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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Update for Friday, October 2, 2015

U.S Air Force C-130J transport aircraft crashes shortly after takeoff from Jalalabad, killing 6 U.S. military personnel, 5 civilian contractors working for the U.S. military, and 3 Afghan civilians. (Most accounts give the death toll as 11 and omit the Afghan civilians, who may have been on the ground.) Taliban claim to have shot the craft down, the U.S. denies it. It is unusual for C-130s, which are 4 engine prop planes, to crash.

Although government forces have recaptured most of Kunduz, fighting continues in the city. Meanwhile, Taliban take control of Warduj in Badakhsan province nearby. Warduj is on the highway to Tajikistan.

The ICRC says that medical personnel and supplies are urgently needed in Kunduz. Supplies are ready to be flown from Kabul once security at the Kuduz airport improves.

Amnesty International says witnesses have claimed Taliban in Kunduz hunted down specific individuals, committed rapes. Taliban are also accused of looting but police say local people also took advantage of the chaos to loot. The head of Kunduz public health department says 50 civilians are known dead and 372 have been admitted to hospitals, while hundreds of injured are as yet unable to get to hospitals. The city apparently remains without power, water or food.

UPDATE: As of 11:30 ET, DPA is reporting a far more dire state of affairs for the Afghan government in Kunduz and Baghlan province than claimed, and in fact disputes the report that government forces have regained control of most of Kunduz. According to witnesses in the city, while government forces have recaptured government buildings:

"The Taliban still control parts of the city and they are battling Afghan forces to retake control of the ground they have lost," said Sayed Asadullah Sadat, an elected member of the Kunduz provincial council.  . . .

"At least half of the city is controlled by the fighters," a Kunduz resident, who identified himself as Baryalai, said, adding that battles were taking place before their very doors. "We cannot get out for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Our children are starving and families who are able to flee have little to nothing financially to continue their trip," the resident said.

DPA also reports, without further comment, that 100 U.S. and other coalition forces are actively engaged in combat. DPA further reports that 4 of the 6 districts of Kunduz province are under Taliban control, and that the Taliban have also taken an additional district in Baghlan, Tala Wa Barfak, which the security forces abandoned without a fight.

As this is a different picture than we are getting from other sources, I will continue to monitor and update with corroboration or counter-claims as information emerges.

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