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 13, 2013

News of the Day for Sunday, January 13, 2013

Seven civilians are killed in an explosion in a mosque in Wardak province, under disputed circumstances. A joint U.S.-Afghan force had conducted a night raid in the Sayed Abad district in which 4 Taliban fighters were killed; the explosion occurred shortly thereafter. Wardak police, and the Taliban, say a NATO air strike killed the civilians, but an ISAF spokesman denies it, saying fire had come from the mosque but that NATO forces had left the area before the explosion occurred. AP says the civilians were digging through the rubble of the mosque, which had apparently been destroyed in the firefight,  in order to remove bodies, when the explosion occurred. Khaama has a somewhat different story, saying that airstrikes in the area continued for several hours.

The chief prosecutor of Herat province and 2 bodyguards are killed in a drive-by shooting.

 At least 80 people are trapped by heavy snowfall in Barfi pass, northern Baghlan province, and are at risk for their lives. Some people in the area have already been killed by avalanches. The authorities have warned people not to travel but some have ignored the warnings.

Due to the lack of adequate border and trade agreements, 2,500 tons of Afghan raisins are stuck on the border with Uzbekistan, and cannot be exported. (We noted last week the temporary resolution of similar problems with Pakistan. Afghanistan's future prosperity, once the foreign presence is reduced, obviously depends on a functional government that can solve these problems.)

Joint operation said to capture a Taliban leader in Helmand.

TOLO reports on the mixed reaction of Afghan politicians to Karzai's recent visit to Washington. The lack of clarity on what will happen in the next two years and what foreign forces will remain, along with disputes over whether any should, and the path to peace, continues to provoke controversy. (In spite of ubiquitous corruption, violent intimidation in some places, and government ineffectiveness, Afghanistan today does have robust political debate and a vigorous free press. We will see if that can continue. -- C)