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 15, 2017

Update for Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Two U.S. soldiers are killed in an accidental explosion of ordinance while firing at an IS position in northern Iraq. (Exact location is not disclosed.) Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, and Spc. Allen L. Stigler Jr., 22, were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Five other soldiers injured in the incident are expected to survive.

Thousands of civilians flee as airstrikes ramp up on IS positions in Tal Afar  in preparation for an assault on the town. Those still trapped are facing severe shortages of food and water.

Shiite militias backed by Iran will take part in the assault.

Afghanistan

Three employees of Catholic Relief Services are murdered in Ghor.

Attack on a military convoy in Kunduz kills 4 Afghan soldiers  according to one source, kills one according to another.

Afghan army source claims Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid is critically injured in operation in Faryab.








Friday, August 11, 2017

Update for Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. air strike said to kill 11 civilians in Nangarhar. "“On Thursday afternoon, the American forces bombarded a civilian private vehicle... when they were travelling inside the district,” he told AFP. “Unfortunately, in the airstrike we have casualties. Eleven people were killed and one wounded. All the victims, which included women and children, were civilians and they were from one family. “The victims were beyond recognition, and they were placed inside the sacks and were buried late last night,” he added." Afghan MoD claims the dead were all militants.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission confirms that attack on Mirza Olang was a joint Taliban-IS operation. (Note that there is probably no real operational connection between Afghan militants who use the IS brand and the group in Iraq and Syria. As the Reuters report says, "But in a region where different bands of fighters often switch between different militant groups, it can be difficult to establish allegiances with any certainty.")

Army says it has launched an operation to retake the village.

Al Jazeera reports on the 2 million widows left by the Afghan war, who are often reduced to beggary.

John McCain wants to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Of course he never met a war he didn't like.






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Update for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Militia backed by Iran on the Iraq-Syria border blames U.S. for an attack that killed 36 of its fighters, including some Iranian Revolutionary Guards. U.S. denies responsibility, and IS claims responsibility. Iraqi PM Abadi also says that preliminary investigation indicates IS was responsible.

Exodus of physicians and other highly educated professionals from Iraq causes shortage, threatens the country's future.

An Iraqi Civil Defense commander says some 3,000 corpses remain buried in rubble in Mosul.

Next target appears to be Tal Afar as coalition air strikes soften up defenses and a French artillery battalion prepares to advance on the city.

An Iraqi armored division also reaches the town.

In yet another indication of ethnic tensions, Kurdistan president Barzani claims most of the Turkmen residents of Tal Afar are loyal to IS. The participation of Iranian-backed Shia militia in the fight for Tal Afar remains controversial. Barzani also wishes for Iraqi government forces, rather than the militia, to exclusively conduct the operation.

Iraq sentences 27 to death for the Speicher massacre in which IS killed as many as 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers.

One hundred additional U.S. Marines are deployed to Afghanistan to bolster forces in Helmand.

Taliban capture a village in Sar-e-Pul. Details of the attack are unclear and disputed, with some officials claiming that the the Taliban and IS cooperated in the assault. Fifty civilians are said to have been massacred in the assault .Some civilian prisoners who have been released seem to corroborate this. Locals criticize the slow response by the security forces.

If indeed the Taliban and IS are cooperating it would appear even stranger that Iran is supporting the Taliban. Iran has strongly condemned the attack in Sar-e-Pul, and separately denies any link to the Taliban or armed groups in Afghanistan.

I can't even . . .  Trump administration considers a plan to contract out the war in Afghanistan to mercenaries. The idea is being pushed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who compares it to Britains colonization of India through the British East India Company.

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams comments on this idea.

In an op-ed for USA Today published Monday, Prince elaborated on his war plan, which Manson notes would be very similar to his approach in Iraq, where he had significant influence on U.S. policy.
Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, argues that Trump should "restructure" the war—a process he suggests would resemble "bankruptcy reorganization"—by "aligning U.S. efforts under a presidential envoy," which in a previous op-ed he called a "viceroy."
Critics have warned that while Prince's plan may save money, it will potentially open the door to deadly abuses by unaccountable forces, like those seen in Iraq.
"If contractors are replacing soldiers and they are on the frontline they could kill or be killed, there could be kidnaps or insider attacks—what happens if they commit a crime or bodies have to be sent back; there would be a large number of legal complications," one official told the Financial Times.
Ronald Neumann, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, echoed these concerns in an interview with the Navy Times.
"There's a bad record of contractors and human rights abuses," Neumann said. "There's no legal structure to govern this."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Update for Saturday, August 5, 2017

Here's an odd juxtaposition of information. President Ghani is in Iran for the inauguration of re-elected president Rouhani. According to TOLO, the principal matter for discussion between them is water. Apparently Iran objects to dam projects in Afghanistan.

