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 25, 2013

News of the Day for Sunday, August 25, 2013

An explosion near the home of a schoolteacher in Sangin, Helmand province, kills two of his children. The teacher had previously been threatened by Taliban but had continued working.

Afghan forces arrest a Taliban "sub-commander" in Nangarhar, following a battle in which two insurgents are killed. (This article has a very triumphalist tone, but it is not clear how important this individual really is. Nevertheless is it clear that there are now substantial effective Afghan government forces. The problem remains their lack of independent logistics capacity.)

Four civilians, three of them women, are killed when their vehicle is ambushed in Baghlan province. The report does not  suggest a motive for the attack.

A district chief in Orgun province is injured in a car crash attributed to excessive speed, and his driver is killed. I post this because Wakht indicates that military drivers habitually drive recklessly. Or, as they put it in their inimitable English, "Speed beyond limit was one the dangerous cases more popular among the military drivers than those of ordinary people countrywide."

Wakht also reports on several clashes in Maidan Wardak with Pakistani nationals.

Karzai, to the dismay of the U.S., is in no hurry to sign a security agreement governing the U.S. presence post 2014. In fact, he indicates he may wait until after the presidential election, which means he would either sign an agreement as a lame duck or leave office without one. (Remember that the U.S. did not secure such an agreement with Iraq and ended up withdrawing entirely. That might be fine with many Americans, but it is not what the government wanted for Iraq, or Afghanistan. - C)

This is a weird story which I don't know what to make of. Karzai tells the Ulema that Taliban representatives have contacted the government, saying “Taliban leaders recently have said that they are completely without authority, and we are unaware of the killings and explosions in Afghanistan, which are claimed under the Taliban group’s name.” Not surprisingly, the Taliban themselves say otherwise. [G]roup spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement said that Taliban did not have any secret contact with the Afghan government, and the remarks by Karzai is due to his ignorance and lack of logic. . . . Taliban militants are instantly claiming responsibility behind any attack which are carried out by them, and they inform the media agencies regarding the details of the attacks." 

 Karzai will visit Pakistan on Monday for his first talks with new PM Nawaz Sharif. (That's assuming Karzai can find all his marbles. -- C)