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, January 18, 2017

Update for Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Army Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, commander of counter-terroism forces, says that Iraqi forces have now secured all of Mosul east of the Tigris. However, other officers dispute this and there is clearly at least skirmishing continuing.

Six months after Iraqi forces retook Fallujah, reconstruction is stalled. Water and electricity have yet to be restored, and most housing is in ruins. While the government pleads a shortage of resources, the situation threatens to further alienate the Sunni population from the Shiite-dominated government.

PM Abadi calls on Islamic Alliance to provide help with rebuilding

IS attack on police HQ south of Tikrit kills 6 police officers, wounds 8, and four are abducted.

You may recall that Saddam Hussein diverted the water from the homeland of the so-called Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq, to revenge what he said was their harboring of Shiite rebels. The new regime has restored the water flow and has worked to restore the terrain, and the people are beginning to return to their homes and their way of life. Now if that can just start to happen in Anbar . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Update for Thursday, January 12, 2017

U.S. military investigation concludes that 33 civilians were killed and 27 wounded in a joint U.S. and Afghan operation near Kunduz in November, but that the troops killed the civilians in "self  defense" and no disciplinary action will be taken. [You'll have to figure out what that means, I can't tell you. -- C] Two U.S. soldiers were killed in the incident.

Bombing in Kandahar on Tuesday kills 12 people and injures the provincial governor and ambassador from the United Arab Emirates. The deputy governor was among the dead, as were 5 UAE diplomats. The police chief blames the Haqqani network and Pakistani intelligence.

A bombing in Kabul the same day kills 36 employees of the parliament along with 4 police.

Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction warns of a dire situation.

Underlying the country’s many challenges were two main factors: the “questionable capabilities” of the country’s security forces and “pervasive corruption.”
The government forces, Sopko said, are plagued by poor leadership, which leads some officers to bolster their ranks with “ghost soldiers” whose salaries they pocket; others sell equipment and fuel to the Taliban.
In speaking to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Sopko quoted former Afghanistan NATO chief Gen. John Allen as saying that “corruption — not the Taliban — (is) the existential threat to Afghanistan.” Sopko noted that Transparency International had ranked Afghanistan the third-most corrupt nation in the world.

Taliban release a video of U.S. and Australian professors kidnapped 5 months ago.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Update for Monday, January 9, 2017

U.S. to deploy 300 marines to Helmand province to support Afghan security forces. This is the first marine deployment to Helmand since 2014. Brigadier Gen. Roger Turner says they will replace a U.S. army unit currently in the province.

Meanwhile, NATO is sending 200 mainly Italian soldiers to Farah province for what is said to be a short-term mission.

Four Afghan security personnel killed in an attack in Zabul.

Four police killed in an explosion in Badakhshan.

Security forces claim capture of a Taliban base in Nemroz province.

The U.S. president elect has said little about Afghanistan, but an Obama administration state department official visited Kabul to assure "continued support" for the government. Obviously he cannot in fact guarantee this. We'll have to see what happens.


 An analysis by Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concludes that Iraqi forces are close to securing eastern Mosul, but will have to regroup before undertaking a difficult operation to take the west side of the city.

Writers in Foreign Affairs expect IS to revert to a guerilla insurgency once they lose territorial control.

Current number of civilians displaced from Mosul is said to be 169,000  based on a government count. While some people have returned home in Anbar, 22,000 remain in refugee camps there.

IS bomb attacks continue in Baghdad with 23 people killed on Sunday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Update for Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A British soldier, Lance Corporal Scott Hetherington, has died at a base in Taji Iraq under mysterious circumstances. While the MoD has ruled out foul play or suicide, and said the death was not the result of enemy activity, they have not described what occurred, other than to say that a gun was involved.

The UN reports that nearly 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 12,000 injured in 2016 due to terrorism and armed conflict. [This is undoubtedly an underestimate as not all incidents can be ascertained -- certainly not within IS controlled territory. -- C]

Civilians are fleeing beseiged western Mosul by crossing the Tigris using various contrivances, including boats, and traversing bombed out bridges with the aid of ropes.

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces continue to make slow gains in east Mosul.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A link for Monday, January 2, 2017

Mark Landler in the NYT discusses the history of the Obama administration in Afghanistan. The initial naive hope that the U.S. investment would ultimately create a stable, self-sufficient and reasonably legitimate state was dashed a long time ago. On the other hand the administration felt it could not walk away, given the rise of IS and other movements that could find harbor in Afghanistan as as filed state. So we wound up with 10,000 U.S. troops pretty much stuck there, apparently forever.

Too long, do read, but that's my pistachio shell synopsis. What happens next? No word from the incoming gang on what they plan to do.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Update for Sunday, January 1, 2017

The new year brings no better news for Iraq, where the death toll in a double bombing in central Baghdad yesterday now stands at 30.

In Najaf, a suicide bombing at a checkpoint killed 6 police and injured 25 people.

In Mosul, the battle grinds on with Iraqi forces continuing to claim territorial gains amid major destruction of houses and infrastructure. Fleeing civilians are forced to wait for days to go through the screening process.

U.S. Brigadier General Rick Uribe agrees with PM Abadi's forecast that the battle for Mosul will require another three months. He praises the Iraqi forces involved, but expects the battle for west Mosul to be even more difficult due to narrow streets that won't accommodate armored  vehicles.

AFP provides an eyewitness account of the fighting and the situation of civilians in they city, and those who choose to flee. Iraqi forces are making strenuous efforts to protect civilians.