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, January 22, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, January 22, 2012

French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet meets with president Hamid Karzai on Saturday evening. After saying it was reconsidering its mission to train Afghan forces after an Afghan soldier killed four French soldiers and wounded 17 on Friday, France now says the mission will continue.

Meanwhile, U.S. Special Envoy Marc Grossman meets with Karzai for a second straight day to discuss peace process with insurgents.

Number of Afghans seeking asylum abroad hits an all-time high in 2011. UN statistics find more than 30,000 sought asylum in countries around the world from January through November. "Many Afghans are turning to a thriving and increasingly sophisticated human smuggling industry to get themselves — or in most cases, their sons — out of the country. They pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to cross into Iran or Pakistan to more $25,000 for fake papers and flights to places like London or Stockholm," says AP. The true number who flee is greater than 30,000 because not all seek legal asylum.

Afghan officials claim that a total of 28 militants have renounced violence in Nangarhar and Herat provinces. There is no telling the importance of this, whether these individuals are truly connected with Taliban or other organized insurgent groups, or whether these small numbers are meaningful. We shall see. -- C

Interior Ministry says 10 insurgents killed, 6 captured in various places around the country in the past 24 hours. They also make the (bizarre) boast that they seized 7 AK-47s. (That's like saying the New York City police seized 7 bags of pot.)

Five Afghan border patrol troops killed in an ambush in Herat.

At least one civilian killed, 9 injured in Kapisa province in a failed attack on an Afghan army convoy.

Iraq Update

Two police, 1 Sahwa fighter and 2 insurgents dead in attack on a checkpoint in al-Asoud, near Baquba. Also, a car bombing in Mosul kills one person and injures 3, including 2 police officers.

Human Rights Watch says the human rights situation in Iraq is worsening, Iraq sliding toward authoritarianism. (HRW doesn't seem to have posted the report yet so we have only secondary sources.) From the CNN report:

The group says it uncovered a secret prison where detainees were beaten, hung upside down and given electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies. . . .

"It's not a one-off thing that's happening," said Samer Muscati of the group's Middle East and north Africa division. He urged the government to make clear that it did not back torture.

The group was also critical of the crackdown on peaceful protesters by security forces, saying both the federal government and regional authorities in Kurdistan "responded with violence" and "used legal means to curtail protests."

The group also points to violence against women and girls, and journalists.

Quote of the Day from Anatol Lieven, writing in the New York Review of Books. I highly recommend this informed and thoughtful analysis. Shorter version: Cut a deal and get the hell out.

[W]hat America has done is to create a huge Afghan army—but one that is overwhelmingly dependent on US help to pay and arm its troops—alongside a weak and shamefully inept civilian state.