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, March 29, 2017

Update for Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ivor Prickett for the NYT reports from Mosul on the desperate circumstances of civilians, with photographs. There are no safe routes for people to flee but they flee anyway, amid constant explosions and shortages of food and water.

Lt. General Stephen Townsend acknowledges that the U.S. "probably had a role" in the March 17 deaths of more than 100 civilians in an explosion al-Jadida, but is investigating to determine exactly what happened. There are accounts that IS fighters herded civilians into the buildings, and placed snipers on the roofs. It is possible that Iraqi soldiers who called in the strike were unaware of the presence of the civilians.

The U.S. denies it has changed the rules of engagement for these strikes. However, this may be a semantic quibble. It appears that authorization has been delegated to forces in the field and approval is now given more quickly.

Amnesty International says the U.S. is not taking sufficient precautions to protect civilians.

Coalition forces are dropping more than 500 bombs a week on the city.

As Iraqi forces advance toward the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, U.S. helicopter gunships are strafing IS positions in the city.

Kirkuk Provincial Council votes to raise the flag of Kurdistan over government buildings alongside the Iraqi flag, as Arabs and Turkmen protest and the Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi also objects. (Kirkuk was historically an ethnically diverse though predominantly Kurdish city. Saddam Hussein expelled Kurds and settled Arabs in the area, although it is believed that Kurds remained in the majority. The city and its environs are now disputed territory between Erbil and Baghdad.)




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