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, August 19, 2012

News of the Day for Sunday, August 19, 2012

Three NATO service members killed by a bomb in eastern Afghanistan. As usual, no further details are given immediately. Most foreign fighters in that region are American.

Bomb hidden in a cemetery in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, kills a police officer and his brother as they visit the grave of a relative following morning prayers on Eid al-Fitr. Seven family members are wounded. The men were brothers of an MP, who was not present.

In a somwhat convoluted story, a Sikh man who had been jailed in Kabul flees to England. He had first been deported from England to Afghanistan after his claim for political asylum was rejected. He was then arrested when he arrived in Kabul and imprisoned for 18 months. He claims Muslim prisoners regularly beat him and that he was also mistreated by his jailers. He is re-applying for asylum in Britain.

A feud in Kunduz leads to 3 deaths, 7 injuries. Rather quaintly, Bakhtar News Agency describes them as "irresponsible groups."

NATO says it has arrested three Taliban commanders in widely separate places.

SecDef Leon Panetta calls Hamid Karzai, tells him to more vigorously vet his security forces as they have lately shown a proclivity for killing NATO troops. (Riiiight, that'll work. Just tell Karzai to be more vigilant.)

Meanwhile, General Allen issues new policies. The NYT reports (and note the futility of "vetting"):

In one of a series of recent steps, the military decreed that American and NATO service members should always carry a loaded magazine in their weapons, to save precious moments if attacked by Afghan forces. Another initiative, now a priority, is a program named “Guardian Angel” that calls for one or two soldiers to monitor the Afghans during every mission or meeting, officials say. The “angels,” whose identities are not disclosed to the Afghans, must be prepared to fire on anyone who tries to kill a coalition service member.

The military has also analyzed the attacks. But the results have been worrisome. Only a handful of the 31 attacks this year have clearly been a result of Taliban activity like infiltration. That suggests a level of malaise or anger within the Afghan forces that could complicate NATO’s training program, which relies on trust and cooperation.

General Allen also has not nice things to say about Mullah Omar. While we're on the subject of Mullah Omar, he is living comfortably in Pakistan enjoying the protection and hospitality of the Pakistani security forces. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just sayin'.