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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Update for Sunday, June 19, 2016

Refugee camps are overwhelmed as civilians continue to flee Fallujah. The UN says that 82,000 people have fled, with perhaps 25,000 more on the way, but there is no shelter for them. One camp with 1,800 people has a single latrine. Because the Shiite government does not trust Sunni Arabs from Anbar, they are not allowed to go to Baghdad. While the government has taken over screening of military age men and many have been processed and released, many others remain missing.

Fighting in Fallujah continues but it seems to be characterizable as a mop-up operation. Government forces were cautious in approaching the hospital but when they stormed it, they found no patients inside. Shiite militias have remained outside of the city. Baghdad Operations Command expects the fighting to be over in a "few days."

However, it's still war. A senior Iraqi officer was killed by indirect fire near the city.

In case it gives you a thrill, you can watch video of Harrier jets taking off from the amphibious assault ship U.S.S. boxer in the Mediterranean to strike IS targets. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is in the Mediterranean along with the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, as the U.S. assaults IS from both the  Mediterranean and the Gulf.

With the apparent success of the Fallujah operation, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are beginning the long-anticipated move toward Mosul. The first target, as we noted earlier, is Qayyarah and its airfield, across the Tigris from Kurdish-held territory.

Indian foreign policy specialist Brahma Chellaney argues that the U.S. policy of trying to ally with Pakistan is feckless. Since invading Afghanistan, the U.S. has given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid and provided sophisticated, powerful weapons in hopes that Pakistan would pressure the Taliban into a peace agreement. Instead, Pakistan has continued to harbor the Afghan Taliban leadership, not to mention Osama bin Laden. Says Chellaney:

The reality is that the medieval Taliban will neither be defeated nor seek peace until their Pakistani sanctuaries are eliminated. No counterterrorism campaign has ever succeeded in a country when the militants have found refuge in another. While Obama recognizes the imperative of eliminating terrorist sanctuaries, he has failed to do what is needed. . . .

A better approach would be to link aid disbursement to concrete Pakistani action against militants, while officially classifying ISI as a terrorist entity. Such a move would send a strong signal to Pakistan’s military – which views the Taliban and other militant groups as useful proxies and force multipliers vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India – that it can no longer hunt with the hounds and run with the foxes.


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