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

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Update for Sunday, October 21, 2018

Polls close in long-delayed parliamentary elections in Afghanistan after the electoral commission extended voting by a day because of shortages of materials and problems with voting systems at many locations. Results will not be known for weeks.

In rural areas, threats of violence suppressed the vote in many locations.

Many polling stations did not open in Helmand province on Saturday. It is unclear if they opened on Sunday.

Roadside bomb in Nangarhar kills 11 civilians.

Four election observers are abducted and murdered in Mazar Sharif.

Suicide bomber kills 15 people at a polling station in Kabul on Saturday.

Official figures show 170 casualties in violence on Saturday, this link has a roundup of reported attacks. The tally for Sunday has not been announced.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Update for Thursday, October 18, 2018

I'm sorry for abandoning this blog for a while. I guess I was overtaken by the same feelings that are widespread right now in Afghanistan and Iraq, a kind of despair leading to apathy. Here is Mujib Mashal in the New York Times.

In the past 17 years of war and crisis in Afghanistan, no one remembers a season quite like this one, with peril and hopelessness at every turn. . . . If there is a common theme in this upswell of alarm and worry that seems so widespread, it is a sense that no one sees any clear path through a minefield of crises.
The daily death toll in the war is often 100 or more, the security situation continues to deteriorate, and political divisions threaten the stability of the government. The Taliban appear unwilling to accept any peace agreement that honors democratic norms or the status of women, while the terror campaign by IS has heightened fears and sectarian divisions. Whether the upcoming election will be credible, and whether the results will be generally honored, is questionable. And the deteriorating relations of the U.S. with Pakistan, Iran and Russia are leading those countries to provide support to the Taliban. Pakistan continues to shelter the Taliban leadership. Anyway, read the whole thing.

The situation in Iraq may be somewhat more hopeful. I will address it soon.

Update: Attacker kills police chief of Kandahar province Gen. Abdul Raziq Achakzai,  following a meeting with U.S. General Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Two Americans and one foreign national employed by the U.S. government are injured. General Miller was present but uninjured.  Story is here. Further details from The Guardian, which says that Kandahar provincial spy chief Abdul Monin was also killed, and that Governor Zalmai Wesa and regional army commander Nabi Elham are hospitalized, apparently with severe injuries. The gunman was a member of  Razik's guard detachment.