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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Update for Monday, May 16, 2016

Thousands of Hazara demonstrate in Kabul, putting the city in a security lockdown. The proximal cause of the demonstration was the government's decision to re-route a power line, originally proposed to pass through Bamiyan, where most Hazara live. The transmission line would carry power from Turkmenistan to Kabul, but also provide electricity to the territory through which it passes. Only 30% of the Afghan population has access to electricity. However, the demonstration expressed broader frustration with government failure and what the Harzara perceive as discrimination. (They are mostly Shiite and were severely persecuted under Taliban rule.)

The government has delayed the project to consider providing more electricity to Bamiyan.

This demonstration ended largely peacefully. However, in response to recent bomb attacks the capital has become a labyrinth of blast walls.

Four police are killed by a bomb attack in Farah.

Air strike in Baghlan province is said to have killed 13 militants following clashes in the area.

Afghan government is working on a peace deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord unaffiliated with the Taliban, whose militia has not been active lately.

In Iraq, as IS continues to slowly lose territory it has been retaliating with a bombing campaign against civilian targets in the Baghdad area. Five attacks on Sunday left more than 100 people dead. While the Iraqi government sees the attacks as a sign of desperation, they have the effect of further undermining the weak government and fostering greater instability.

Kurdish parties are meeting to discuss whether to end their boycott of parliament.

Government forces continue to advance in Anbar, now undertaking to recapture the town of Rutba.