You would think, however, that they would have other matters to discuss since, according to Carlotta Gall, Iran is now a principle backer of the Taliban, supplying weapons, money, training, recruitment assistance, and even support from Iranian commandos. Iran and the Taliban have historically been adversaries, but according to Gall, that has changed with Iran now seeing alliance with the Taliban as a path to influence in Afghanistan. It seems odd that Ghani hasn't heard about this.

Afghan police officer attacks Romanian soldiers near Kandahar airfield and is killed.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Update for Friday, August 4, 2017

Suicide attack near Bagram air field kills 1 Georgian soldier and 2 Afghan civilians, injures 2 U.S. troops and 11 civilians. Georgia has 870 troops in the country, the 4th largest foreign contingent after the U.S., Italy and Germany.

U.S. soldier killed in action Wednesday near Kandahar are identified as Spc. Christopher Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, N.C., and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Ind. Both were infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Taliban attack in Helmand kills 5 security forces. The location, Gereshk, was the site of an erroneous U.S. air strike on July 21 that killed 16 people.

Afghan forces claim to have regained control of a district in Paktia, although the Taliban deny this and government forces are said to still be continuing their operation.

Attorneys for Sgt. Robert Bales, who murdered 16 Afghan civilians in 2012 and is serving a life sentence, are claiming that he was affected by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, which can cause serious neurological and psychiatric side effects. However, it has not been proven that he did take the drug.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Update for Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Explosion at a Shiite mosque in Herat kills 33, injures 66. IS claims responsibility. Herat is a previously largely peaceful city near the Iranian border.

This, combined with an earlier attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, raises fears that IS is essentially shifting the battlefield from Iraq to Afghanistan after its recent defeat in Mosul. However, there is little evidence of fighters relocating. (Few, presumably, were able to escape Mosul alive.)

Suicide bomber strikes a NATO convoy in Kandahar, resulting in an as yet unannounced number of casualties of unspecified nationality. More when information becomes available.

Update: Pentagon now says 2 U.S. troops killed in the attack. Witness reports suggest additional wounded but no official information on that.

Who could have predicted? SIGAR says a $45 million Pentagon program to improve Afghan intelligence capabilities is a failure.

The report, by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) said there was “no indication of improvement in overall intelligence operations” as a result of five contracts for training and mentoring, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, run by Legacy Afghanistan R&D and Afghanistan Source Operations Management (Asom). Only 47% of intelligence sites are ready to transfer to the Afghan government.

The watchdog’s audit of training and mentoring contracts awarded to the Afghanistan national defence and security forces (ANDSF) between 2010 and 2013 said it was “almost impossible” to gauge the US government’s return on investment. This was due to a lack of performance metrics to track progress, said the report. Sigar found that neither Imperatis, the contractor, nor New Century Consulting, the subcontractor operating the programme, retained complete training records.
And, of course, the contractors were paid millions for work they didn't actually do.

I linked to accusations by locals that Iran was backing Taliban fighters in Ghor a few days ago, and I was somewhat skeptical. Now U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also says that Iran is trying to "destabilize" Afghanistan. Iran did not respond to TOLO's request for comment. Note, however, that Tillerson does not mention Pakistan which is most certainly backing the Taliban.




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Update for Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Please, God, no: Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals:

President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies.
 Uh huh. It turns out that most of the valuable deposits are in Helmand province, which is controlled by the Taliban; there aren't any roads; and then of course there's the corruption. But as the reporters on this, Mark Landler and James Risen, helpfully point out:

Mr. Trump has said little publicly about Afghanistan since being elected. But his thinking about what the United States should reap for its military efforts was made clear in another context soon after his inauguration. Speaking to employees of the C.I.A., the president said the United States had erred in withdrawing troops from Iraq without holding on to its oil.
“The old expression ‘To the victor belong the spoils,’” Mr. Trump declared. “You remember?”
I may vomit.