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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Update for Friday, June 15, 2018

The Afghan Taliban declare a unilateral three-day cease fire coinciding with the government's cease fire, and Afghans begin Eid without fighting for the first time in 17 years. Whether any peace talks or more lasting rapprochement will come of this remains to be seen.

However, the cease fire does not apply to other militant groups. In a major development (which so far has been little reported in the U.S.) the Afghan defense ministry says that a U.S. drone strike killed Mullah Fazlullah Khorasani, leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was considered responsible for the attack on a school in Peshawar in which some 140 children were killed, and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. Khorasani was in Kunar province, Afghanistan at the time of his death. Keep in mind that while Pakistan provides safe haven to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani group is fighting the government and Khorasani was the most wanted criminal in Pakistan.

An airstrike on an IS munitions depot in Nangarhar kills 3 militants. Apparently this was carried out by Afghan forces.

Hamid Karzai says he will not run for president in 2019.

The U.S. has spent more than $8.6 billion fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan, to no apparent effect.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Update for Thursday, June 7, 2018

Amid claims of voter fraud, Iraqi parliament calls for a manual recount, and replacement of the electoral commission with a panel of judges. The supreme court has approved the plan. Claims of fraud, however, have generally been vague and lack supporting evidence.

An explosion in Sadr City kills at least 16 and injures more than 30. The government says the explosion occurred at a munitions depot.  More recent reports give a total of 20 dead and more than 100 injured. Muqtada al-Sadr calls for an investigation. This report says that while the explosion did occur at a munitions depot, it was caused by planted bombs.

IS attack on a village near Baquba kills one civilian, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of four militants who villagers turned over to security forces.

Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani announces a unilateral ceasefire against Taliban in the hope that militants will respond to the recent fatwa by the Ulema and enter into peace talks.

As of now there has been no response from the Taliban. The cease fire is to begin on June 12 and last through Eid al-Fitr, which will be June 19 or 20 on the western calendar. (It depends on when clerics first see the new moon. They sometimes disagree on this.)

NATO and the U.S. will honor the ceasefire. It does not apply to IS or al Qaeda.




Monday, June 4, 2018

Update for Monday, June 4, 2018

Ulema meets in Kabul, issues fatwa condemning violence, and calling for peace talks. A suicide attacker near the gates of the gathering kills several people. (The linked AFP article gives the death toll as 7 but it has since risen.) I have not been able to locate the exact full text of the fatwa but according to the AP report:

Less than an hour before the attack happened, Ghofranullah Murad, a member of the council, read out a written statement from the gathering saying that innocent Afghan men, women and children are the true victims of the 17-year-long war.
"The ongoing war in Afghanistan is illegal and has no root in Sharia (Islamic) law," the statement said. "It is illegal according to Islamic laws and it does nothing but shed the blood of Muslims."
"We the religious Ulema call on the Taliban to respond positively to the peace offer of the Afghan government in order to prevent further bloodshed in the country," it added.
The fatwa also said that killing people by any means — such as bombs and suicide attacks — as well as violent acts, including robbery and kidnapping, count as sins in Islam.

Three children are killed by a roadside bomb in Nangarhar, as IS threats force school closures in the province.

Half of Afghan children are not in school, most of them girls. "In the worst-affected areas as many as 85% of girls are not getting an education, with child marriage, a lack of female teachers and poor school facilities among the major reasons."

Two police killed as Taliban attack checkpoints in Ghor.

In Iraqsevere drought is compounded by Turkey diverting water from the Tigris, but parliament is unable to muster a quorum to address the issue.

Turkey is expected to launch operations in the Quandil region of Iraq in pursuit of PKK leadership. Turkey already says it has 11 military bases inside Iraq.

Shortages of electricity and water plague the country.

Iraqi courts issue an arrest warrant for Rebwar Talabani, a leader of the Kurdish independence movement.





Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/nation-world/world/article212472174.html#storylink=cpy


Monday, May 28, 2018

Update for Monday, May 28, 2018

Senator McCain now says that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "mistake." Thanks a lot Senator, for the past 14 years of war mongering. And it wasn't a mistake - they did it on purpose.

UN Security Council will discuss situation in Iraq on Wednesday. The future of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq will presumably be the focus.

Although IS no longer controls substantial territory, it remains a threat. Salahudin province is particularly vulnerable.

Iraqi forces continue to attack remnants of the group with air strikes, police operations, and military operations. And Iraqi forces continue to suffer casualties.

Political parties continue to dispute the validity of the recent election, more here. However, the Supreme Court will not intervene, although there will be a parliamentary commission to investigate.

The Electoral Commission issues a lengthy statement defending the election.

Afghan MPs decry the security situation and warn of possible government collapse if the situation does not improve.

Taliban overrun security checkpoints in Takhar.

Attack on a police convoy in Paktia carrying a Taliban prisoner leaves 5 dead including the prisoner.

