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 21, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ending months of brinksmanship, presidential rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah sign a power sharing agreement. Although official results of the election tally have yet to be announced, Ghani will become Afghanistan's new president, while Abdullah will nominate a person (presumably himself) to the post of "Chief Executive Officer." However, the constitution vests all meaningful power in the presidency, so we will have to see how this works out in practice. The way is now clear, it seems, for the new president to sign a security agreement with NATO, which Hamid Karzai has refused to do, allowing a small force to remain in the country next year. (Oh I'm sorry, did you think U.S. forces were leaving Afghanistan?)

WaPo has a lengthier discussion which only manages to highlight the uncertainty going forAward.

Sixty-two rockets are fired from Pakistan into Kunar province. No casualties reported.

Security forces say they foiled a planned car bomb attack on a military installation in Nimroz province.

Fighting in Sar-e-Pul leaves one police officer and four insurgents dead, five police injured, and five insurgent captured, according to local officials.

An exemplar of the confusing nature of Afghan politics is the career of Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, a former al-Qaeda associate and mentor of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is suspected of committing atrocities during the Afghan civil war and of complicity in the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud. He is now a member of Parliament. In the linked story, he is quoted denouncing attacks on Afghan security forces as haram.

The occasion of Sayyaf's remarks is the third anniversary of the assassination of former president Ustad Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose family claims that the perpetrators are known to the authorities but are being protected. Folks, you'll have to decide if it's really worth it for U.S. forces to be fighting and dying for this government.

Meanwhile, more than 60,000 Kurdish refugees flee from Syria into Turkey as IS fighters rampage through the Kobani area and Kurdish forces move to confront them. Turkey is wary of the Kurdish forces in Kobani which it believes are associated with the PKK Kurdish irredentist movement in Turkey. Indeed, Kurdish fighters entering Kobani from Turkey are said to include PKK members. Although Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani has said that IS advances in Kobani "threaten the entire Kurdish nation," there is no indication as yet that the peshmerga is entering this fight.