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, October 26, 2016

Update for Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Advance toward Mosul continues to be slowed by IS resistance. Iraqi forces to the south are currently fighting in the Shora region, 20 miles from the city. UN agencies say that so far 10,600 civilians have fled the fighting.

Shiite militia forces are expected to join the battle soon, specifically to take the Turkmen town of Tal Afar. Turkish Foreign Minister warns that Turkey will be watching the situation closely.

Pointing to the threat of Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, Cavusoglu said in addition to the expected attack on Mosul, the militia is also targeting largely Sunni areas. Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey will "take all precautionary measures allowed by international law" if anything in Tal Afar threatens Turkey’s security. Cavusoglu also warned that Turkey "will not be insensitive" if the Turkmens of Tal Afar are attacked.

Meanwhile, peshmerga forces are continuing to make slow progress in the Bashiqa area.

Xinhua reports on advances in various areas.

Reuters reports on the U.S. "high mobility artillery rocket system" in Qayyara, which has been attacking targets in Mosul continuously. The system has a range of 70 miles.

Tallha Abdulrazaq discusses the future of IS after it loses control of territory. Like many observers, he is concerned about the poor prospects for a political settlement that will deprive the group of oxygen.

In Afghanistan, 26 civilians are massacred in the remote province of Ghor,but there are conflicting accounts about who is responsible and the motive. Some stories have called the perpetrators Taliban, but most accounts now call them IS. The motive may have been revenge for the killing of an IS commander, or a dispute over stolen sheep. Some accounts portray this as an ethnic conflict.

This is one of those stories where the focus on a single individual draws attention to a much wider issue which has been ignored. Sharbat Gula, the subject of a famous National Geographic photograph is an Afghan refugee who has been living in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have arrested her for obtaining a fake ID, and she is subject to prison time. (I expect they will just expel her.) Pakistan has been engaged in mass deportation of Afghan refugees, putting great stress on humanitarian agencies.