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, November 21, 2018

Update for Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Suicide bomb attack on a gathering of religious scholars in Kabul kills 55, injures 95. The Taliban have denied responsibility and IS has not issued any statement. The meeting was hosted by the Afghan Ulema council on the occasion of the Prophet's birthday.

Protesters close the Kabul-Gardiz highway in Logar, accusing government forces of killing 8 civilians.

Three police killed in a roadside bombing in Kandahar.

As U.S. commander Gen. Scott Miller visits Ghazni, two missiles strike the city damaging a medical facility. Miller is not believed to have been the target.

Pentagon inspector general finds little progress in U.S. led peace initiative.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Update for Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Taliiban assault in Farah province kills 45 government forces, including the district police chief. The attackers seized arms and ammunition and are said to have captured a military base.

According to this account, the attack originated as an insider attack at a joint army and police base.

According to TOLO, the Taliban captured 60 prisoners as well. Retaliatory helicopter strikes are said to have killed many Taliban. The security situation in Farah is becoming desperate.

Taliban attack police outposts in Zabul. The government says the attack was repelled, with 8 Taliban and two police killed.

The U.S. State Department says special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is making progress in peace negotiations but provides no specifics. Khalilzad has postponed a previously scheduled visit to Pakistan.

Fighting in Maidan Wardak said to kill 9 Afghan soldiers and 5 insurgents.

In a mysterious incident, the body of a senior Pakistani police officer has been found in Nangarhar province. He was kidnapped in Islamabad. A letter found with the body claimed responsibility on behalf of the IS Khurasan faction, but their motive for doing this is not clear.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Update for Tuesday, November 12, 2018

Taliban attack Jaghori district in Ghazni, destroy a company of elite Afghan special forces, killing more than 30 along with about 50 police and local militia members. The area is inhabited by ethnic Hazaras. Some of them protested in Kabul on Monday and six of them were killed by a suicide bomber. The entire district is in danger of falling to the Taliban.

Some 1,800 families have fled the district to Bamyan.

Ministry of the Interior says that reinforcements have been sent and that a large-scale military operation is planned.

U.S. airstrike is said to kill 8 Taliban in Ghazni.

Government claims to have killed more than 100 insurgents overnight in Ghazni while losing only two Afghan National Police. (They commonly report such extremely lopsided casualty claims, which I do not consider credible.)

Wall St. Journal reports U.S. is considering asking Afghanistan to delay presidential elections  as efforts are underway to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban.

President Ghani says the Taliban are not winning. (But it's never a good sign when you have to say that. -- C)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Update for Tuesday, November 6, 2018

This is a long read but it's important information. Antibiotic resistant pathogens are a huge problem in Afghanistan. This was a huge problem for the military, with troops frequently acquiring drug resistant infections in blast wounds. The military has largely overcome it, but the civilian population is severely affected. This article also notes that Afghanistan has among the worst health care and public health systems in the world:

One woman dies every two hours from pregnancy-related causes, according to conservative estimates by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and one in 25 newborn babies dies, the third highest neonatal death rate in the world, UNICEF figures show.
Life expectancy at birth is 64, compared with 79 in the US and a global average of 72. There is a shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas, and infection control is poor.
Drug resistance has become one of the world's greatest public health crises, estimated to cause 700,000 deaths worldwide and expected to kill 10 million by 2050 if no action is taken.
Fueling the superbug problem in Afghanistan is the unregulated sale of antibiotics in human medicine and in agriculture. Drugs are advertised on television and available to buy over the counter from pharmacies without a prescription or diagnosis from a doctor.
Fighting between Taliban and a local militia kills 40 civilians in Uruzgan and Ghazni.

I don't normally link to PressTV but this story has corroboration and the PressTV version is the most accessible I could find. Taliban attack a border post in Farah and kill at least 20 border police, capturing the post. This is on the border with Iran.

UN says 56 civilians killed and 379 injured in violence associated with the recent elections.

In Iraqtalks are underway between the PUK and KDP to form a new Kurdish regional government.

UN reports more than 200 mass graves found in areas formerly controlled by IS. The process of exhumation is just beginning.

Multiple bombings in Baghdad kill 6 civilians. These targeted predominantly Shiite districts.

Newly elected Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi says that the Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces will not be disbanded. Most of these are linked to Iran.

Abdul-Mahdi is apparently ready to announce his slate of ministers.  Minor posts have been filled but the major appointments have been held up in political disputes.

Hundreds of tons of farmed carp have died in the Euphrates, as water pollution grows worse.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Update for Monday, November 5, 2018

Army Major Brent Taylor, 39, of the Utah National Guard was fatally shot on November 3 by a Afghan National Defense and Security Force. Major Taylor was on leave from his office as mayor of North Ogden, Utah.

Taliban attack on two checkpoints in Ghazni results in deaths of 13 members of the Afghan security forces. The checkpoints were set up recently to cut off Taliban supply routes. They were completely destroyed.

U.S. drone strike in Laghman said to kill 3 militants. These appear to have been Taliban, which suggests the U.S. is not limiting its direct combat operations to IS targets as has sometimes been asserted.

Afghan government's territorial control reaches a record low.

It is unclear whether the Taliban will attend peace talks scheduled for November 9 in Moscow.

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.