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, May 25, 2016

Update for Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Afghan Taliban shura elects a successor to Mullah Mansour. Haibatullah Akhundzada is a long-time leader who headed the sharia justice system when the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar's son Mohammed Yaqoob were designated as deputies. This move appears to be aimed at achieving stability and unity in the movement.

Akhundzada is an extremist religious leader whose views are seen as hawkish and the appointment does not seem likely to lead to a renewed peace process.

Indeed, the Taliban issue a recording of him vowing not to engage in peace talks.

Update: Jibran Ahmad for Reuters has some inside baseball on the Taliban leadership election.

And the fighting continues as the MoD announces 8 Afghan soldiers have died in battle in the past 24 hours, without specifying the circumstances. Although they do not consistently report on casualties, there are estimates that combat deaths average 4 per day.

Suicide bomber targeting court employees in Kabul kills 10.

In Iraq, IS is preventing civilians from fleeing Fallujah as Iraqi government and allied forces make slow advances on the city. While civilians attempting to escape have reason to fear being killed by IS forces, they also fear the Shiite militias participating in the assault. Civilians are reportedly being killed by indiscriminate shelling by the militias.

Kurdistan president Barzani says a referendum on independence will be held before the end of this year.