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, December 17, 2015

Update for Thursday, December 17, 2015

A new development in the dispute between Ankara and Baghdad over the Turkish troop presence at the Bashiqa training base near Mosul as an IS rocket hits the base, injuring four Turkish soldiers and killing two Iraqis, presumably Kurds. The Turks say they counterattacked, destroying IS targets, and state that this event shows that their presence there is justified.

Meanwhile, an Italian company has won the contract to repair the Mosul dam, and Italy is sending 450 troops to protect the operation. For those who do not know, IS briefly seized the dam as Iraqi forces in the area collapsed, and it was retaken by peshmerga. The dam is considered dangerous because it is built on gypsum which is continually dissolving and undermining the structure. If it were to tail, Baghdad would be inundated.

Peshmerga claim continuing gains in the Sinjar area, while Iraqi forces claim gains near Fallujah. IS does appear to be gradually losing ground in Iraq, but the discord among Baghdad, Irbil, and Ankara (with Tehran and Moscow also in the mix)  is concerning for the ultimate outcome.

In Afghanistan,  a Pentagon report to congress says violence is on the rise and that security is fragile.

Heavy fighting continues in Helmand with reported Taliban gains.

IS launches a radio station in Nangarhar, "Voice of the Caliphate." [Hmm. You'd think that would be easy enough to take out with a drone. -- C]

I'm not quite sure I get the logic of this but a report says USAID development programs in Afghanistan actually increase support for the Taliban in places where there is a Taliban presence. Apparently the Taliban gets credit for them.

Brother of Afghan ambassador to India killed in a mosque in Kandahar while praying.

Navy SEALs are accused of beating a detainee to death in 2012, and their commanders of a cover-up. More broadly, U.S. special forces have tolerated and enabled abuse of civilians by Afghan Local Police, driving people into the arms of the Taliban.