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 7, 2014

News of the Day for Sunday, September 7, 2014

Defense Ministry says two Afghan soldiers killed in past 24 hours, gives no specifics.

Taliban attack a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Ghazni city, kill three police and abduct four. A spokesman says 18 militants were killed in the incident.

Just to demonstrate a point, comes now the Ministry of the Interior claiming 19 militants killed in the past 24 hours, with, as usual, zero government or civilian casualties. As we already know there are at least five government forces killed and four captured, something would appear to be missing, no?

And something has been missing for a long time. It seems 200 government forces have been killed in a Taliban offensive in Helmand this summer, but for some reason we haven't heard about it.

Here's another claim, that 48 insurgents were killed in an operation in Balkh in the past 4 days, with two police killed. I don't know what to make of these highly disproportionate casualty claims, which are ubiquitous, and which the Taliban always dispute. (They have yet to comment on this report.) Keep in mind that we are largely dependent on government press releases for our picture of the conflict; independent corroboration by enterprise journalists is almost non-existent, at least in the countryside. 

Afghan court sentences seven men to death for a gang rape in Kabul that provoked widespread outrage. A large group of men, some dressed in police uniforms, stopped a convoy returning from a wedding, dragged four women from the vehicles, and raped them in a field. Violence against women is commonplace in Afghanistan but it is mostly in a domestic context.

Meanwhile, in the other war without endU.S. launches air strikes on IS in the vicinity of the Haditha dam. Note that this represents an unannounced expansion of the U.S. role in Iraq, as this operation has no conceivable connection to protecting U.S. personnel. It turns out that U.S. air power has been operating extensively in Anbar, and has killed 42 militants in Ramadi and Bervana.

It is a near certainty that U.S. special forces are on the ground in the area to coordinate these actions with Iraqi forces. Even if the U.S. DoD is tight-lipped about it, we can glean some info from the Canadians, who announced they are sending "several dozen" troops to Iraq. " The contingent of special operations forces will work closely with U.S. forces but remain under full command of Canada's Chief of Defence Staff." No word on precisely what they will be doing except that they will not be engaged in combat. Well okay then.