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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Update for Thursday, December 28, 2017

IS claims responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a Shiite cultural center and news agency in Kabul that is reported to have killed 41 people and injured 48. The attack occurred during a panel discussion on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. IS has previously attacked Shia targets in Afghanistan. Other reports put the toll of injured at 84.

Six children are killed by an IED in Balkh.

Two police are killed and weapons captured by Taliban in an attack on a police checkpoint in Farah.

Five civilians are killed by militants in Ghazni. This story does not explain the motive.

U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to increase "dramaticallly."

[Gen. Nicholson]  has praised Trump’s new strategy as a “game changer” and said it has already begun to pay dividends. Vice President Mike Pence spoke along the same lines last week, when he made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan. “The results are really beginning to become evident around the country,” Pence said after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Wishing the US troops a merry Christmas, he assured them the Trump’s new “fight-to-win strategy” for Afghanistan was “bearing fruit.” “I believe victory is closer than ever before,” Pence said.
Sure, "victory." Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Meanwhile, remember the total defeat of IS in Iraq? Iraqi officials warn of impending fall of Hawija to IS, following an attack on Shiite militia in Nineveh province.

And the non-existent IS still holds thousands of Yezidi captives.

Journalists are attacked and arrested to prevent coverage of protests in Kurdistan.

Much of Iraq is in ruins, but the hundreds of billions of dollars needed for reconstruction are nowhere in sight.

Baghdad at first expected American money would flow in after the defeat of IS, said a senior U.S. official in Washington who regularly meets with Iraqi leadership. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United States is no longer in the business of “nation-building.” “We just tell them, no, it’s not going to happen,” the U.S. official said. “We have to be up front with them.”


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Update for Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sorry I've been away for a while. I'm not giving up this blog, just had some distractions.

An in-depth story in the New York Times about IS in Nangarhar. (NYT rations free views, sorry if you've hit the pay wall. I have a digital subscription.) In Khogyani district, where the U.S. dropped that huge bomb out of a cargo plane earlier in the year, the government had reached an accommodation with the Taliban, which controlled the area but allowed girls to be educated. Then IS moved in, and has survived despite U.S. bombardment.

And right on cue, government claims a U.S. airstrike kills 15 militants in Nangarhar. Of course they never say how they ascertain the number of dead or confirm that they were all insurgents.

Explosion destroys a mosque in eastern Nangarhar, the perpetrators and motive are not explained but presumably this was due to sectarian rivalry.

Taliban kill 5 travelers in Ghazni, claiming they were soldiers.

Six police killed by an IED in Helmand, amid what is said to be fierce fighting.

U.S. drone said to kill a Haqqani commander and his aide in the Pakistan border region, possibly inside Pakistan.

Suicide attack in Kabul kills 6. Other sources give the death toll as 9 or 10. The target was the national intelligence agency. Reports also differ as to whether all of the casualties were civilians.

Russian president Putin supports the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. (I'm not entirely sure what to make of this but he does have concerns about Islamist militancy.)

China hosts a meeting of Pakistani and Afghan diplomats to try to mediate between them.

The number of U.S. troops assigned to combat operations will increase dramatically next year, although Gen. Nicholson is reticent about details. Aerial operations will also increase.





Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Update for Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Under auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iraqi leaders participate in a two day conference to prepare for national reconciliation.

However, they have a long way to go. A mortar attack in Tuz Khurmato from Kurdish controlled hills kills two people and injures 20. Shiite militias plan to attack Kurdish forces in the region. (These appear to be splinter groups, not affiliated with the major Kurdish parties.) Meanwhile, Kurds accuse the militias of indiscriminate shelling of Kurdish villages.

While Muqtada al-Sadr has called for his own militia to disarm, other Shiite militias are not.

Turkish, Iraqi and U.S. military leaders will meet to discuss security issues.

A question is what exactly U.S. forces are still doing in Iraq now that IS has been defeated. The administration omitted the number of troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria from its semi-annual report to congress. So U.S. taxpayers don't even get to know how many are there, let alone why.

Funeral for army corporal Todd McGurn who died in Iraq on November 25. The incident has not been publicly explained.