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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Update for Friday, January 18, 2019

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas, died Thursday at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany,Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire during combat on Jan. 13, 2019, in Jawand District, Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Meddock was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The 75th Ranger battalion is engaged in counter-terrorism activity, unlike most U.S. forces in Afghanistan which are on a train and advise mission.

Three of the four Americans killed in a suicide attack in Manjib, Syria on Wednesday have been identified. They are Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer; Shannon Kent, a sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66; and Scott Wirtz, an operations support specialist with the Defense Intelligence Agency. The fourth, a civilian contractor, has not been identified. Note that this shows that the usually publicized number of 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria is misleading. We now know that there are additional intelligence personnel and civilian contractors there. What is meant by a "contractor" in this case is unclear but the individual could be a mercenary.

The NY Times reports that Americans routinely visited a specific restaurant in Manjib, allowing the attackers (IS has claimed responsibility) to predict their whereabouts and plan the attack. They were eating in the restaurant when the attack occurred. Some 19 civilian bystanders also died.

Violent protests again occur in Basra.

U.S. Army War College issues a history of the engagement in Iraq. Excerpt:

The study highlights numerous failures during the 8-year conflict, including a lack of awareness among military leaders of the sectarian, social and political dynamics in the country that would fuel much of the violence. The critique, which is more than 1,000 pages long and contains hundreds of declassified documents, also says efforts to train Iraq’s military were insufficient and led to a force that was over-reliant on the U.S.
The decisions by commanders, often made in consensus, “seemed reasonable at the time they were made, but nonetheless added up over time to a failure to achieve our strategic objectives,” the study said. “Examining the reasoning behind these decisions and the systemic failures that produced them should be the first task in analyzing the Iraq War’s lessons.”
Of course, never going there in the first place would have been even better.