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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Update for Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, of Spokane Washington, is killed in a helicopter crash in Sinjar, Iraq on Monday morning. Galvin was an MH-60M pilot assigned to Delta Company, Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, according to a statement from U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The Pentagon says the operation was a raid against IS targets, and that there is no indication that the  downing was the result of enemy action.

Iranian backed militias are withdrawing from cities in Anbar, Salahudin and Nineveh provinces. This seems to be related to effort to curb Iranian influence in Iraq.

A coalition of four parties including the parties of Muqtada al-Sadr and current PM Abadi announces its intention to form a government. However, the group is still short of a majority and is vying with the Fatah coalition associated with the Iranian-backed militias.

In AfghanistanEid al-Atah passes in relative peace with the exception of a mortar attack in Kabul which interrupted a talk by president Ghani and injured six people.




Thursday, August 16, 2018

Update for Thursday, August 16, 2018

IS claims responsibility for bombing of a Hazara educational center in Kabul that killed 34 students and wounded 57 who were preparing for university entrance exams. The Hazara minority are Shiites. IS frequently attacks Shiite targets in Afghanistan.

Photos of funerals for the victims are here.

Militants attack a facility of the intelligence service in Kabul. Security forces say the incident has ended with two attackers dead.

The Ghazni siege has ended with a reported $50 million in property damage in addition to the hundreds of dead. Numerous markets and shops burned with their contents. Other estimates put the damage much higher. Sporadic fighting continues on the outskirts of the city.

A family from Ghazni says 16 of its members were killed by government air strikes.

Four police are killed by an explosion in Kandahar.

U.S. air strikes in Helmand are said to kill a total of 27 militants.

For the history buffs, Tom Emgelhardt reviews his 17 years of writing on the Afghanistan war. I'll give you one pull quote:

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.”




Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Update for Tuesday, August 14, 2018

U.S. Armu Sgt. First Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, of Hawaii died on August 12 in Germany of injuries suffered in an IED attack while on patrol. The incident apparently occurred in Helmand Province about five days ago. The promotion to Sgt. First Class is posthumous.

Taliban overrun an army base in Faryab, killing 17 soldiers. The Taliban captured the base when after a siege, when the defenders ran out of ammunition, food and water. The Taliban claim to have taken 74 prisoners and captured 11 humvees.

Fighting continues in Ghazni, where hundreds of civilians have been displaced with no access to aid. Some 150 civilians are reported to have been killed. The government claims to have forced the attackers out of the city proper, with the Taliban denying this. Many homes and government buildings have been destroyed.

Taliban attack a police checkpoint in Badghis, killing a senior officer and three colleagues.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Update for Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fighting continues in Ghazni among conflicting claims about the state of battle. Reuters offers a lengthy report. While the government claims to be in control of "Strategic locations and centers in the city" reports from locals that have trickled out suggest that government forces are holding on only to the governor's office and security HQ. Telecommunications are out so reports are scanty. At least 100 members of the security forces are said to have been killed. The highway is mined to prevent reinforcements. The U.S. continues to support the defenders with air strikes.

A military convoy on the way to relieve the city is attacked in Wardak.

I will provide an update once the situation becomes clearer.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Update for Friday, August 10, 2018

Recount is finally completed in Iraq, election results are not substantially altered. Muqtada al-Sadr's party retains the lead with 54 seats. Negotiations over formation of a government continue, with the outgoing president having 15 days after official announcement of the results to convene parliament.

Arab news discusses the negotiations in more detail. Sadr has been unable to form a coalition, in part because of sabotage by former PM Nouri al-Maliki, whose party only won 25 seats but who is close to Iran. The sub-text of the negotiations, at least as Sadr presents his goals, is non-sectarian government, rooting our of corruption, and independence from Iran. More on Sadr's "40 conditions" for joining the government here.

Following protests, PM Abadi has fired officials at the electricity ministry.

Renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran will harm Iraq's economy, as it struggles to rebuild from war.

In Afghanistan, Taliban assault on Ghazni is repelled with U.S. air support but Taliban briefly hold parts of the city and it is not clear that they have been fully expelled.

Bodies of dozens of Afghan soldiers are found in a military base in Uruzgan that the Taliban overran last week.

U.S. air strike in Logar reported to kill Afghan security forces, but U.S. now says that no Afghan forces were killed.

Pakistan moves to reinforce the border with Afghanistan with U.S. financing. (Presumably they want to keep militants who oppose the Pakistani government from launching attacks from havens in Afghanistan. Will they also crack down on Afghan Taliban harboring in Pakistan?)