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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Update for Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I really hope I don't need to add another country to the title of this blog and take up daily posting again. It is not at all clear what is going on with all this saber rattling by the U.S. regarding Iran, but I probably should have taken it up here a week ago.

The U.S. has ordered non-essential diplomatic personnel to leave Iraq, including not only the embassy in Baghdad but also the consulate in Erbil, claiming intelligence showing a threat of attacks on U.S. officials or forces by Iranian-backed militias.

However, British general Chris Ghika, who is deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, denies that there is any threat.

Iraqi PM Mahdi says he expects that "things will end well" between the U.S. and Iran while Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kahmenei rules out any war between the U.S. and Iran.

The mysterious reports that four oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates are adding to the confusion and concern. Spokespeople for the U.S. administration initially tried to cast blame on Iran,  but the UAE has not made any attribution of responsibility. These incidents are in any case very strange. Despite initial reports of severe damage and fires, there were in fact no fires, the damage appears to be minor if indeed this happened at all, and it is unclear what motive anyone would have for this action.

The U.S. president has denied reports that the Pentagon presented him with a plan to deploy 120,000 troops to the region, while saying he would send "a hell of a lot more than that" if it came to war with Iran. (The U.S. has also said it is dispatching an aircraft carrier task force to the region in response to the purported renewed threat from Iran, but in fact the deployment was planned months ago and is part of the routine rotation of carrier groups.)

We'll see what all of this means, if anything, but I will keep this site current for the next few days at at least.

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