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

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.