, emphasize social and economic reconstruction." They have not been doing this for nine years, partly because that kind of careful, close-in fighting creates more American casualties than bombing suspected enemy locations. . .

Ahmad Kawosh, for IWPR, says the Afghan army is complaining about the loyalties and adequacy of the Afghan police. Excerpt:

General Abdul Rahman Rahmani, commander of the 209 Shahin Army Corps, based in Mazar-e-Sharif, says over the past year the ANA has launched operations in four northern provinces to drive out Taleben and other militant groups, but the police have been unable to hold territory once the army has moved on, allowing the insurgents to regroup.

“Kunduz, Baghlan, Faryab and Balkh provinces have been cleared of [insurgent] groups several times,” Rahmani said. “But the achievements have not been protected. After a short time, the insurgents are able to retake the territory. So the army conducts another operation. This leads to rising casualties and low morale. Army soldiers leave; they stop fighting.”


Rahmani, though, questions not only the competence of the police, but also claims that they are cooperating with the insurgents, making deals and even fighting with the Taleban against the ANA.

In addition, Rahmani said police collect local tithes, known as ushr, from the population jointly with the insurgents.

“Police in Baghlan and Kunduz surrendered their weapons to the Taleban. The police and the [insurgents] are from the same area, they collude with each other. They could not do this in other provinces,” he said.

“I am only talking about what I have seen with my own eyes. The police, along with the Taleban, were collecting tithe from people in Faryab province. When the army arrived, the police started fighting against the army jointly with the Taleban.”