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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Update for Sunday, February 19, 2017

Iraqi PM Abadi announces start of offensive to recapture western Mosul. Iraqi federal police are attacking from the south, attempting to capture the airport. Planes dropped millions of leaflets on the city announcing the offensive and calling on Jihadis to surrender.

They claim to have taken several villages to the south and west of the city.

People in areas retaken from IS are purging every remaining vestige of their presence, including destroying the homes of IS members and digging up their graves.

A British general predicts the fight for Mosul will take 3 months.

An Iraqi human rights organization says that people in western Mosul are starving and that they know of 25 children who starved to death in January.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

Update for Thursday, February 16, 2017

Car bomb attack on a used car market in Baghdad kills dozens. The linked report gives the death toll as 48, but reported casualty totals, as usual, have tended to rise over time. IS claims credit. This is the third car bomb attack in Baghdad in as many days, but by far the most deadly.

More than 46,000 people have returned to eastern Mosul, despite continuing attacks from IS by mortars and drones launched from areas still under IS control. (Apparently mostly meaning across the river.) However, due to the security situation the UN has temporarily suspended aid to government-held parts of the city. Rations for displaced people still in camps have also been cut due to a lack of international donations.

Iraqi government claims to have killed several IS leaders near Mosul in an air strike. However, other accounts attribute the action to the U.S.-led coalition.

Human Rights Watch accuses government-allied militias of destroying homes  and looting in villages bear Mosul.

In other news (sigh) the U.S. may enter ground combat in Syria, although the Pentagon has not presented as formal proposal as yet.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

Update for Saturday, February 11, 2017

AFGHANISTAN

 Two U.S. soldiers are injured in a firefight in Helmand. An airstrike called in to support the action may have killed up to 25 civilians, according to local officials. One of the U.S. soldiers suffered a gunshot wound and has been transported out of the country. The other was lightly wounded by shrapnel and has returned to duty.

Suicide attack on an Afghan army vehicle in Lashkar Gah kills several soldiers and injures 15 people. Reported death totals vary, from 3 to 8. Seven is the most commonly cited number.

Gunmen kill a "counterterrorism officer" and his bodyguard in Badakhshan.

IRAQ

Sadrist rally in the capital results in deadly clashes between protesters and police. One police officer and four protesters are reported killed, as police fire tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. 

Suicide bombings, 1 in Mosul and 2 in Baghdad, kill 10 and injure 33. Other reports give higher casualty totals. Note that if this happened in a European country or the U.S., it would be a huge story. It is completely ignored by U.S. media.

U.S. drone attack targets IS operative Rachid Kassim near Mosul. Results are unknown.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Update for Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Afghanistan

Six Red Cross staffers are killed and 2 missing in Jowzjan , which has been affected by heavy snowfall. Provincial police chief Rahmatullah Turkistani attributes the attack to IS (DAESH). A Red Cross spokesperson says it is too early to say how the incident will affect operations.

IS claims responsibility for a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on the Supreme Court which killed 21 people and injured 41. This direct attack against the state is a new development for IS. The Taliban have been responsible for previous attacks on the court system.

Suicide bomber in Paktia kills two civilians in a failed attack on a police station.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Update for Monday, February 6, 2016


Once again, just one link.

Record spike in civilians killed in Afghanistan last year, according to a UN report.

The report documents 11,418 conflict-related civilian casualties, including 3,498 killed and 7,920 injured. Of these, 3,512 were children - 923 dead and 2,589 injured, up 24 per cent on the previous highest recorded figure. The figures, recorded by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), are the highest since the UN began systematically documenting civilian casualty figures in 2009.

“The killing and maiming of thousands of Afghan civilians is deeply harrowing and largely preventable,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “All parties to the conflict must take immediate concrete measures to protect the ordinary Afghan men, women and children whose lives are being shattered.”

Anti-Government forces, mainly the Taliban, were responsible for almost two thirds of the casualties while pro-Government forces were responsible for almost one quarter. . . .

Airstrikes carried out by Afghan and international forces caused 590 civilian casualties (250 deaths and 340 injured) nearly double that recorded in 2015 and the highest since 2009.

UN press release available here.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Special update for Sunday, February 5, 2017

An investigation by the Military Times finds the Pentagon has failed to disclose thousands of lethal airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Excerpt:

The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war's expense, manpower requirements and human toll.

So what else is new?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Update for Tuesday, January 31, 2017

YEMEN

 Seal Team 6 raid in Yemen was a disaster. Among those killed, in addition to Chief Petty Officer William Owens, were an 8 year old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki,  the daughter of the late Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a U.S. citizen. Several other non-combatant women were also killed. According to  her grandfather:

My granddaughter was staying for a while with her mother, so when the attack came, they were sitting in the house, and a bullet struck her in her neck at 2:30 past midnight. Other children in the same house were killed," al-Awlaki said. He said the girl died two hours after being shot.
"They [the SEALs] entered another house and killed everybody in it, including all the women. They burned the house. There is an assumption there was a woman [in the house] from Saudi Arabia who was with al Qaeda. All we know is that she was a children's teacher." Al-Awlaki said the girl and her mother had fled the Yemeni capital, Sa'ana, where he lives, to escape the heavy shelling.
Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham University's Center on National Security, said the girl's death will be a boon to al Qaeda propagandists. "The perception will be that it's not enough to kill al-Awlaki — that the U.S. had to kill the entire family," she said.
Intentional or not, Greenberg said, the deaths of three family members will enhance the al Qaeda narrative. She noted that as part of propaganda efforts, terrorist groups have begun to circulate photographs of children reputedly killed by U.S. forces. Photos of Nawar al-Awlaki alive and dead are already circulating widely in Arab media. 
Disclosure: Karen is the sister of my next-door neighbor.

The raid was ordered by president Trump, it was not planned during the Obama administration.

IRAQ

Leaflets dropped in western Mosul warning of impending attack.

 Civilians trapped in western Mosul face starvation, forced conscription, and executions.

 
Iraqi parliament votes to request government "reciprocate" against U.S. ban on Iraqi entry.

John Allen and Michael O'Hanlon write:

Though he campaigned with the urgent goal of defeating the Islamic State group and reasserting American greatness, President Donald Trump has embarked on a policy that could in fact lead to the loss of U.S. influence in Iraq and the worsening of the Sunni-Shiite divide there. Whatever happens in the short term in the fight to liberate Mosul and other parts of the country from the Islamic State group, this policy could lay the groundwork for the emergence of another similar Salafist group there. Trump would have taken us backward, not forward, in the fight against terrorism and seriously eroded our role in a key Arab state that so many Americans gave so much to free and then to help stabilize under two presidents.
The immediate cause of our concern is the executive order Friday that prevented the movement of most Iraqis to the United States — including some who served and sacrificed alongside U.S. forces in the war there — along with citizens of six other nations in the region. But in fact the problem is broader and deeper.

Executive order strands hundreds of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. military, affects tens of thousands of others who are hoping for asylum.