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, July 3, 2016

Update for Sunday, July 3, 2016

As usual, reported casualty tolls and other details differ, but according to the Washington Post account, which seems the most recent and complete I can find, 83 people have died in a car bomb attack on the Karada shopping district in Baghdad. IS claimed responsibility on the attack in a Shiite neighborhood, saying Shiites were the target because of their faith. Prime Minister Abadi visited the scene and was met by an angry mob. There are conflicting reports as to whether a second explosion in eastern Baghdad, which killed 5 people, was a terrorist attack or an accident.

The corporate media in the U.S. usually ignore bombings in Baghdad, but this one got some attention, with coverage from the New York Times, CBS, and CNN among others.

Hundreds of families have fled from fighting around Sharqat in Salahuddin province. More than 350,000 people are said to remain trapped in the city. (That number seems high to me but I cannot find any reliable information about the population of the city.)

The long-awaited Chilcot report on the United Kingdom's conduct in the Iraq war will be released on Wednesday. Leaks suggest that former Prime Minister Tony Blair faces heavy condemnation. Here is an excerpt from a report in the Daily Mail. Note that there has been no equivalent investigation in the United States but if you were to substitute "George W. Bush" for Tony Blair and "Congress" for "Parliament" and so on, this would be just as correct:

If the report is to have any value, it must provide answers to the families of the fallen and insights into what caused this disaster for the policy-makers of today and tomorrow. The Iraq War claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people. Iraq, once relatively stable, was left a smouldering ruin. 

The country is plagued by a horrific violence that has now spread across the region. 
The credibility of Western foreign policy has been shattered. How was this allowed to happen? The most important question is whether Tony Blair lied to the British people and to Parliament. From the evidence presented to the inquiry, it seems clear that he did. The intelligence evidence Blair relied on was described by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) as ‘sporadic and patchy’. Yet Blair told the House of Commons that the picture painted by our intelligence services was ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’. This was simply untrue, and in making this claim Mr Blair was misrepresenting the available intelligence, a key premise behind his case for war. Some of this bogus evidence was obtained under torture.

Then there was the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. In it, Mr Blair stated that it was ‘beyond doubt’ that Saddam operated and produced WMDs. In reality the JIC had told Mr Blair that they knew little about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapon capabilities.