I don't want this blog to turn into "All Iraq/Afghanistan, All the Time" or anything, but there's just so much news coming out of those two regions of the world (in addition to all the other foreign policy hot spots) that it's hard to go a day without mentioning one or the other in some way. So here are some stories/opinions of the day that I recommend:
One of the reasons that American casualties are up so dramatically this month is because our troops find themselves battling not only their old enemies the Sunni insurgents, but also turning on the Shiite militias running rampant throughout Baghdad. The reaction to these raids among those who support al-Sadra has been negative, if not down right hostile.
It's also a bad sign for things in Iraq that senior civilian and military leadership can't seem to figure out what their strategy is. The Washington Post reports today that the top American commander, General George Casey, may call for additional troops to be sent to Baghdad, including possibly troops from outside the country. Also today, the NY Times reports that Gen. Casey has "clarified" his remarks to mean that he in fact has no such intent to call for more troops. Perhaps a phone call from the White House helped him figure out what he truly meant. Some active members of the military agree that sending more troops is the wrong approach.
Geg. Casey also stated that he believes Iraqi troops will be able to take over most of the security operations in 12-18 months. As the NY Times reports, we've heard it all before. As the article fairly points out, the Iraqi military has made substantial improvements since their training begn shortly after the initial invasion. But what progress there is has been painfully slow, and the Iraqi military is plagued by the same sectarian problems that divide the country, beset by absenteeism, and their reliability is not at all uniform.
In addition, overhead expenses have consumed more than half of the money budgeted for reconstruction, and Iraq's former finance minister charges that most of the money set aside to rebuild the Iraqi army has been stolen by corrupt officials.
The pundits are still coming to terms with how to deal with Iraq. Jonah Goldberg, trying to have his cake and eat it too, admits that the Iraq war was a mistake, but that doesn't make the anti-war crowd right. Eugene Robinson says the "least unattractive option" is a phased withdrawal. Richard Holbrooke also characterizes "disengagement" as "the least bad option." David Ignatius says the administration must manage "orderly retreat under fire."Frederick Kagan argues that we can't leave Iraq before the country is stabilized, but like many who hold this viewpoint can't quite bring himself to say what we should do to stabilize the country. Simon Jenkins of The Guardian says we've turned Iraq into "the most hellish place on Earth."
Update: Here's a bonus Afghanistan update for you. British troops discuss their surprise at "ferocity" of the Taliban. The editor of the South Asian Intelligence Review accuses the US-led coaltion in Afghanistan of "gross stupidity." NATO soldiers fail to win people over to their side. Pro-Taliban militants, solidifying their control over Waziristan, are planning to impose their own taxes.