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, October 3, 2015

Update for Saturday, October 3, 2015


Hoo boy. U.S. airstrikes hit Kunduz hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders, killing 9 Medecins Sans Frontieres (the French name the group uses internationally) staff and injuring at least 37 additional people. (I've linked to the CNN account because, believe it or not, it seems to be among the most comprehensive currently available.) Thirty people are unaccounted for and the casualty toll is expected to rise.

MSF says it warned the U.S. and Afghan military of its precise coordinates, and that the attack continued for 30 minutes after they told military officials they were under attack.

The Telegraph now puts the death toll at 50, and provides  video of the burning wreckage.

A U.S. army spokesman says an air strike "may have caused collateral damage." "The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement that it "mourns for the individuals and families affected by the tragic incident at the Doctors Without Borders hospital." The statement didn't mention the airstrike."

Meanwhile, Taliban have surrounded 200 Afghan soldiers in Kohistanat, Sar-e-Pul and are at risk of a massacre if they do not receive air support.

[The hospital bombing has overwhelmed other reporting from Afghanistan. I'll provide an update on the situation in Kunduz and elsewhere as soon as I can get more information. -C]

Update as of 12:40 ET: Confirmed death toll in Kunduz hospital bombing now stands at 19, including 12 MSF staff, 4 adult patients, and 3 children.

The U.S. Department of Defense says only that the U.S. "conducted an air strike against individuals threatening the force and that the action may have caused collateral damage to a nearby hospital. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter calls it a "tragic incident."

However, this does not correspond to the description of the attack provided by MSF, which says:

"At 2:10 am (2040 GMT) local time... the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged," the organisation, known by its French initials, said.
MSF spokeswoman Kate Stegeman told AFP 16 [now 19] people were killed in the bombardment, among them three children, and 37 were wounded.
The charity said the bombing continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials were first alerted they were being hit.
"All parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS coordinates) of the MSF facilities," the statement added. 

The Afghan Defense Ministry claims that a "group of terrorists" were firing from the building.

TOLO's report on conditions in Kunduz, while spinning heavy praise for the ANA, makes it clear that the city is far from fully recaptured:

TOLOnews journalist Sharif Amiry – who was the first journalist to make his way into the city of Kunduz – said the security forces were being attacked by the Taliban from civilian homes, where they are hiding. "There is heavy fighting between the security forces and Taliban near civilian homes," reported Sharif, who is embedded with a convoy of security forces clearing the city from insurgents.

"Taliban are hiding in civilian homes but the security forces are trying their best to protect civilians and move the injured people to hospitals." An injured Kunduz resident who was being moved to the hospital called for mercy from the Taliban.  . ."The situation has not normalized and the fighting still continues on the streets," said Sharif.

Sharif also says the university is in control of the Taliban.

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