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 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.

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