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, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, February 19, 2012

Afghan Ministry of Health says 40 internally displaced people, including 22 children, have died from unusually cold conditions. Many people in refugee camps have inadequate shelter and fuel.

British hand over a patrol base in Helmand to Afghan forces.

Hamid Karzai meets with a Pakistani cleric, Maulana Samiul Haq, who runs a seminary where many Taliban have studied, to ask his help in promoting peace talks. Despite assertions to the contrary by some Afghan and NATO sources, the Taliban continue to deny that they have entered into any form of negotiations.

Epidemic of heroin addiction destroys Afghan lives, breeds widespread corruption and organized crime. (The news is, the opium trade used to be mainly for export.)

Afghan Defense Ministry orders soldiers who have family in Pakistan to move them to Afghanistan. They apparently fear that family members in Pakistan can be threatened, held hostage or influenced to turn the soldiers.

Afghan former head of the Directorate of National Security, Amrullah Saleh, casts doubt on the possibility of reconciliation with the Taliban.

Afghan writer Nabizada discusses violence against women.

Pakistani Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar denies that Mullah Omar is in Pakistan. Riiiiigggghhhht .. .

Iraq Update

Suicide car bomber outside Baghdad police academy kills 18 police recruits, injures an additional 27 recruits and police.

Iraqi government says it is tightening security at the Syrian border to try to stem the flow of arms to Syrian rebels. (Recall that Iraq's Sunni Arabs generally support the Syrian uprising. The Shiite-led government opposes it, hence this is a manifestation of Iraq's sectarian divide.)