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, January 30, 2018

Update for Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Now this is just incredible. Defense Department blocks public release of information on the state of the Afghanistan conflict. This is unclassified basic data.

In a letter accompanying its regular quarterly report, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said the Defense Department blocked publication of data on "the number of districts, and the population living in them, controlled or influenced by the Afghan government or by the insurgents, or contested by both." Those data aren't classified, but the Defense Department determined that "they are not releasable to the public," said the letter, which gave no indication that the Defense Department provided a reason for the decision.
Obviously, they don't want to admit that they're losing. We live in a post-truth world.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Update for Saturday, January 27, 2018

The reported death toll has steadily risen and now stands at 63 following a truck bombing using an ambulance in Kabul. The attack occurred at 1:00 pm in Sedarat Square. The Taliban have claimed responsibility.

Update: The official death toll has now risen to 103, with 235 injured. The Taliban have said the action was in response to the new, more aggressive military posture of the U.S.

This has driven most other news off of the page, but a car bomb attack on a security post in Helmand has killed and wounded "many" Afghan soldiers.

Afghan army claims to have killed or wounded 34 IS militants in Nangarhar in air and ground operations.

Wesley Morgan in Politico describes the army's new "Security Assistance Force Brigade" strategy to "win" the war in Afghanistan.

“Any idea that these teams are going to come in and radically change things is a huge overexpectation,” said David Sedney, a former State Department and senior Pentagon official with long experience in Afghanistan who knows Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and supports the effort in theory.
He added: “I think they will make a difference, but what degree of difference — that we won’t know for several years, which is the time frame it takes with an institution as fragile and flawed as the Afghan National Army, which we partially trained, partially abandoned and are now coming back to.”

Suicide bomb attack in Kandarhar kills 2 police and 2 civilians, injures 10 people.

Tampa Bay Times editorial indicates that corporate media are finally starting to question the continued flailing in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said that the additional U.S. firepower could enable the Afghan government to take control of 80 percent of the country in the next two years, up from 65 percent today. That’s an ambitious goal and timetable, given the Taliban’s military and political reach, the fundamental problems of endemic corruption and incompetence in the Afghan government, and the sclerotic pace of democratic reform and social justice in the country. The Trump administration has also aggravated tensions with Washington’s nominal ally in the region, Pakistan, over Pakistan’s refusal to rein in Taliban fighters along the border and to cut the group’s access to intelligence and foreign financial aid.
The White House has left the military strategy in military hands, but it’s time the president explained how the additional troops will provide a turnaround in this military mission. There is no reason to believe a game-changing strategy is at hand, or that the Afghan government is prepared to take the next step by laying the foundation for peace. Any new deployment must have a chance of ending the stalemate and pushing all sides toward national reconciliation. There’s no use in merely prolonging the status quo.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Update for Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction reports that the U.S. military has shown little interest in addressing widespread sexual abuse of children by Afghan forces that the U.S. trains and equips. Excerpt:

“The full extent of child sexual assault committed by Afghan security forces may never be known,” the report from Sigar said. But two-thirds of the individuals and organisations interviewed for the recently declassified report said they were aware of “child sexual assault incidents or related exploitation by Afghan security forces”, the watchdog said.
Full report available here. (PDF)

Gunmen storm the Save the Children office in Jalalabad, killing 3 and injuring 25. The attackers are killed in a 10 hour battle.

U.S. deploys a dozen A-10s to Afghanistan to provide close air support and attack narcotics facilities. "Along with the Thunderbolt squadron, additional aircraft will be moved to Kandahar Airfield, including MQ-9 Reapers that provide armed over-watch and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield, and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, to conduct personnel recovery and search and rescue."



Suicide bomber attacks a Shia mosque in Ghor, killing 10 and injuring 20.

Four police and six Taliban killed in a firefight in Ghazni.

State Dept. confirms that U.S. citizens were killed in attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Saturday, but does not provide further information.



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.