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, July 30, 2018

Update for Monday, July 30, 2018

The U.S. has been talking with the Taliban. There are a few takes on this.

Afghan president Ghani has been trying to get the Taliban to the table, but they have insisted on talking with the U.S. first. Deutsche Well suggests that the U.S. overture threatens to undermine the Afghan government.

Apparently the outreach is a result of frustration by the U.S. president  over the seemingly endless war. However Afghan officials are worried that the U.S. could be too eager for a settlement at a time when the Taliban are in a strong military position, holding considerable rural territory.

Indeed, the U.S. has called for a retreat from remote areas, which has gained some support from within the Afghan government but also has engendered much controversy.

Jessica Purkiss and Abigail Fielding-Smith describe the descent into chaos in Nangarhar,  where civilian casualties have doubled since a year ago, many of them the result of government action.

An editorial in the Afghan Times describes the current state of despair over the endless war.

Civilians describe forced marriages and rape by IS, particularly in Darzab in Jawzjan province.






Monday, July 16, 2018

Update for Monday, July 16, 2018

Protests erupt throughout southern Iraq over failure of public services and unemployment. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has endorsed the protests. Two demonstrators are killed by security forces in Samawa while dozens of people are injured in Basra.

Sixty-five protesters are arrested in Muthanna where one was killed on Sunday.

Protesters gather at a natural gas field in Basra while others storm the airport in Najaf.

PM Abadi deploys security services to the south to protect jails.

The situation is exacerbated as Iran suspends electricity exports to Iraq, due to its own shortages.

Several airlines suspend service to Najaf due to the security situation.

PM Abadi threatens to shoot "saboteurs" and provacteurs among the protesters, as blockage of Internet and social media make it difficult to monitor the situation in the south.

Protesters set fire to Hezbollah HQ in Najaf. (No indication of why.)

Meanwhile, U.S. troops withdraw from Fire Support Base Um Jorais south of Sinjar after providing artillery support to operations against IS. (What the U.S. is not doing is providing significant support for the rebuilding of the country. -- C)


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Update for Thursday, July 12, 2018

U.S. service member killed in combat in eastern Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier was also killed in the operation. Meanwhile the soldier killed by an insider attack in Uruzgan on Saturday is identified as Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel of 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

Taliban offensive in Kunduz kills at least 31 Afghan troops. Number of Taliban casualties is unclear, but a military spokesman says 50 were "killed or wounded," without explaining how he knows this.

Taliban attack in Farah results in numerous government casualties, with the number of dead reported as either 4 or 7, and a claim that 15 police were captured.

NATO extends funding for Afghan operation to 2024.

Three Afghan national police killed, claim of 15 militants killed in fighting in Ghazni.

Protests in support of exiled warlord Dostum continue with blockage of highways.

Syed Zafar Mehdi thinks the U.S. effort in Afganistan is a failure. Gee, what could possibly make him think that? Pull quote:

So what has the US achieved in Afghanistan in past 17 years? Americans are told by their government that the ‘wasted effort’ in Afghanistan is to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups that seek to attack the US. That argument holds no water. It’s called paranoia.
Pompeo, who was on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking up the new job, perhaps needs a reality check. The security has deteriorated alarmingly, civilian casualties have jumped alarmingly, the cultivation and smuggling of narcotics has increased, corruption has touched new high, and the fledgling government in Kabul that was formed through a deal brokered by Washington continues to be beset with numerous problems. This is the legacy of America in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Update for Tuesday, July 10, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan under extremely tight security, claims U.S. strategy is working and that the Taliban may join the peace process without substantial concessions. However, as this WaPo story (I linked to a reprint to avoid the paywall) makes clear, the Taliban have stepped up their military activity and hold substantial portions of the country.

Suicide attack in Jalalabad kills at least 10, no claim of responsibility as yet.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State meets with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the first time a U.S. official has met with him in decades.

Casualty totals are disputed in separate skirmishes in Farah and Badghis, but up to 11 government troops and 9 Taliban may have been killed.

Schools in Afghanistan are becoming ideological and political battlegrounds, while 2.6 million children lack access to primary education entirely.








Sunday, July 8, 2018

Update for Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sorry I've been away for a while, I'll try to start posting more regularly.

The military has been quite tight-lipped about this but one U.S. service member is killed and two injured in an "insider attack." Although Resolute Support provides no further details, Afghan officials say the incident happened in Uruzgan, and the Taliban have claimed responsibility.

Also in Uruzgan, Afghan army frees seven prisoners from Tabliban.

U.S. Green Berets and Afghan forces assault an IS stronghold in Nangarhar, claim to have suffered no casualties of their own while killing 167 IS fighters. (If it's that easy what took them so long?)

Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will host a conference this week on Afghanistan, in which Islamic scholars will discuss promotion of peace and stability.

Afghan airstrikes in Ghazni are said to kill dozens of militants.

Five people are injured by mortar attacks, also in Ghazni.

President Ghani calls for reining in private militias.

Perhaps this has something to do with riots over the detention of a top aide to warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.