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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Update for Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ghani and Abdullah will visit the White House on March 24. The Afghan co-presidency continues to be a bit awkward, but so far is muddling through. President Ghani will address congress the following day.

I was remiss in not linking to information about the attack in Kabul on Thursday. A suicide car bomber attacked a convoy carrying NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Ismail Aramaz, a Turkish national, who escaped. A Turkish member of the Resolute Support force (successor to ISAF) and an Afghan civilian were killed, along with the attacker.

Thirty travelers are abducted on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. The abductees are all members of the Hazara ethnic minority. There is dispute as to whether the perpetrators are Taliban, or bandits. Local elders are optimistic that they can win the negotiated release of the captives.

After avalanches kill at least 168 people in Panjsher province, Pakistan sends relief supplies, a sign of continuing warming relations. AFP now reports the toll in Panjsher was 186. (Such deadly avalanches are not uncommon in Afghanistan's mountains, but this is a particularly high death toll.)

 On Wednesday, the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan reported that 1/3 of the 790 conflict-related detainees interviewed were tortured or mistreated.

In fiscal years 2011-2013, the U.S. made "condolence payments" of $2.7 million for deaths and injuries of Afghan civilians. In case that doesn't sound like a lot, the payments per incident were tiny:

An armored vehicle ran over a six-year-old boy’s legs: $11,000. A jingle truck was “blown up by mistake”: $15,000. A controlled detonation broke eight windows in a mosque: $106. A boy drowned in an anti-tank ditch: $1,916. A 10-ton truck ran over a cucumber crop: $180. A helicopter “shot bullets hitting and killing seven cows”: $2,253. Destruction of 200 grape vines, 30 mulberry trees and one well: $1,317. A wheelbarrow full of broken mirrors: $4,057. A child who died in a combat operation: $2,414.

Note that the mirrors are worth more than the child.