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, May 28, 2018

Update for Monday, May 28, 2018

Senator McCain now says that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "mistake." Thanks a lot Senator, for the past 14 years of war mongering. And it wasn't a mistake - they did it on purpose.

UN Security Council will discuss situation in Iraq on Wednesday. The future of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq will presumably be the focus.

Although IS no longer controls substantial territory, it remains a threat. Salahudin province is particularly vulnerable.

Iraqi forces continue to attack remnants of the group with air strikes, police operations, and military operations. And Iraqi forces continue to suffer casualties.

Political parties continue to dispute the validity of the recent election, more here. However, the Supreme Court will not intervene, although there will be a parliamentary commission to investigate.

The Electoral Commission issues a lengthy statement defending the election.

Afghan MPs decry the security situation and warn of possible government collapse if the situation does not improve.

Taliban overrun security checkpoints in Takhar.

Attack on a police convoy in Paktia carrying a Taliban prisoner leaves 5 dead including the prisoner.

U.S.drone strike said to kill IS militants in Nangahar.

Much of Afghanistan is suffering from severe drought.

Militants kill 2 police and an electoral official in Herat.

Taliban kill a tribal elder who created a medal honoring Donald Trump for "bravery". [Obviously I don't approve of violence but WTF? They raised hundreds of dollars to make it out of gold.]

Former army officer and CIA analyst Ray McGovern discusses this Memorial Day. No one wants to believe that their loved ones death was pointless, but that's a trick to immunize the people responsible from accountability.










Thursday, May 24, 2018

Update for Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tell me something I don't already know department. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction declares the effort a failure. The $5 billion expenditure by the U.S. has largely been squandered.

The report says the effort proved ineffective in stabilization because the military focused on the most dangerous districts first, where poor security made it hard to move on to the building phase. U.S. civilian agencies were compelled to conduct their stabilization programs in dangerous areas not ready for rebuilding, and once coalition troops and civilians left those districts the stabilization ended.
The report also says that U.S. funds created opportunities for corruption, and the Obama administration's deadline for troop withdrawals also created problems with a race against the clock. I would say, however, that it is not clear that anything could have worked.

I'll skip the roundup of daily violence, which continues at a steady rate.

In IraqMuqtada al-Sadr met with political leaders in Baghdad and says he has agreement to form an inclusive government. Whether he will truly transcend his past and provide the leadership to build a unified nation and an accountable, effective government obviously remains to be seen. But he's still saying all the right words. I remember writing here back at the height of the civil war that I didn't see anyone standing up for Iraq. Our friend River left the country in despair. (I wonder where she is now and what she is doing), as did many other progressive Iraqi nationalists. Is there truly hope now?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Update for Monday, May 14, 2018

The party of Muqtada al-Sadr appears to have won the Iraqi parliamentary election with 92% of the votes counted. As long-term followers of this blog will know, al-Sadr led a militia that actively opposed the U.S. occupation. As a result, he was labeled in the U.S. media as a "radical." The Sadrist forces were accused of atrocities during the Sunni-Shiite civil war, although in public Sadr always claimed to be a non-sectarian Iraq nationalist. He subsequently disbanded the Mahdi Army and led a movement against corruption and sectarianism. Among Shiite politicians he is also noteworthy for rejecting Iranian influence in Iraq as well as U.S. influence. As he is not a candidate himself he cannot become prime minister but he will presumably choose the PM if his bloc is asked to form a government. This is an interesting development. If he is sincere about championing non-sectarian Iraqi nationalism the country may have a better future than many have hoped for. We shall see.

Peter Beaumont gives a brief synopsis of this history in The Guardian and like Cervantes, says we'll have to see if he's sincere.

The party of a Shiite militia backed by Iran has won second place in the vote. So again, time will tell.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the security situation continues to be disastrous.

Attack on a government building in Jalalad kills 15. It is not clear if the death toll includes the six attackers. IS claims responsibility.

Members of parliament accuse the government of interfering in the electoral process.

Governor of Nangarhar is dismissed amidst deteriorating security.

Battle in Nimroz kills 5 police and 2 insurgents.

Bombing in Paktika kills a tribal elder and injures 7.

Eight soldiers killed in northern Kunduz province.

Ihsanullah Omarkhail discusses the state of Afghan politics, dominated by warlords and corruption. The U.S. allied with warlords to fight the Taliban, but:

Count this as a strategic mistake by the US in Afghan politics. Furthermore, criminal Afghan politicians have long depended on intimidation and coercion to sustain influence over Afghan civilians.
The government is facing two challenges. The country is politically divided between warlords and local strongmen on one side and reformist, educated technocrats on the other. The second challenge is the ongoing Taliban insurgency and other terror groups inside the country.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Update for Wednesday, May 9, 2108

Perhaps a bit tangential to Iraq, but -- well, not really. Dominic Tierney discusses the ways in which U.S. actions since 9/11 have been a boon to Iran. In addition to eliminating Iran's mortal enemy Saddam Hussein and installing an Iranian puppet regime in Iraq; and toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan which was also hostile to Iran (Iran has now switched sides in Afghanistan); the decision to pull out of the JCPOA -- the nuclear deal with Iran -- will only embolden Iran's hard liners, isolate the U.S. from its allies, and potentially allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Sad!

Various experts discuss the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq. While they don't expect major changes, there is some hope of less sectarian polarization. We shall see.

In Afghanistan, attacks on Kabul police stations kill two police, injure several civilians. Later report says a total of 5 people killed but does not say how many were civilians. Attack is blamed on the Haqqani network.

UNAMA concludes that air strike in Kunduz on April 2 killed 30 children and injured 56. The government claimed that attack targeted Taliban leadership.

Eight Afghan soldiers killed in attack on a voter registration center in Badghis.

Taliban capture a district in Baghlan and assault another in Faryab.




Thursday, May 3, 2018

Update for Thursday, May 3, 2018

U.S. soldier killed in action is identified as specialst Gabriel D. Conde of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The Pentagon says he was killed by small arms fire but has not provided additional information about the incident. [I note that this has gotten almost no attention in the United States. I have seen no coverage at all in national media. -- C]

Government says it has thwarted planned attacks on health care facilities in Kabul by militants trained in Pakistan.

Protesters close the Uruzgan-Kandahar highway for 6 days in demonstration against insecurity and extortion by police.

Forty-five schoolgirls poisoned in Takhar. [These attacks against education of girls are common. -- C]

In Iraqlooted antiquities purchased by Hobby Lobby found Steve Green are repatriated. [Green is a self-proclaimed Christian who is known for a lawsuit against the requirement in the ACA that employers offer coverage for contraception.]

UN says 68 Iraqi civilians died from "terrorism" and armed conflict in April.

IS attack on security forces near Jalawla kills 2, injures 4, with 3 missing.

Muntader al-Zaidi, famous for throwing his shoes at George W. Bush, is running for parliament on a Sadrist ticket.

Eight civilians killed in a drive-by attack in Tarmiyah. The victims were putting up electoral campaign posters.