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, December 4, 2015

Update for Friday, December 4, 2015

U.S. special forces participate in a raid on a Taliban prison in Helmand province which frees 40 members of Afghan security forces. The U.S. announcement gives main credit to Afghan forces and does not specify the role of U.S. forces. However, this is a reminder that U.S. special forces do continue to have a combat role in Afghanistan.

There are unconfirmed reports that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was killed in a factional fight in Pakistan. Regardless of whether this turns out to be true, infighting within the Taliban seems to be growing more intense.

A mortar round fired by the Afghan National Army hits a mosque in Maidan Wardak, killing 14 people.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, this is kind of interesting. Following the U.S. announcement that it will deploy 100 special forces to combat IS in Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister Abadi says he did not request any such "foreign forces" and considers their deployment a "hostile act." (The sentiment evidently does not apply to Iranians.)

The statement, issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, also said that “the Iraqi government completely rejects such action and would deal with the presence of foreign ground troops to Iraq as though their presence were a hostile act and a violation of Iraq's national sovereignty.”
Al-Abadi also said: “The Iraqi government is committed to not allowing ground troops on Iraqi land, and it did not ask any party, neither regional or from the coalition forces, to deploy ground forces in Iraq.”

The PM's sentiments aside, there is a widespread belief among both Sunni and Shiite Iraqis that the U.S. secretly backs IS. "The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the militants it claims to be fighting appears, however, to be widespread across the country’s Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and it speaks to more than just the troubling legacy of mistrust that has clouded the United States’ relationship with Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later."

Shiite and Kurdish forces that recapture territory from IS continue to abuse the local Sunni Arab population. This is a basic structural problem in the fight against IS which cannot be fixed unless the Iraqi government wants to fix it, by equipping and empowering Sunni Arab fighters and giving fair treatment to its Sunni Arab population. (I fear it may be too late for that.)