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

Monday, September 10, 2018

Update for Monday, September 10, 2018

Violence and chaos erupt around Afghanistan.

Taliban overrun a district in Jawzjan, at least 30 government forces killed or injured.

Fighting in Sar-e-Paul over two days has left at least 17 security forces dead. The toll is said to be provisional and may be much higher. Additional fighting is said to be underway on the highway to Jawzjan, and in fighting was under way on the main highway into neighboring Jawzjan province, and Taliban forces appeared to be gathering in Sheram to the east of the city.

Taliban capture four security posts in Faryab, with 17 government casualties reported.

Suicide bomber in Kabul attacks crowd commemorating the death of Ahmad Shah Masud, a Tajik leader who was assassinated in 2001 shortly before the U.S. invasion. His supporters were firing randomly into the air while driving through the streets. Police arrested some 100 demonstrators. Seven were killed in the suicide bombing.

Fighting in Samangan leaves 13 police and 4 Taliban dead.

Mortar kills 6 civilians in Helmand.

The U.S. threatens to arrest any judges of the International Criminal Court who charge U.S. soldiers for actions in Afghanistan. Really.

Pakistani commentator Imtiaz Gul considers the carnage in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is in Kabul.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Update for Saturday, September 8, 2018

The corporate media in the U.S. are now largely ignoring Iraq. It seems that having squandered a couple of trillion dollars, four thousand dead troops and who knows how many more wounded, and managing to bring about the deaths of a million or so Iraqis, now that unpleasantness is over and there's no reason for us to pay any attention to what's going on over there.

So, we will take note here that there has been a complete collapse of civil order in Basra as protesters trash every government building, political party headquarters, and facilities of Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian consulate. The water is undrinkable and people who have been poisoned are lying in hospital corridors untreated. Most of the time there is no electricity in 120 degree heat.

Protesters set fire to the Iranian consulate. I have not been able to find reports of the extent of the damage, but personnel all escaped unharmed. However this Reuters photo seems to show that the building was essentially gutted although it has a concrete exterior.

Of course Iraqi government officials are blaming everybody but themselves

Iraq's parliament is in emergency session as PM Abadi promises to violently repress the protests.

Interestingly, the U.S. State Department has implicitly condemned the assault on the Iranian consulate, without specifically naming it.

Mortar shells also fell in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Update for Tuesday, September 3, 2018

One U.S. service member is killed, a second injured in an apparent "insider" attack in eastern Afghanistan. No further information is available as of now.

Note that General Scott Miller has taken over from Gen. John Nicholson as commander in Afghanistan. In Gen. Nicholson's departing remarks he says "It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end" and calls for peace negotiations.

Militants attack three schools in Paktika. No-one was present but severe damage forced the schools to close.

U.S. says it has killed Abu Sayed Orakzai, the leader of ISIS Khorasan Province, the IS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Taliban capture a district in Balkh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Update for Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, of Spokane Washington, is killed in a helicopter crash in Sinjar, Iraq on Monday morning. Galvin was an MH-60M pilot assigned to Delta Company, Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, according to a statement from U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The Pentagon says the operation was a raid against IS targets, and that there is no indication that the  downing was the result of enemy action.

Iranian backed militias are withdrawing from cities in Anbar, Salahudin and Nineveh provinces. This seems to be related to effort to curb Iranian influence in Iraq.

A coalition of four parties including the parties of Muqtada al-Sadr and current PM Abadi announces its intention to form a government. However, the group is still short of a majority and is vying with the Fatah coalition associated with the Iranian-backed militias.

In AfghanistanEid al-Atah passes in relative peace with the exception of a mortar attack in Kabul which interrupted a talk by president Ghani and injured six people.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Update for Thursday, August 16, 2018

IS claims responsibility for bombing of a Hazara educational center in Kabul that killed 34 students and wounded 57 who were preparing for university entrance exams. The Hazara minority are Shiites. IS frequently attacks Shiite targets in Afghanistan.

Photos of funerals for the victims are here.

Militants attack a facility of the intelligence service in Kabul. Security forces say the incident has ended with two attackers dead.

The Ghazni siege has ended with a reported $50 million in property damage in addition to the hundreds of dead. Numerous markets and shops burned with their contents. Other estimates put the damage much higher. Sporadic fighting continues on the outskirts of the city.

A family from Ghazni says 16 of its members were killed by government air strikes.

Four police are killed by an explosion in Kandahar.

U.S. air strikes in Helmand are said to kill a total of 27 militants.

For the history buffs, Tom Emgelhardt reviews his 17 years of writing on the Afghanistan war. I'll give you one pull quote:

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Update for Tuesday, August 14, 2018

U.S. Armu Sgt. First Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, of Hawaii died on August 12 in Germany of injuries suffered in an IED attack while on patrol. The incident apparently occurred in Helmand Province about five days ago. The promotion to Sgt. First Class is posthumous.

Taliban overrun an army base in Faryab, killing 17 soldiers. The Taliban captured the base when after a siege, when the defenders ran out of ammunition, food and water. The Taliban claim to have taken 74 prisoners and captured 11 humvees.

Fighting continues in Ghazni, where hundreds of civilians have been displaced with no access to aid. Some 150 civilians are reported to have been killed. The government claims to have forced the attackers out of the city proper, with the Taliban denying this. Many homes and government buildings have been destroyed.

Taliban attack a police checkpoint in Badghis, killing a senior officer and three colleagues.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Update for Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fighting continues in Ghazni among conflicting claims about the state of battle. Reuters offers a lengthy report. While the government claims to be in control of "Strategic locations and centers in the city" reports from locals that have trickled out suggest that government forces are holding on only to the governor's office and security HQ. Telecommunications are out so reports are scanty. At least 100 members of the security forces are said to have been killed. The highway is mined to prevent reinforcements. The U.S. continues to support the defenders with air strikes.

A military convoy on the way to relieve the city is attacked in Wardak.

I will provide an update once the situation becomes clearer.