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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Update for Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Taliban blow up electric power pylons, cutting the supply of electricity from Uzbekistan to Kabul. More than 60% of Kabul's electricity is imported, so large areas of the capital are blacked out. It will take weeks to restore power. Electricity is essential for heat and cooking. The sabotage occurred in Baghlan province where fighting is underway.

WaPo reports that U.S. military commanders expect U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan for decades. You read that right.

And, in a major development, Bloomberg reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government will hold a referendum on independence. They say this doesn't mean secession if necessarily going to happen, but that the people will decide. However, the result is a foregone conclusion. This suggests that Ankara continues to be tolerant of Kurdish independence despite the resumption of hostilities with the PKK, because the landlocked country cannot function without access to world commerce through Turkey. While there is nothing Baghdad can do to prevent secession, it remains to be seen whether Kurdistan will gain widespread recognition from the world community. This could be a dangerous move, especially as Kurdistan's economy is in shambles due to low oil prices, the cost of war with IS, and the million or so refugees on its soil. Kurdistan will need substantial international assistance. It is unclear what input they have received from the U.S. on this move; Kurdistan is the most reliable partner of the U.S. in the fight against IS.