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 2, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, February 2, 2014

As the Afghan presidential campaign officially begins, two aides to presidential candidate Abdullah Abudullah are murdered in Herat. "Shujahudeen and Dr Faiz Ahmad Hamdard were shot dead on Saturday around 06:30 pm by unknown gun men driving a car, officials said, while they were finishing campaigning for Abdullah."

The Independent Electoral Commission announced the formal start of the campaign  for the presidency and provincial councils, with the vote scheduled for April 5. Presidential candidates include Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Zalmai Rassoul, Qayoum Karzai, Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy, Sardar Mohammad Nadir Naeem, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, Qutbuddin Helal, Abdullah Abdullah, Abdul Rahim Wardak, Hedayat Amin Arsalan and Gul Agha Sherzai.

Hamid Karzai is not liking the United States. He tells an interviewer he has not spoken with Barack Obama in seven months. Also says:

Hamid Karzai, 56, has grown increasingly hostile towards Barack Obama as Afghanistan prepares to elect a new president in April. Mr Karzai will not stand again, but he is determined to emphasise his disagreements with the United States before he steps down. "This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people."

"They did not work for me, they worked against me," he said, and referred to the Taliban in his interview with The Sunday Times as "brothers" and the Americans as "rivals". "The money they should have paid to the police they paid to private security firms and creating militias who caused lawlessness, corruption and highway robbery," he said. "They then began systematically waging psychological warfare on our people, encouraging our money to go out of our country. "What they did was create pockets of wealth and a vast countryside of deprivation and anger."

No surprise,  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen does not think Karzai will sign the security agreement with the U.S. (I'm not a major diplomat, but you could have asked me the same question and I bet I'd be just as right.)

Directorate of Intelligence accuses Taliban in Maidan Wardak of hiring teenage boys and sexually abusing them. (I should point out that the sexual exploitation of boys by men is accepted among some Afghans, and that government forces have also been accused of the practice.)

Four Afghan soldiers are killed and 4 injured in an ambush in Farah province.

After billions of dollars in U.S. investment, Afghanistan's roads are disintegrating, says WaPo's Kevin Sieff:

They look like victims of an insurgent attack — their limbs in need of amputation, their skulls cracked — but the patients who pour daily into the Ghazni Provincial Hospital are casualties of another Afghan crisis. They are motorists who drove on the road network built by the U.S. government and other Western donors — a $4 billion project that was once a symbol of promise in post-Taliban Afghanistan but is now falling apart.

Western officials say the Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001, when the country had less than 50 miles of paved roads. The deterioration has hurt commerce and slowed military operations. In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America’s development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement.
An explosion is reported near a checkpoint in Jalalabad. As of now there are no details and it is not known if there were casualties.