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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

News of the Day for Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taliban assault in Helmand province continues with attacks on police and government facilities. Focus of assault is Sangin, with additional attacks in  Now Zad, Musa Qala and Kajacki. However, more specific information on fighting and casualties is lacking, beyond the overall estimates of more than 100 Afghan forces and 50 civilian dead noted yesterday. WaPo has some interviews and background.

As usual, the Afghan Interior Ministry issues claims of Taliban dead only and does not say anything about government or civilian casualties. Today they claim 79 Taliban dead in various operations in the past 24 hours. There is no particular reason to believe this.

Massive demonstrations continue in Kabul  supporting Abdullah and his claims of electoral fraud. Abdullah has joined the demonstrations personally.

Some 65,000 Pakistanis have taken refuge in Afghanistan from fighting in North Waziristan, out of a total of half a million who have been displaced. This situation is unprecedented and it is unclear how the Afghan government can respond given the battle in Helmand and its paralysis in the face of the disputed election.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, government forces are mounting an effort to re-takeTikrit, amid competing claims by ISIL and Baghdad over their degree of success so far. [Fars and Iraqiya continue to publish extravagant claims of military success; these have repeatedly proven false in recent days so I am not linking to them. We'll have to wait a couple of days to see what's really happening. -- C]

Explainer: As for the ISIS/ISIL thing. The organization does not recognize the existence of Syria; it's name, in English, is best rendered as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the latter term referring to the region that includes Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine including of course the state of Israel whose existence they also do not recognize. The equivalent English term, which is a bit old-fashioned, is the Levant, which is why some people use the "L" instead of "S". So there you have it.

Kurdistan mobilizes retired peshmerga and expands recruiting. Their stated intention is solely to defend territory they already control, including Kirkuk which Kurdistan has vowed to retain, and not to reconquer additional territory on behalf of Baghdad. [In my view, this completes the de facto secession of Kurdistan, as the peshmerga are explicitly no longer functioning as a component of the Iraqi army. -- C]