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, January 7, 2016

Update for Thursday, January 7, 2016

U.S. soldier killed in action in Marjah, Helmand on Tuesday is identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, of Des Moines, Washington. He was with the Washington Army National Guard’s Company A, 1/19th Special Forces Group. The linked article has more details on the incident.

President Obama will nominate Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel to command CentCom, overseeing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The choice is highly significant because Gen. Votel is currently head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, and has spent his career in special forces. Previously, CentCom commanders have had a conventional military background. The nomination indicates that the U.S. will continue to emphasize use of special forces in support of local troops in the ongoing wars. It is unclear what this means for the future of Gen. John Campbell, who heads the U.S. operation in Afghanistan.

The dispute between Iraq and Turkey over the presence of Turkish troops near Mosul is complicating planning to retake the city. President Obama is urging Turkey to withdraw the troops.

Germany will increase its troop presence in Iraq from 100 to 150. The soldiers are engaged in training peshmerga forces.

Iraq offers to mediate the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but this may not be a very credible offer as Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafar, in making the offer, referred to the execution of Nimr al-Nimr as a crime. Baghdad is in a difficult position, as it relies heavily on Iranian help in battling IS but also wants good relations with the Arab world.

Government forces continue to make slow progress clearing IS remnants from Ramadi, but the city is in ruins.