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, April 18, 2015

Update for Saturday, April 18, 2015

Suicide bombing in Jalalabad kills 35, injures more than 100. (The death toll is variously reported as 33, 34, or 35, a confusion which is reflected in the linked DPA report.) A former spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahidullah Shahid, now purporting to speak for the Islamic State, claims responsibility on behalf of that group, naming the bomber as one Abu Mohammed. The group calling itself IS in Afghanistan consists of a disenchanted faction of the Taliban. It is not clear whether they have any allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or have any material support from the organization in Iraq and Syria; nor that there are foreign fighters with allegiance to IS in Afghanistan in any substantial numbers. Nevertheless, the fragmentation of the Taliban and the rise of what are likely irreconcilable factions makes the prospects for peace more tenuous.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, intensified fighting in Anbar has left thousands of refugees from Ramadi stranded near Baghdad. The government has barred them from entering the city due to security concerns.

"Tens of thousands of displaced civilians have escaped from Ramadi in the past few days, but on arrival at Baghdad, they are denied entry unless they have a sponsor in the capital," Masrur Aswad, a member of the non-governmental group the Higher Commission for Human Rights, said. "Now the displaced are staying in the open air on the edges of Baghdad without having a shelter and basic needs," he said in a press statement.
Note that these refugees are Sunni Arabs who no doubt will continue to perceive the Shiite dominated government as failing to protect them or represent their interests.

Government forces have regained control of most of the Baiji oil refinery, which IS fighters overran earlier this week. Reinforcements are heading for Ramadi as well and the city is less imperiled than it was yesterday.

In Tikrit, recently re-captured by government forces and Shiite militias, a mass grave has been discovered containing the remains of some of the 1,700 Shiite soldiers massacred by IS when they seized the city last June.

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