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July 14, 2008

NSN Daily Update: Shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan- 7/14/08
Posted by The National Security Network

This weekend saw additional signs that Afghanistan and Pakistan - the region of the world that presents the greatest direct threat to the United States will demand at least as much attention as Iraq.  For years the Bush Administration has ignored calls for a change in strategy that addresses Afghanistan first, and it is only now that we are finally seeing the costs of the Administration’s strategic myopia.  With a major attack against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan this weekend, a new Pentagon study group report that may propose reducing U.S. forces in Iraq to 50,000 by the spring of 2009, and news that the military is in fact planning a further reduction of American forces in Iraq the requirement to focus on Afghanistan and Iraq is more clear than ever.   

Nine U.S. troops were killed in the worst attack against Americans in Afghanistan in three years. Taliban rebels carried out the deadliest attack on American forces in three years on Sunday in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers.  The assault was the latest round of fighting between American troops and Taliban militants in the areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  The situation has been deteriorating for months.  General David McKiernan, head of operations in Afghanistan since June, said that some kind of attack had been carried out “almost every day I have been here.”  Also on Sunday, a suicide bomber killed 24 people in the southern Afghanistan province of Uruzgan.  [NY Times, 7/14/08. AP, 7/13/08]

The Administration is weighing the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq.   According to administration and military officials, the Bush Administration is considering bringing more troops home from Iraq beginning in September.  Officials report that by the time Bush leaves office, “at least one and as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades now in Iraq could be withdrawn or at least scheduled for withdrawal.”  A prominent factor in the consideration of increasing the pace of the pullout is the need for additional American troops in Afghanistan, where fighting has intensified.  This news comes as there are new reports that the Administration will likely not sign a long-term Status of Forces Agreement with the Government of Iraq because of Iraqi objections and that part of the negotiations now include a “time horizon” for American withdrawals.  [NY Times, 7/13/08.  Washington Post, 7/13/08]

Military analysis says it is time to begin leaving Iraq and put more focus on Afghanistan.
  A forthcoming Pentagon-sponsored report by a defense analysis group at the Naval Postgraduate School is to, “recommend that U.S. forces be reduced to as few as 50,000 by the spring of 2009, down from about 150,000 now.”  The report reflects a significant sentiment within the military that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help control an increasingly active insurgency but, due to the war in Iraq, insufficient forces are available for such action. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen has said "I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. [Washington Post 7/2/08. Newsweek, 7/21/08]

Quick Hits

The International Criminal Court charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He is the first sitting head of state to be so charged, and concerns have arisen over whether the indictment will negatively affect efforts to stem violence and instability in the region.

Ahead of his reported trip to the Middle East and Europe next week, Senator Barack Obama outlined today in The New York Times his plan for a responsible withdrawal from Iraq.  The piece follows an interview Sunday with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

The New York Times reports that the Taliban have taken control of a large marble quarry in Pakistan’s Tribal Region, which is providing a financial base for their resurgent presence there.

India's national security adviser has said Pakistan's intelligence service, ISI, was behind a suicide car-bomb attack on the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul last week that killed 41 people.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy launched the summit of the Mediterranean Union on Sunday, with a strong focus of forging better relations between Israel and its neighbors.  Focus was especially strong on renewing efforts towards forging an Israeli-Syrian accord and as well as bettering relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sunday’s New York Times featured an op-ed by Frank Rich examining Jane Mayer’s new book The Dark Side, in which he compares the end of George W. Bush’s presidency to the end of Richard Nixon’s, concluding that “the Bush White House’s corruption in the end surpasses Nixon’s.”


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