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, July 5, 2017

Update for Wednesday, July 5, 2017

U.S. soldier is killed in action Monday afternoon by mortar fire in Helmand province. Two other soldiers are injured, and are being treated locally. The deceased is identified as Private First Class Hansen Kirkpatrick of Wasilla, Alaska. This delayed announcement is somewhat unusual.

Update: It turns out the delayed announcement is a new policy. The military will not announce combat deaths until after the family has been notified.

Paranoid, are we? A teenage female robotics team from Afghanistan is refused visas to attend a competition in the U.S. Oddly, teams from Syria and Iran will be admitted.

A group of U.S. senators visiting Afghanistan decries lack of a coherent strategy, and failure to fill essential State Department positions including that of U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

In Iraq, it's going to cost a billion dollars just to repair the basic infrastructure in Mosul. And by the way, that hasn't even started in the Anbar cities.

The editors of The Economist discuss the state of Iraq as IS falls. They are discouraged:

Iraqi ministers estimate that rehabilitating areas liberated from IS will cost $100bn, roughly the sum they and the Americans spent on the war. But the government is broke. Sunni Gulf states are said to be considering their involvement, but have contributed next to nothing. The World Bank has reportedly committed $300m. Germany is offering €500m ($570m). Coalition talks on a ten-year reconstruction plan, set to begin in Washington on July 10th, might drum up a bit more. But, runs an Arabic proverb, commitments are clouds, implementation the rain. . . .

IS’s vestiges, though, may anyway be one of the lesser problems facing Iraq. Exultant armies and militias now occupy the ground once held by the caliphate. A generation of young Iraqis currently earn a living from fighting IS; they may now develop ambitions of their own. Having avoided confrontation while they were assaulting IS, America and its allies are now coming to blows with Iran and its allies across the border in south-eastern Syria. A similar struggle looms in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraq’s politicians squabble, largely confined to the Green Zone, the walled city within a city occupying the core of Baghdad. So far there is not much sign of the fresh dawn that IS’s downfall should bring.