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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Update for Thursday, March 26, 2015

There have of course been some important developments in the last few days but they have been pretty well-covered by the corporate media so I didn't feel urgency to post here. But now I do want to put things in context. First, just to compile the highlights:

President Ghani concludes his trip to the U.S. with an address to Congress in which he gives thanks for $107 billion appropriated for the war in Afghanistan so far [Note: far less than the true cost to U.S. taxpayers -- C] and the 2,200 dead U.S. troops. He also views the Islamic State with alarm, although as we have noted previously it is not clear how much substantive significance there is to the adoption of this brand name by factions of the Taliban.

The major substantive outcome of the trip, of course, is president Obama's decision to delay the U.S. troop withdrawal and keep the contingent of 9,800 in Afghanistan through the end of this year in order to support drone strikes and the [largely secret] operations of U.S. special forces.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to be charged with desertion and "misbehavior before the enemy,"  potentially facing life in prison.

Meanwhile, the violence continues. Rockets fired from inside Pakistan hit civilian homes in Khost, killing 5 and injuring 2.

Suicide attack in Kabul on Wednesday kills 8 and injures 31. Although the location is near government buildings all of the casualties are said to be civilians.

Twenty civilians are kidnapped in Daikundi, apparently by Taliban. They are Shiites of the Baloch minority. There is a heavy Taliban presence in the area and the district governor fears it could fall into their control.

U.S. drone strike said to kill 11 Tehreek-e-Taliban in Kunar. (That's the Pakistani Taliban.)

Students in Kabul hold a candlelight vigil in response to lynching of a woman for allegedly burning a Koran. The incident has led to a substantial public outcry against religious extremism and the status of women in the country, at least in the capital.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition provides air support for the first time in the battle for Tikrit, as Iranian-backed Shiite militias withdraw from the operation in protest of U.S. involvement, or maybe it's the other way around, their withdrawal was a condition for U.S. involvement. [This AP report seems to want to have it both ways, but the latter seems to be the true sequence of events. Note that the Iraqi government had previously said it did not want U.S. help with the operation, but it turns out that it is apparently needed after all.]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Update for Sunday, March 22, 2015

Preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, President Ghani talks to reporters. He portrays a perilous security situation as spring "fighting season" approaches. Among key points he makes:

  • Pakistan's military operations in the border regions are pushing militants into Afghanistan. Nevertheless he sees Pakistan as a "key partner" in the peace process.
  • Afghanistan is in talks with neighboring states to lay the groundwork for peace talks with the Taliban. However, the government has yet to have face-to-face meetings with Taliban representatives.
  • He expects the fiscal situation of the Afghan government to be a key issue in his U.S. visit.
  • He seems to find Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which they don't like) to be rather scary. 
And indeed, it seems that the largely Shiite Hazara minority in Ghazni has actually sought protection from the Taliban from IS.  The Taliban have long persecuted the Hazara, but the commanders with whom the Hazara elders met agreed to help them. However, this is perhaps a bit misleading. "IS" in Afghanistan is apparently a brand name adopted by certain Taliban factions, as the movement fragments. The Hazara are seeking an alliance with particular Taliban factions. "'Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities,' Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters."

Hundreds gather for the funeral of Farkhunda, a woman who was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul after accusations that she had desecrated a Koran. She is said to have been mentally ill. Although president Ghani and most other leaders have condemned the mob violence, some religious leaders have said it was justified. (For what it's worth, investigators have also said that the accusation that she desecrated a Koran is false. Not that it matters. Her brother also denies that she was mentally ill.-- C)

Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters. - See more at:
the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities," Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters. - See more at:
"Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities," Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters. - See more at:
"Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities," Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters. - See more at:
"Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities," Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters. - See more at:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Special post for Thursday, March 19, 2015

Today is the 12th anniversary of the event that led to the creation of this blog, which was originally called Today in Iraq. That is of course the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This is how George W. Bush justified his action on that day:

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.

