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, July 18, 2016

Update for Monday, July 18, 2016

Special "Things Aren't Always What They Seem" edition.

I could speak for myself about this but I'll let MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT of the New York Times do it. What does it mean to label the horrific incident in Nice "terrorism"? The perpetrator was not religious, in fact he was a drunkard who never went to mosque and never prayed, had never expressed Islamist or jihadi opinions, and had no known connection to any relevant organization. Deranged people have driven into crowds before, and of course there was that German pilot who flew the plane into a mountain in France. Nobody called those incidents terrorism. But the perpetrator in Nice happened to have been born in Tunisia and was of Muslim heritage, even though he was himself evidently an apostate. So it's terrorism. Maybe it's just a lunatic. Possibly the existence of IS provided a hook on which to hang his delusions, although there is no direct evidence of that. That does seem to be the basic description of the Orlando night club shooter.

Then there is that bizarre coup attempt in Turkey. As Dan Rodrik discusses, the top ranks of the Turkish military are entirely loyal to Erdogan. The coup plotters were astonishingly inept and never had any chance of success. Erdogan's attempt to blame the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen is preposterous. The consequence of these strange events is of course that Erdogan will tighten his grip on power and further erode democracy in Turkey. Cui bono?

Back to Iraq. Muqtada al Sadr has been calling for political reform in Iraq, which seems nice. Now he also wants his followers to attack U.S. troops.

Iraqi army moves on a village near Qayarrah in furtherance of the campaign to take Mosul.

In Afghanistan, Taliban attack a bazaar near Kunduz, with one police officer and three militants said to be killed as fighting continues. Khaama reports additional battles in the area with more Taliban casualties but no mention of additional government casualties.

MoD says four ANA troops killed since Sunday without specifying the circumstances.

Attack on a police outpost in Badghis said to result in death of 9 attackers, again no mention of police casualties.

Fighting in Ghazni said to result in death of 12 Taliban and one police officer. As always, these highly lopsided casualty totals are not independently confirmed.

Air strikes in Helmand said to kill 16 militants. This report does not say whether the strikes were carried out by U.S. or Afghan forces. (Afghanistan now has some attack helicopters.)