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, May 30, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015: requiem for a nation


When I started posting here a decade ago, the site was called Today in Iraq. Our long-term vision was of a stable, secular, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Iraqi state. That was what most Iraqis wanted as well, but the political organization and leadership to make it happen never emerged. Political parties organized on sectarian lines, and the horrific civil war ensued. The U.S. succeeded in putting  a lid on the cauldron temporarily, by equipping and financing the Shawa movement among Sunni Arabs and keeping a short rein on the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army. But the Kurds always really wanted independence and the Shiite political leadership had no intention of sharing power in a secular state.

I remember writing here, at one point, "Won't anybody stand up for Iraq?" But nobody did.

Whatever you think of Fareed Zakaria, I must sadly agree with him. Iraq is no more. It is not that the Iraqi army is unwilling to fight. It's that it is unwilling to fight to defend Sunni communities. Most Sunni Arabs despise the Islamic State but they have nowhere to go. They are unwelcome in Baghdad and the government is not providing adequately for the displaced. And, as Zakaria tells us, the polls are clear:

Iraq today no longer exists. In 2008, 80 percent of those polled said they were “Iraqi above all.” Today that number is 40 percent. The Kurds have taken every opportunity to further enhance their already considerable autonomy. I recently asked a Kurdish politician how many Kurds would support independence for their provinces. He replied, “Somewhere between 99 percent and 100 percent.” . . .Washington can provide aid, training, arms, air power—even troops. But it cannot hold together a nation that is falling apart.
For all Iraqis who hoped for a different outcome, including our friend Riverbend who I hope is safe and well somewhere, I am truly sorry.

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