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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Update for Monday, July 24, 2017

At least 26 are dead in a suicide car bomb attack on a bus carrying government workers in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul. (The linked story raises the prospect of a sectarian element to the attack but the relevance of the location is not entirely clear.) The Taliban claimed responsibility.

News is just now emerging of an attack on a hospital in Ghor in which 35 civilians were killed. The Taliban have captured the Taywara district where the hospital is located. (I am usually reluctant to link to Press TV, an Iranian government property which is often unreliable. However accounts of this incident are still scant and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this report.)

And, in this context, I should note that a provincial official in Ghor accuses Iran of assisting the Taliban in seizing Taywara. This seems improbable but who knows?

Head of Ghor provincial council says 100 civilians have been killed by Taliban.

Battles in Kandahar said to leave 12 police and 21 militants dead.

Fred Kaplan writes that the U.S. administration has yet to decide on the purpose of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, let alone a strategy:

What is the aim of our involvement in Afghanistan: to defeat the Taliban (scant chance, given that we couldn’t manage the feat with 100,000 troops during Barack Obama’s first term), negotiate a settlement (with whom, to what end), help reform the Afghan government (we tried doing that for a long time, too, to no end), collaborate with old foes to fight off the growing presence of ISIS (about which much has been said lately), or simply train and supply the Afghan army (which, again, we’ve been doing for a long time, to little avail)? No decision can be made about troop levels without first answering those questions.
After those questions are asked, a more basic question must be answered: How long are we going to keep at this? How many more billions of dollars, or hundreds of lives, is the contest worth? What are the stakes of this fight, compared with the stakes of many other fights and interests in the world?


Dancewater said...

Earlier this year, we heard and heard and heard and heard about how Trump's raid on Yemen was "botched". Yet last fall, under Obama, there was a seriously botched operation going on in Jordan that ended up with three US Special Forces killed.

It made what Trump did look totally insignificant, yet no one in the USA seemed to care about it (and it happened about the same time as two US Special Forces were killed in Afghanistan, which also did not get much attention).

I guess it is different if a Democrat causes wars and killings. It is only important and a sign of incompetence when a Republican does it.

Anyway, as is often the case, some truth about this incident last fall in Jordan has come out months (or years or decades) later. I am copying the article below from the NYT, but you can go to this link to see the video (which I could not make heads or tails out off). Here is the link:

I rather doubt this is the full truth - after all, it is the NYT.
- dancewater

Video Shows U.S. Soldiers Surrendering Before Fatal Shooting in Jordan


Newly released video of the killing of three American Special Forces soldiers in November at the gate of a military base in Jordan shows that the episode, which was initially explained as a split-second mistake by a Jordanian guard firing on Americans who failed to stop, was actually a six-minute gun battle where Americans crouched behind barriers and repeatedly waved their hands in surrender as the gunman closed in and killed them.

The footage, which was made public on Monday by the Jordanian military, contradicts statements Jordanian officials initially made saying that the Americans had failed to stop at the gate, or that the accidental discharge of an American weapon sparked the shooting.
The video makes it clear that the gunman, Ma’arik al-Tawayha, a Jordanian Air Force sergeant, deliberately fired at two of the soldiers.

Sergeant Tawayha, who was wounded in the gunfight, was sentenced last week to life in prison for the killing of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Mo.; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Tex.

The verdict sparked street protests among members of Sergeant Tawayha’s influential tribe, the Howeitat, who said he had acted within the rules of engagement and was being punished to placate a powerful ally. According to the Jordanian news media, the authorities responded with arrests and what the tribe says were intentional internet blackouts to limit spread of news of the protests, but the tribe has continued to press for a new trial.

James R. Moriarty, a Houston lawyer and the father of Sergeant Moriarty, said Monday that he was briefed by the F.B.I., which told him the video was released by Jordanian authorities to defuse protests and keep Sergeant Tawayha from being extolled as a martyr.

“Jordan tried to minimize this, saying it was the Americans’ fault, and now it has come back to haunt them,” Mr. Moriarty said.

Dancewater said...

I left off part of the article in the prior post due to word count limitations.

Dancewater said...

Those of us who have been paying attention realized long ago that the CIA was arming, training and PAYING terrorists in Syria to overthrow Assad. But today, Trump apparently confirmed all this in one of his tweets. It is being portrayed by corporate media as a move to appease Russia. I think it is extremely sensible for the Pentagon trained fighters to stop fighting the CIA trained fighters, and I would think that even if they were not destroying Syria and the lives of millions in the process. But it is - most likely - fake news from WaPo that Trump is doing this for Russia's sake. Take note of how the LA Times leads with the covert CIA program and then devolves into a spat about taxes between Trump and Bezos.... which would be important if it weren't for the evil covert CIA programs and evil overt Pentagon programs around the globe. - Susan

Did Trump just confirm the existence of a covert CIA program in a tweet?
Alex Wigglesworth

President Trump took aim at the Washington Post in a series of tweets Monday night.

The president appeared to take issue with a Post article published last week that reported that Trump had decided to end a secret CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the government of President Bashar Assad. The report stated that Russia had long wanted to see the program phased out, and that Trump's decision to do so reflected his desire to work more closely with Moscow.

But in responding to the Post article, which he claimed "fabricated the facts" on his decision to end the initiative, Trump appeared to confirm the covert program's existence.

The president went on to revive his complaint about "fake news," which he's leveled many times against news reports with which he disagrees.

Trump has in the past referred to the Post as the "Amazon Washington Post" and suggested that the newspaper helps the online shopping giant put political pressure on lawmakers to avoid paying taxes.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013, but he made the purchase as an individual and Inc. was not involved.

As a candidate, Trump accused Bezos of employing the Post as a tool to influence corporate tax policy. In a May 2016 interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump also suggested that Bezos was directing Post reporters to investigate Trump because he was afraid that, if elected, Trump would "go after" Amazon for antitrust violations.

U.S. antitrust regulators are reportedly scrutinizing Amazon's recently proposed agreement to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, but many still expect the deal to move forward.

Dancewater said...

Now, in light of the US/CIA history of arming, training and funding terrorists, one has to wonder exactly WHO is behind the terrorist attacks in the Philippines.

PH failed to stop terrorist attacks in 2016–US state dep’t
Read more:

Philippine security forces failed to prevent numerous terrorist attacks in Mindanao last year and President Duterte’s war on drugs was an added burden on them, the US State Department said in a report this week.

The report said terrorist groups were able to plan bombings, shootings and ambushes “against targets of their choice,” as shown by discovery of a bomb near the US Embassy in Manila on Nov. 28.

“Philippine military and police counterterrorism efforts kept up pressure on terrorist organizations but were unable to prevent numerous attacks against government, public and private facilities primarily in central and western Mindanao,” said the State Department in its latest Country Reports on Terrorism issued on July 19.

The emergence of Islamic State (IS)-affiliated groups, kidnappings, attacks on government forces and bombings indicate that “domestic and international terrorism remained a serious problem” in 2016, it added.

Factions of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Maute Group, or the Dawlah Islamiyah Lanao, and Ansar-al Khalifah Philippines have pledged allegiance to IS, which named ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon as its leader for Southeast Asia.
(more at the link above)