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, March 14, 2018

Update for Wednesday, March 14, 1018

U.S. forces undertake major initiative to secure Kabul. Taliban have established a substantial presence in the city and recently carried out several high-profile attacks.

“Kabul is our main effort. To harden Kabul, to protect the people of Kabul and the international community that are here,” U.S. General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told a group of reporters on Wednesday.
The remarks underscored the high degree of concern about the Taliban’s intent to stage high-profile attacks in Kabul, which are aimed at undermining the Afghan government and international resolve after 16 years of war.
They are also a reminder that while U.S. and Afghan officials speak with growing confidence about the prospects of peace talks with elements of the Taliban, the military is also making long-term preparations for an extended conflict, including in the capital.
Afghanistan experiences a massive tide of internally displaced people. "With more than 1.5 million Afghans – roughly 4 percent of the population – displaced after four decades of conflict, and 448,000 added in 2017 alone, relief agencies are scrambling to provide help as the dominant narrative of Afghan social and political progress, pushed for years by US and Western governments, fades into memory."

Thousands of civilians flee districts in Jowzjan province where IS is making gains.

Afghanistan deploys more troops to Farah province amid increased insurgent attacks. A major pipeline project is planned for the area. Most recently, attack on a checkpoint kills 10 members of security forces.

Suicide attack in Helmand kills 2 police.

Another bombing in Helman kills 6 border guards.

Heavy shelling in Kunar from locations in Pakistan.

In IraqBaghdad has allowed Kurdistans airports to reopen to international flights.

But U.S. forces aren't going anywhere. U.S. upgrades base in Quyyara. "Security sources in Baghdad disclosed that the US is expanding its military build-up in al-Qayyara, South of Mosul, to build its largest ever base in Iraq on the eve of parliamentary elections in the country despite the strong opposition expressed by the public, senior politicians and armed popular groups."

Matthew Sheffield discusses the U.S. administrations military posture.

Now that he’s had a full year of the presidency under his belt, Trump appears to have moved even further away from a restrained foreign policy and into the “conflict of civilizations” perspective that views America as waging a global war with Islam. That view was once relegated to the fringes of Republican foreign policy, too extreme even for the Paul Wolfowitz types who called the shots in the second Bush presidency. Trump's nomination of Pompeo, a man noted for his hostile attitude to Muslims, to lead U.S. foreign policy makes this point blatantly obvious.


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