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, September 14, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, September 14, 2014

Member of Parliament General Ali Akbar Qasimi is injured by an explosion while he is exercising at a gym.

Taliban attack security checkpoints in Ghazni province. Government spokesman claims 40 militants killed, including many from Pakistan, with no mention of any government casualties. However, Taliban claim 3 police killed and 5 injured. As usual, we should treat casualty reports with skepticism, as there are no journalists working in the area.

Drone strike on the border between Paktika province and South Waziristan said to kill 7 militants. Although the story refers to a drone strike by "coalition forces" this of course means the U.S. A second strike in Kunar apparently also killed a Taliban commander.

We have linked before to stories about the cultural institution of sexual exploitation of boys in Afghanistan. The Ministry of the Interior (famous for preposterous accounts of battlefield success and invulnerability) held a meeting with police leaders to discuss the practice of firing into the air during celebrations. Apparently children are often forced to dance at wedding ceremonies and (the story is not clear) are sexually abused, and this also came up. The story then goes on to note that the "Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan (AIHRC) released its latest report on ‘Bacha Bazi’ – sexual abuse of teenage boys in Afghanistan last month, stating that influential figures as well as wealthy people in Afghanistan are hiring teenage boys aged between 10 to 18 years old for their sexual satisfaction."

Following intimidation and threats against its workers in the extended electoral dispute, the UN threatens to withdraw aid  if the harassment continues. WAPO also has extensive coverage of the problem. The city of Mazar-e-Sharif is of particular concern as it is home to many Tajiks who favor Abdullah. (It is clear that Abdullah will not accept the results if Ghani is declared the winner, which seems to be where things are headed.)

Meanwhile, in Iraq and Syria, the political situation is at least as complex as the military situation. The peshmerga, with U.S. air support, are advancing on Mosul. All well and good but Mosul is of course an Arab, not a Kurdish city. What exactly happens if the Kurds capture Mosul from IS is a bit of a mystery. Meanwhile, an Iranian legislator claims that the U.S. war on IS is actually a conspiracy to occupy Syria. (I don't normally link to Fars as it is not a reliable news source but it is a reliable source of Iranian propaganda. The idea is that IS is a creation of the Gulf monarchies and the U.S. should cut off support to them instead of invading Syria.)  Australia goes back into Iraq with 600 troops and 10 aircraft, while U.S. military "advisers" enter Ramadi. (The Iraqis seem to need a lot of advice, for some reason.) British PM David Cameron calls and emergency meeting following the beheading of British aid worker David Haines in the lates IS video. It is possible that Britain, which has so far refrained from joining in combat against IS, will now take part in the air campaign. Human Rights Watch calls for an investigation of an Iraqi air strike on September 1 which hit a school housing displaced persons in al-Alam, near Tikrit, which killed 31 civilians including 24 children.