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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Update for Sunday, October 4, 2015

Update: Al Jazeera is reporting that the Taliban have recaptured much of Kunduz. There is no corroboration as of 10:45 ET, but according to their reporter:

Al Jazeera's Qais Azimy, reporting from Puli Khumri just south of Kunduz, said that at around 1200 GMT, Taliban fighters launched counter-attacks, driving back government forces from the areas, where they had earlier made gains.

"It is a very fragile situation. Afghan security officials are telling us that they are suffering from lack of leadership and coordination," he said.
The Daily Mail reports that British special forces are engaged in ground combat in Kunduz.

Death toll in hospital bombing is now 22.

MSF abandons the Kunduz hospital, which is no longer functional. Critically injured patients have been moved to other hospitals. MSF's account of the attack makes it clear that this was not a case of collateral damage, but rather a precisely targeted assault on the key facilities of the hospital.

MSF stated in the statement that from 2:08 a.m. local time until 3:15 a.m. local time Saturday, MSF's trauma hospital in Kunduz was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals and the main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.
 MSF has so far declined to identify the victims.

TOLO provides an eyewitness account from a nurse. Read.

Afghan forces recapture Tala-Barfak in Baghlanbut Taliban take Kohistanat in Sar-e-Pul.

I have been discrete about any possible explanation for the hospital bombing. But I refer you to Glenn Greenwald who is less cautious. You may have read that Afghan MoD has claimed that there were Taliban firing from within the hospital grounds. MSF categorically denies this, saying that the hospital gates were locked at night and that the Taliban had in any case respected their demand not to carry weapons on the grounds. However, the hospital did treat everybody in need. Says Greenwald:

Several reports suggest that this hospital has been viewed with hostility because it treats all injured human beings, regardless of which side they’re on. “The hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked the Afghan security forces,” reports the NYT. Al Jazeera notes that “a caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic’s medical staff did not favour any side the conflict. ‘We are here to help and treat civilians,’ Abdul Manar said.” That same caretaker added: “Several women and children are also killed in the strike. I could hear them screaming for help inside the hospital while it was set ablaze by the bombing. We are terrified and speechless.”
That would provide a possible motive -- but if this was done intentionally, it is indeed a war crime, and prosecution should go as far up the chain of command as responsibility lies.

A personal note: I am not clear in my own mind about what the U.S. role in Afghanistan should be at this time. While the U.S. has enormous obligations to the Afghan people, it is not obvious how best to discharge that debt. I do think that the air war must end. Unfortunately, efforts at development aid have mostly resulted in debacles.  At the same time, most Afghans, in most of the country, do not want Taliban rule, while of course from my own value perspective the Taliban ideology is disastrous, particularly for women and girls but also for any hope of economic and cultural development. How can the international community best support the aspirations of the Afghan people?



Dancewater said...

I believe they bombed the hospital on purpose.

I also believe that the violence we see inside our country (like the mass shooting in Oregon) and the violence we engage in outside our country are directly related. This sick, sad country of ours believes that violence solves problems and they believe that bullets and bombs and guns will keep us safe.

And all it does is kill people. Violence is as American as apple pie.