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, June 22, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, June 22, 2014

Taliban fire eight rockets at NATO airfield in Jalalabad, apparently causing no significant damage.

Bomb placed in a garbage can in Jalabad kills 3 police and 1 civilian, also injures 1 civilian and 1 police man.

Ministry of the Interior says 2 Taliban accused of cutting the fingers of voters have been killed in a special operation. [No specific doubt on this claim, but MoI press releases are frequently not credible. -- bl]

Taliban attack a police outpost in Sangin, Helmand province, resulting in the deaths of 10 insurgents and 2 police after a four-hour gun battle.

Let's put the Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry daily statements side by side. We lie, you decide.

Ministry of the Interior: At least 52 Taliban killed, 19 injured, 3 captured in various operations in past 24 hours. Zero government or civilian casualties are reported.

Ministry of Defense: 23 militants and 6  Afghan National Army soldiers killed in past 24 hours.

Supporters of Abdullah demonstrate in Kabul and Herat claiming electoral fraud.

Independent Electoral Commission postpones vote counting, essentially in a concession to Abdullah. Former UN official and current academic researcher Massoumeh Torfeh here discusses the situation in-depth for al Jazeera. She cites findings of evidence of substantial fraud and government manipulation -- it seems Abdullah is not just a sore loser.

Meanwhile, back in the cradle of civilization: Sunni insurgents capture 3 towns in Anbar, apparently with the objective of capturing Haditha and its hydroelectric dam. (Since I haven't heard anything about the Mosul dam, I'm assuming the insurgents have wisely decided not to mess with the pesh merga who guard it.) McClatchy reports that the contingent beseiged in the Beiji oil refinery cannot hold out much longer. "A US security official told ABC News that the garrison is running low on ammunition, food and water and would be unlikely to hold out much longer as ISIS firmly controls the approaches that the Iraqi Army would have to fight through to relieve them." Government claims to have killed 40 insurgents in Tikrit, apparently by means of air strikes.

In a very interesting development, an  unknown buyer has purchased the first tanker of Kurdistan crude, delivered to the Israeli port of Ashkelon. The Kurdish and Israeli governments deny Israeli government involvement (although obviously they allowed it). Kurdistan needs to be able to sell its crude independent of Baghdad in order to achieve independence. Baghdad has threatened to sue any buyers. The U.S. says it does not support independent sale of Kurdistan crude oil.

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