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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Update for Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Three U.S. citizens kidnapped in Baghdad in January are released. While details of the incident have yet to be revealed, it is being interpreted as a power play by a Shiite militia, demonstrating defiance of the government.

Baghdad government proposes to pay salaries of Kurdish government workers on condition that Kurdistan stop its independent sale of oil. One wonders whether Kurdish secession can happen if oil prices do not rebound.

Iraqi forces launch an offensive to retake Hamidiya, east of Ramadi.

IS said to have attacked Kurdish forces with mustard gas last year. Of course, that's probably no worse than blowing people up or shooting them, but it is currently against international conventions. It is not clear whether the weapons came from an overlooked Syrian government stockpile, or if the militants have the capacity to manufacture them.

Azam Ahmed reports for the NY Times that Afghan government is complicit in opium growing. He says that local officials tax the opium crop just as the Taliban do, and that revenues are kicked up the hierarchy to Kabul.

In other news in the annals of good government, Defense Department officials are hopeful that by the end of this year they’ll be paying for salaries of only Afghan soldiers who actually exist. Lest we forget, the Afghan government does not pay for its own army, U.S. taxpayers do. Salaries of "ghost soldiers" are pocketed by officers.