U.S.drone strike said to kill IS militants in Nangahar.

Much of Afghanistan is suffering from severe drought.

Militants kill 2 police and an electoral official in Herat.

Taliban kill a tribal elder who created a medal honoring Donald Trump for "bravery". [Obviously I don't approve of violence but WTF? They raised hundreds of dollars to make it out of gold.]

Former army officer and CIA analyst Ray McGovern discusses this Memorial Day. No one wants to believe that their loved ones death was pointless, but that's a trick to immunize the people responsible from accountability.










Thursday, May 24, 2018

Update for Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tell me something I don't already know department. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction declares the effort a failure. The $5 billion expenditure by the U.S. has largely been squandered.

The report says the effort proved ineffective in stabilization because the military focused on the most dangerous districts first, where poor security made it hard to move on to the building phase. U.S. civilian agencies were compelled to conduct their stabilization programs in dangerous areas not ready for rebuilding, and once coalition troops and civilians left those districts the stabilization ended.
The report also says that U.S. funds created opportunities for corruption, and the Obama administration's deadline for troop withdrawals also created problems with a race against the clock. I would say, however, that it is not clear that anything could have worked.

I'll skip the roundup of daily violence, which continues at a steady rate.

In IraqMuqtada al-Sadr met with political leaders in Baghdad and says he has agreement to form an inclusive government. Whether he will truly transcend his past and provide the leadership to build a unified nation and an accountable, effective government obviously remains to be seen. But he's still saying all the right words. I remember writing here back at the height of the civil war that I didn't see anyone standing up for Iraq. Our friend River left the country in despair. (I wonder where she is now and what she is doing), as did many other progressive Iraqi nationalists. Is there truly hope now?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Update for Monday, May 14, 2018

The party of Muqtada al-Sadr appears to have won the Iraqi parliamentary election with 92% of the votes counted. As long-term followers of this blog will know, al-Sadr led a militia that actively opposed the U.S. occupation. As a result, he was labeled in the U.S. media as a "radical." The Sadrist forces were accused of atrocities during the Sunni-Shiite civil war, although in public Sadr always claimed to be a non-sectarian Iraq nationalist. He subsequently disbanded the Mahdi Army and led a movement against corruption and sectarianism. Among Shiite politicians he is also noteworthy for rejecting Iranian influence in Iraq as well as U.S. influence. As he is not a candidate himself he cannot become prime minister but he will presumably choose the PM if his bloc is asked to form a government. This is an interesting development. If he is sincere about championing non-sectarian Iraqi nationalism the country may have a better future than many have hoped for. We shall see.

Peter Beaumont gives a brief synopsis of this history in The Guardian and like Cervantes, says we'll have to see if he's sincere.

The party of a Shiite militia backed by Iran has won second place in the vote. So again, time will tell.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the security situation continues to be disastrous.

Attack on a government building in Jalalad kills 15. It is not clear if the death toll includes the six attackers. IS claims responsibility.

Members of parliament accuse the government of interfering in the electoral process.

Governor of Nangarhar is dismissed amidst deteriorating security.

Battle in Nimroz kills 5 police and 2 insurgents.

Bombing in Paktika kills a tribal elder and injures 7.

Eight soldiers killed in northern Kunduz province.

Ihsanullah Omarkhail discusses the state of Afghan politics, dominated by warlords and corruption. The U.S. allied with warlords to fight the Taliban, but:

Count this as a strategic mistake by the US in Afghan politics. Furthermore, criminal Afghan politicians have long depended on intimidation and coercion to sustain influence over Afghan civilians.
The government is facing two challenges. The country is politically divided between warlords and local strongmen on one side and reformist, educated technocrats on the other. The second challenge is the ongoing Taliban insurgency and other terror groups inside the country.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Update for Wednesday, May 9, 2108

Perhaps a bit tangential to Iraq, but -- well, not really. Dominic Tierney discusses the ways in which U.S. actions since 9/11 have been a boon to Iran. In addition to eliminating Iran's mortal enemy Saddam Hussein and installing an Iranian puppet regime in Iraq; and toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan which was also hostile to Iran (Iran has now switched sides in Afghanistan); the decision to pull out of the JCPOA -- the nuclear deal with Iran -- will only embolden Iran's hard liners, isolate the U.S. from its allies, and potentially allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Sad!

Various experts discuss the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq. While they don't expect major changes, there is some hope of less sectarian polarization. We shall see.

In Afghanistan, attacks on Kabul police stations kill two police, injure several civilians. Later report says a total of 5 people killed but does not say how many were civilians. Attack is blamed on the Haqqani network.

UNAMA concludes that air strike in Kunduz on April 2 killed 30 children and injured 56. The government claimed that attack targeted Taliban leadership.

Eight Afghan soldiers killed in attack on a voter registration center in Badghis.

Taliban capture a district in Baghlan and assault another in Faryab.