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

Monday, February 5, 2018

Update for Monday, February 5, 2018

U.S. has begun to redeploy some troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. It is important to note this since the action is being publicly portrayed only as a draw-down of U.S. forces in Iraq. However, there has been no public announcement as yet from the Pentagon and they are not saying how many troops will be redeployed.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Kurds in Afrin, who are allied with the U.S., are under siege and aerial bombardment by Turkey, where Oxfam says there is a desperate need for humanitarian relief. Ankara has strongly condemned U.S. support for the local Kurdish party and militia, the YPG, which it insists is a branch of the PKK; while the U.S. is urging restraint in the military offensive. (The PKK, unlike the parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, has a goal of Kurdish self-rule within what is now Turkish territory.)

Yes, Mosul is still in ruins and the bodies of IS fighters are still lying in the streets. Although the government denies it, many civilian bodies apparently have yet to be recovered as well:

The stench of death wafts from rubble-filled corners in the dystopian wasteland of what was once West Mosul, from rusting cars still rigged with explosives and from homes abandoned as those who could, fled the bloody end of the militants' three-year rule.

The corpses lying in the open on many streets are mainly militants from the extremist Sunni group who retreated to the densely-packed buildings of the Old City, where only the most desperate 5,000 of a pre-war population of 200,000 have so far returned.  Local residents and officials in predominantly Sunni Mosul say there are also thousands of civilian bodies yet to be retrieved from the ruins, a view which has put them at odds with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
Ibrahim al-Marashi reviews the Iraqi political lanscape as elections loom in May. While even casual observers are well aware of Iraq's ethno-sectarian divisions, conflicts within the main groups are hindering the capacity of government. Further problems include the millions of internally displaced persons, and the continuing presence of Iran-backed Shiite militias. I recommend this as a good, succinct overview of some of the political challenges facing the country.