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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Update for Saturday, February 27, 2016

Suicide bombing near the Ministry of Defense building in Kabul kills 12, injures 8. Most casualties are civilians.

Suicide bombing near the governor's compound in Kunar province kills 11 and injures more than 30. Again, the casualties are mostly civilians. Some reports on what appears to be the same incident say the target was a tribal leader named Khan Jan.

Badkhshan officials say there has been an increase in violence against women due to failure to enforce the law.

Tolo reports Kabul residents say crime has increased in the capital but the police deny it.

Warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum says he will avenge the beheading of two Afghan soldiiers in Faryab. He claims substantial gains against the Taliban in the province.

MoD says the army freed 35 civilians from Taliban captivity in Helmand.

A report claims 25% of Afghan police have deserted amid deteriorating security.

In Iraq, the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has been repaired. In what has to be one of the more boneheaded moves in recent weeks, recall that the PKK blew it up. However, they may not actually be the culprits. PM Barzani says he isn't sure who did it, and through an affiliate, the PKK denies responsibility.

Remember Muqtada al-Sadr? He's leading a campaign against corruption. Recall that while the U.S. was embroiled in civil war in Iraq, he was never mentioned in the U.S. media without the label "radical Shiite cleric" and was widely called "the most dangerous man in Iraq. Actually he isn't particularly radical and the only reason he was dangerous is because he wanted the Americans out. The New York Times has an appraisal of his evolution since the U.S. occupation ended:

Nowadays his militiamen are largely under the control of the government, and his anti-Americanism, once a defining issue for him, is less ardent. Recently, through his contacts among Shiite militia leaders, he helped secure the release of three Americans kidnapped in Baghdad. At the rally there was some bashing of the United States, but it felt more perfunctory than strident.
Once an open client of Iran, Mr. Sadr has in recent years gone his own way, and is widely seen these days as an Iraq-first advocate of cross-sectarian unity. His militia, reconstituted after the extremists of the Islamic State captured Mosul in the summer of 2014, was renamed the Peace Brigades.
Today, as he seeks to redefine himself once again, Mr. Sadr, now 42, has positioned himself as a backer of Mr. Abadi, who is seen as increasingly weak in the face of the growing influence of Iran. Tehran supports Mr. Abadi’s political rivals, who command militias.