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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Special Update for Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's just incredible to me how the U.S. corporate media, politicians, and the general public completely ignore the military actions of their own government. The Pentagon operates, it seems, with no political accountability. We have to depend on Juan Cole to tell us that the U.S. has made an open commitment to an endless military presence in Syria.

The U.S. has 2,000 special operations troops in eastern Syria. Did you even know that? They are embedded with a Kurdish faction called the YPG, in a pseudo-state called Afrin. Which Turkey is now shelling. The U.S. troops, according to Rex Tillerson, are supposed to eliminate any resurgence of IS, depose Bashar Assad, enable Syrian refugees to return home, reduce Iranian influence, and eliminate any so-called "weapons of mass destruction" from the country, of which there aren't any. (Chemical weapons are not "weapons of mass destruction.") Right. Sure. But they might get us into a war with Turkey and/or Russia.

Of course, U.S. troops are already in Iraq forever, and Afghanistan forever, and in a whole bunch of other countries you won't know they are in until some of them get killed, for reasons nobody is bothering to tell you, which nobody seems to care about.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Update for Friday, January 5, 2018

Suicide bomber in Kabul kills at least 20 people, injures dozens including 27 police.

 The U.S. suspends all se security aid to Pakistan saying the country has not done enough to eliminate safe havens for Afghan insurgents. If you have a subscription, or haven't exceeded your monthly limit of free reads, you can read a discussion of this by Mujib Mashal and Salman Masooood in the NYT. While the allegation against Pakistan is certainly true, the U.S. action is questionable. While Pakistan does harbor the Haqqani Network in particular, the U.S. depends on supply routes through Pakistan and Pakistan does provide cooperation in other respects. Power in Pakistan is divided between the civilian administration and the military, and the country is not really dependent on U.S. aid. The move, far from persuading Pakistan to expel Taliban factions, may backfire.

The body of the U.S. soldier killed in action Jan. 1 has been flown home. He is identified as Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, of New Jersey. Here is the DoD release identifying him.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Update for Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A U.S. service member is killed in action and four are injured in fighting in Nangarhar province. Two of the injured are hospitalized in stable condition and two have returned to duty. This engagement was against the so-called ISIS-Khorasan province, and is separate from the Resolute Support mission. An interesting excerpt from the Stripes story is that it turns out that 700-1,600=1,000:

Officials estimated in March that about 700 ISIS-K members remained in Afghanistan, but in late November Nicholson said 1,600 fighters had been eliminated. In early December, officials estimated about 1,000 fighters were still operating throughout Afghanistan.
Those of you old enough to remember the Vietnam war will remember "body counts."

And I guess we'll be getting more of them. Gen. Votel of the U.S. Central Command wants a more "aggressive Afghan push":

Gen. Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command said an influx of new American trainers can help escalate the fight. They’ll be operating with Afghan units, closer to the front lines and at greater risk, but Votel said U.S. commanders will ensure American and allied forces have adequate protection. The goal is to get the Afghan military moving on its military campaign sooner, rather than later. The United States wants the “focus on offensive operations and we’ll look for a major effort to gain the initiative very quickly as we enter into the fighting season,” Votel said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. . . .

Votel said as the coalition builds up the Afghan Air Force and trains more security forces, the Afghans will become better fighters. “By the time they get to the next fight,” he said, “they will be able to really present a significant offensive capability.”
Well, we've only been at this for 14 years. One more should do the trick.