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, June 28, 2017

Update for Wednesday, June 28, 2017

As the battle for Mosul enters the end game, thousands of civilians remain trapped in the remaining IS-held territory under increasingly desperate circumstances.

IRIN reports that many are sheltering in basement bunkers constructed during the Saddam Hussein era to protect against possible U.S. air strikes. However, they are vulnerable to strikes from modern U.S. bombs.

Defeat in Mosul will not eliminate IS from Iraq. IS still holds towns west of Mosul, including Tal Afar where excavation of a tunnel is said to have caused the collapse of a house, killing the inhabitants.

Farah Najjar, reporting for al Jazeera, discusses the likely persistence of IS ideology following the collapse of the self-proclaimed Caliphate. She interviewed Rami Khouri:

Khouri said that unless underlying regional issues such as unemployment, human rights abuses and political repression are addressed, the group's ideology will continue to attract the disenfranchised and politically excluded.
Oxford Research Group also discusses the IS future.

The recapture of territory from IS is only the beginning of the existential challenge facing Iraq. One question is the status and security of Christianswhether the Shiite dominated Baghdad government will legitimately serve and govern the Sunni Arab minority; and of course the now seemingly inevitable declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Parallel problems face Syria, of course. The dissolution of the Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East is just beginning, and will likely unfold amid continued political turmoil and violence for a long time to come.