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 29, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, June 29, 2014

The National discusses deteriorating security in Paktia province, which borders Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region. “After 8pm no one can walk inside the city of Gardez, villages are at war and the highways are not safe. That is all very obvious,” said Abdul Basid Sabawoon, a shopkeeper. “There is not an exact name for those responsible. Anyone can call themselves a Talib. Thieves, kidnappers and criminals are all called Talibs.”

Daniel Menard, a former Canadian general and now head of Aghanistan operations for the mercenary firm Garda, is expected to be released from jail in Kabul. He had been detained on gun smuggling charges. The company says this is an administrative dispute related to its licensing.

Pakistan refuses to accept a requested visit from Hamid Karzai, tells him to send a delegation instead. This appears to reflect both Pakistan's unhappiness with his frequent accusations that they harbor Afghan insurgents (which happen to be true), with his harboring Pakistani insurgents, and his overall declining credibility and stature.

Local officials say many of the Pakistani refugees in Khost are armed. (A huge influx of refugees has followed fighting in Pakistan. Afghanistan and its provinces are ill equipped to deal with them.)

ANA claims victory in battle in Helmand province, saying Taliban failed to hold on to any territory. However, Taliban say fighting in Sangin continues. The ANA says it has been slowed in retaking territory by land mines.

Update:  No surprise, the ANA claim is evidently false. AFP reports Taliban control Barekzai and Bostanzai in Sangin, according to a tribal leader who had fled the area.

A massive fire destroys a wood market in Kabul. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Iraq Update: Although the Iraqi government claimed yesterday to have retaken Tikrit (claims I abstained from linking) that was clearly not true, as air strikes on Tikrit continue along with ground fighting. According to AP, "The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military’s initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah, two residents reached by telephone said."
In further geo-political weirding, Iraq has taken delivery of 5 Russian Sukhoi-25 fighter jets. Although the U.S. has promised F-16s, they have never been delivered.