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, March 2, 2016

Update for Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Guardian has a detailed, and terrifying report on the state of the Mosul dam. What has not been clear until now is that maintenance work essentially ceased during the brief time when IS held the dam in 2014, and has not resumed. Preventing collapse of the dam from undermining of the gypsum on which it rests requires continual infusion of concrete, but the workers have not returned, the machines have been looted, and there is no cement. Furthermore the sluice gates are closed due to a malfunction. Soon the spring snow melt will increase pressure on the dam. Engineers involved in its construction fear that collapse is imminent, and would send a wall of water 20 meters high through Mosul, then onto Samarra, Tikrit and Baghdad potentially killing more than 1 million people. Really.

After months of delay, the government has finally signed a contract with an Italian company to repair and maintain the dam, but there is no indication as to when work will begin.

Remember that the Pentagon recently announced that Delta Force commandos are operating in Iraq. (Apparently that doesn't count as "combat troops.") They are said to have captured a high-ranking IS official and are interrogating him, prior to handing him over to Iraqi authorities. The identify of the captive and his actual role in the IS organization have not been revealed.

Iraqi forces continue to make modest territorial gains, capturing 4 villages near Samarra and re-opening the road to Baiji.