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, February 28, 2018

Update for Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Afghan president Ghani proposes peace talks with Taliban, including a rapprochement with Pakistan. The detailed offer includes allowing the Taliban to open an office in Kabul, and removing sanctions against their top leaders. The document also insists on protection for women's rights. However, the Taliban are demanding direct talks with the United States as a condition for further negotiation.

U.S. State Department spokesperson says there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. The U.S. appears to be essentially aligned with Ghani's initiative.

The Afghan government has called for closure of the Taliban office in Qatar, which was supposed to be the basis for an earlier peace initiative but which has been ineffectual. In response, a Taliban spokesperson called for withdrawal of U.S. forces as a precondition for talks. 

In the meantime, however, the war continues, with 5 or 6 police killed (reports conflict) and at least 30 people kidnapped in two incidents on the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway.

Paul Rogers of the Oxford Research Group discusses the situation in Iraq  15 years after the U.S. invasion. Excerpt:

This very broad remit [of the Authorization to Use Military Force of September, 2001] has enabled the US military, often in collaboration with countries such as Britain, Australia and others, to engage in operations in many different countries in what is now the seventeenth year of war. At its root is a cultural norm which prioritises the use of military force at the expense of other approaches and, in particular, pays relatively little attention to the underlying factors which enable movements such as al-Qaida, IS and others to maintain support even when facing overwhelming military odds.
That still leaves the issue of whether Trump is right about the latest perception of success and the consequent need to re-orientate the US military posture in the direction of China or Russia. Here, though, the ORG report and more recent work within the organisation suggest that this is as mistaken as Bush’s “mission accomplished” declaration. Raqqa may have fallen and IS dispersed but a more pertinent indication would be the ambushing and killing of four US Special Forces soldiers in Niger on 2 October last year.


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