We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
As we now know, these statements were lies. The inestimable Bill, at Daily Kos, provides a small sample of the lies that propelled the U.S. into an illegal war of aggression, a disaster for Iraq, the region, and our own nation, with horrific repercussions that are still metastasizing.

I probably should not be surprised that I find absolutely no mention of this anniversary anywhere in the corporate media. Think Progress, at least, posted a timeline of the war two days ago and has updated the post today. Lest we forget? We already have.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Update for Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dept. of "Who could have predicted?" Plans for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan are (apparently) scrapped.

(Reuters) - The United States has abandoned plans to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by year's end, the Associated Press reported on Saturday, but a senior U.S. official told Reuters no decision has been made. Many of the 9,800 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan would probably remain well into next year, although no final decision on numbers had been made yet, AP reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The headline on this story could be a bit misleading, at least some people have misinterpreted it: Afghanistan gave CIA money to al Qaeda for diplomat's ransom. But, the story is interesting enough. It seems that the CIA regularly delivered cash to Hamid Karzai, to buy the support of warlords and politicians, that sort of thing. You know, democracy! Karzai used $1 million of it as part of a $5 million ransom. We know about this because of the trial of a Pakistani currently on trial in New York for plotting to bomb a shopping center in England. (You can't make this stuff up.) The evidence comes from the loot the Navy SEALS got from Osama bin Laden's hideout. It seems bin Laden was afraid the CIA money might be poisoned or something.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Brief update for Friday, March 13, 2015

U.S. soldier in Iraq wounded by enemy fire.

A U.S. soldier received lacerations to the face after coming under enemy fire early Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday. The soldier, whose name was not released, was shot at while in a guard tower in Besemaya, south of Baghdad, said Army Col. Steve Warren. It marks the first time that an American service member has been wounded by ground fire since the Pentagon sent troops to Iraq last year as part of an international effort to defeat the Islamic State militant group that swept through the country last year.

While this is of course trivial compared to the mass casualties and suffering of Iraqis, I make a point of posting this because the danger of mission creep is growing, both by push, as Iraq is dependent on Iranian assistance and Shiite militias for its own ground forces, and the U.S. finds that geopolitically awkard; and by pull, as U.S. troops are close to the front lines and need to provide their own force protection and clear their own perimeters. U.S. troops are on the battlefield; and once they are there, it's very easy for their role to grow.

I also note that this was south of Baghdad, which makes one wonder who actually took the shot.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Update for Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nobody could have predicted: U.S. trained Iraqi forces have committed atrocities. The link is to ABC news, which broke the story, but they have a very annoying auto-lay advertisement. If you want to avoid that, IBT has picked up the story. (Sorry ABC, but you didn't have to do that.)

The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq's most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.
 The U.S. has been "training" these forces for a decade, and they either drop their weapons and run when an enemy shows up, or they massacre civilians and torture prisoners. Maybe we should think of a different approach.

Meanwhile, Iraqis say 22 Iraqi soldiers were killed by an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition, but as always, the U.S. military denies it.

[A] military source said 22 soldiers had been killed when an aircraft, which he said was from the U.S.-led coalition, bombed the headquarters of an army company on the edge of Ramadi city, Anbar's provincial capital. A military spokesman for the coalition said it had carried out an air strike in the area on Wednesday but that it had hit a position held by Islamic State fighters. "This strike did not result in any friendly casualties," Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gilleran said.

Sorry Lt. Colonel, but I don't think they would make that up.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Brief Update for Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Canadian special forces soldier is killed in a friendly fire incident on Friday, in Nineveh province. According to Peshmerga sources, a group of Canadian soldiers showed up unannounced in the village of Bashiq, the scene of recent heavy fighting. When asked to identify themselves, they answered in Arabic, whereupon Peshmerga opened fire.

The dead soldier is Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron. Three others were wounded. The Canadian military has offered no explanation for the soldiers' actions.

In other news, old friend Muqtada al-Sadr has condemned a visit by U.S. ambassador Stuart Jones to the shrine of Imam Ali. Al-sadr "described the American ambassador as a terrorist and said the US is the main factor behind the suffering, destruction and terrorism that Iraqis are going through."