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, July 7, 2013

News of the Day for Sunday, July 7, 2013

In a somewhat unusual announcement, the Afghan Ministry of Defense says that 14 Afghan soldiers and 27 insurgents have been killed in various incidents in the past 24 hours. Based on the news reports I have seen, they apparently do not specify all of the incidents, but they include roadside bombs and gun battles. The Interior Ministry says separately that 37 Taliban have been killed with no Afghan fatalities. This is typical of Interior Ministry announcements, as I have noted before, and does not seem credible. The press reports are assuming that the 27 insurgent deaths referred to by the Defense Ministry, and the 37 by the Interior Ministry, represent separate individuals, and that 64 Taliban have been killed. Until I see some corroboration for these Interior Ministry reports, I am skeptical. The Afghan national police appear to be invulnerable, while oddly the army is susceptible to bullets and bombs.

Zakaria Kandahari, a former employee of the U.S. military accused of torture, has been captured and is in the custody of the National Directorate of Intelligence. As you may recall, he was running a paramilitary unit in Wardak Province which delivered prisoners to an American base there. Seventeen of the civilians he turned over to U.S. custody have subsequently been killed or have disappeared. Afghan officials say they have video of him torturing a prisoner. The U.S. denies any wrongdoing on the part of its own forces and claim that Kandahari was not working for the U.S. at the time he committed abuses. Oddly, however, he earlier escaped from U.S. custody. Afghan officials accuse the U.S. of allowing him to escape. Excerpt from reporting by Rod Nordland for the NYT, please follow the above link:

Afghan investigators uncovered a videotape showing Mr. Kandahari torturing one civilian, Sayid Mohammad, and said there was substantial evidence to prove that American personnel were involved in the detentions of the missing civilians. The bodies of 10 victims were found near the Special Forces base beginning in April, after the Americans left; the last was discovered on June 4, according to Afghan forensic investigators and family members of the victims. They had disappeared between November 2012 and February 2013. . . .

Afghan officials have been unable to determine the makeup of the American base, and believe that that a C.I.A. team may have actually been responsible for Mr. Kandahari. Mr. Kandahari had been transferred to Nerkh from Camp Gecko in Kandahar, which is a C.I.A. substation. He was ostensibly part of a team of Afghans working for a mine-clearing aid group, which was a cover for paramilitary activity. General Farahi said that investigators had determined that of the last 10 people who disappeared in Wardak, only in two of their cases was there any evidence of possible links with insurgents.

Yet another Afghan mortar shell lands in South Waziristan, killing one civilian and injuring five. (It is not clear why this is happening. These reports do not come with any explanation.)

A French-run bomb analysis laboratory   analyzes the IEDs that explode or are found and defused, and traces the phone calls that are often used to detonate them, to guide counter efforts. This AFP story contains an interesting description of the variety of IEDs and associated tactics.

The film Madrasa, which had been censored, is finally screened in Afghanistan. The movie depicts the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran, and had been suppressed at the behest of the Iranian government. In a compromise, some scenes have been deleted.