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 3, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, August 3, 2014

Electoral audit process resumes after a 7 hour delay due to non-participation by candidate Abdullah. The Independent Electoral Commission finally decided to proceed without his approval.

A NATO service member dies of non-combat injuries in eastern Afghanistan. No further information as of now.

One civilian killed, 1 civilian and 8 police injured when a police car strikes a roadside bomb in Nangarhar.

A joint Afghan and ISAF counteroffensive begins in Hesarak, Nangarhar after 1,000 insurgents launched attacks on Friday. ISAF is said to be providing air support for the operation. Six insurgents are said to have been killed, but the Taliban deny that.

Taliban in Helmand are said to have diversified their income sources through control of mining operations and collection of electric bills. (Really.)

Jean Mackenzie in Global Post gives us some highlights of the latest report of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction. It's a laugh riot, hence the title, "Seven Insane Problems Outlined . . ." Example insane problems: Most of the $1.57 worth of buildings the Army Corps of Engineers constructed for the Afghan military are fire hazards due to unsafe foam insulation. Information that qualifies an Afghan national to be designated a terrorist and killed does not prevent said individual from doing business with ISAF. Opium poppy cultivation has been increasing and now represents 15% of GDP despite more than $7 billion spent to suppress it. Just read it. I'll skip ahead to corruption:

So, with more than $104 billion in reconstruction efforts at stake, what is the United States doing about corruption? SIGAR is succinct: “There is no comprehensive US strategy or guidance on combating corruption.”

Meanwhile, back in the cradle of civilization, IS captures three small towns and an oil field in the north  which had been garrisoned by peshmerga. This includes the town of Wana near the Mosul dam. Apparently this is territory the Kurds seized recently after the collapse of the Iraqi 2d Division and they chose not to invest heavily in defending it. Still, this is the first IS victory over peshmerga and suggests they have real military capability.

Uh oh: Iraqi state TV says IS has seized control of the Mosul dam. I was not expecting that. Also, I was mistaken about the towns they captured -- they have long been in Kurdish control. The situation with the dam could get very ugly very quickly. Good news: Fortunately, earlier reports that the Mosul dam was in the hands of IS were apparently false; the peshmerga still control it. Bad news: Peshmerga now say ISIS does control the Mosul dam.

Further update: The town of Sinjar, which fell to IS, is predominantly Yazidi. The Yazidi follow a pre-Muslim faith and IS considers them devil worshippers. Tens of thousands have fled on foot toward Kurdistan. The peshmerga say they were forced to abandon the town because they had run out of ammunition. Since relations between Baghdad and Irbil have soured, they no longer receive arms and ammunition from the central government and have been begging the world community for munitions. They say this was a tactical retreat and they will try to reclaim the territory if they can re-arm.