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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Update for Thursday, July 30, 2015


Matters are getting clearer and murkier at the same time. The Taliban confirm that Mullah Omar is dead, but they don't say when he died. They also claim he died in Afghanistan and not, as has been widely believed, in Pakistan under the protection of the Pakistani government. [There is no particular reason to believe them on this point, obviously. -- C]

Although they have not announced it officially, the Taliban Shura in Quetta is reported to have appointed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as his successor. Well okay, but Mansour has been effectively running the organization for a while now, it appears, and if Omar really has been dead for more than two years, this would be a formality. I would also note that since the Taliban leadership is based in Quetta, Pakistan, it would have been odd for their leader not to have been there, as the Taliban claim. And there's this:

Afghanistan had said Omar died in April, 2013 in a Pakistani hospital, but Pakistani officials could not confirm that. "We are aware of the reports and trying to ascertain the details," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said.
That is ridiculous. Of course the Pakistani government knows whether Omar died in a hospital in Karachi or not. In any case, the peace talks in Pakistan have been suspended, while the Taliban office in Doha says it has never heard of them.

So, Michael Kugelman in Foreign Affairs thinks it odd that the Afghan government would make the announcement at this time, when the Pakistanis and the Taliban were still sitting on it, since it appears to have scuttled the peace talks, which supposedly the Afghan government wanted.  He doesn't really have an answer, except that it may have been a miscalculation -- maybe they thought it would help unite the Taliban movement and create a more credible interlocutor. Or maybe they knew it was about to come out anyway so they preempted it.

I really don't know what to make of all this, but we'll continue to watch it.

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