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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Update for Saturday, April 1, 2017

A reader sent in this article by an Australian soldier about the loss of Uruzgan to the Taliban. Australian troops, who were mostly deployed to the province, left Afghanistan in 2013. Excerpt:

My home was a remote outpost in a farming valley where a handful of Australian and Afghan soldiers lived, worked and fought the Taliban together. Despite the hardships and numerous casualties, we achieved some modest successes. . . .

But any sense of accomplishment was tempered by the knowledge that Australia would soon be withdrawing from the base, leaving the Afghans to provide security on their own. I was not optimistic about their chances. These concerns are now justified.

Taliban fighters overran the outpost last October and dozens of Afghan soldiers defending it reportedly defected. A video published on the Taliban’s news website, Al Emarah, shows soldiers surrendering the base and handing over weapons and armoured vehicles. Nearby bases fell in a similar manner and the Taliban now control the valley. Despite years of commitment and the loss of at least eight soldiers, Australian forces left little lasting impact.
We are suddenly hearing somewhat mysterious noises from U.S. officials about the Russian role in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense James Mattis  says "we have seen Russian activity vis a vis the Taliban," although he does not go so far as to say Russia is providing them with any material support and he does not explain what he means. The Russian ambassador to NATO says that Russia communicates with the Taliban, in cooperation with the Afghan government, as do many nations, in an effort to promote reconciliation, but denies providing them with any aid.

Indeed, Moscow has scheduled a multinational meeting on Afghanistan for April 14 but the U.S. has declined to take part.

An investigation by SIGAR finds that U.S. AID-funded schools in Balkh have greatly overstated their enrollment.


Well, it's happening. The UN will oversee a referendum on Kurdish independence, according to the Secretary General of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party. [He may be jumping the gun on this, but with or without international support I expect the referendum will happen. -- C]

Iraqi jets bomb IS positions in Baaj, a remote town near the Syrian border. Iraq claims the militants had crossed over from Syria.

An Iraqi journalist who criticized government corruption dies in a house fire, and many wonder if it was really an accident.

Canadian special forces are participating in the battle for Mosul. The Canadian mission in Iraq has been extended at least until June.

The U.S. will no longer tell its own citizens how many troops are in Iraq and Syria. [Democracy dies in the dark. -- C]