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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Update for Thursday, August 25, 2016

For some reason, the reported death toll from the attack on American University varies among sources, from 12 to 14. In any event we now have a clearer picture of what happened. Following a car bomb explosion, two gunmen entered the compound. According to a witness, they spoke Kandahari Pashto. It was several hours before security forces were able to kill the attackers. Forty people are wounded, most in critical condition. A more systematic account is here, from the Associated Press, which gives the death toll (apart from the attackers) as 13, including seven students, one teacher, three police officers and two security guards. No-one has as yet claimed responsibility.

FYI, the American University is a private, non-profit institution not affiliated with the U.S. government. However, U.S.A.I.D. did contribute substantial funds to its development.

The U.S. soldier killed two days ago is identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, of Irvine, California, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. DoD reports that he was dismounted when the explosion occurred. Here is an obituary from his original home town in Wisconsin.

Update: I found this map from the Institute for the Study of War (click on the linked site for the PDF) showing the control of terrain in Iraq. It's particularly interesting how factionalized the Kurdish-controlled region is. We need to remember that the peshmerga is not a national army of Kurdistan: most units are actually militia of the PUK or KDP. You can also see the presence of Shiite militias in much of the area north of Baghdad, bumping up against Kurdish controlled areas. IS-controlled territory is now fragmented in two main pieces, in the far west around Qaim, and in the north centered on Mosul with a southward and westward projection.  We can see how this map changes in coming weeks.


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