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 23, 2016

Update for Monday, May 23, 2016

The assault on Fallujah begins with Iraqi forces advancing through rural territory toward the city. The operation commander, Lt Gen Abdul Wahab Al Saadi, declines to predict how long the operation will take given the usual problems of booby traps and large civilian presence. Although civilians have fled toward the relatively safer north side of the city, they are unable to leave.

U.S. forces are not expected to enter Fallujah, but the U.S. has conducted air strikes in support of the offensive, and may provide air support from Apache helicopter if asked, and U.S. artillery can reach Fallujah from Taqaddum air base. Lest we forget, 100 U.S. troops died in Fallujah in 2014.

Turning to Afghanistan, president Obama says the death of Mullah Mansour is confirmed .

Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif says the assassination was a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, and that Pakistan has protested. The Pakistani's also claim that the person purported to be Mansour carried a valid Pakistani ID under a different name, and had recently entered the country from Iran. The driver worked for a commercial service which he had hired. [That turned out to be a really bad assignment. -- C]

The Taliban leadership meets in Pakistan to consider a successor. A likely possibility is Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose election would put an end for now to prospects for peace talks. The U.S. has placed a $5 million bounty on his head and would presumably kill him also if it gets the chance.