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, July 12, 2018

Update for Thursday, July 12, 2018

U.S. service member killed in combat in eastern Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier was also killed in the operation. Meanwhile the soldier killed by an insider attack in Uruzgan on Saturday is identified as Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel of 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

Taliban offensive in Kunduz kills at least 31 Afghan troops. Number of Taliban casualties is unclear, but a military spokesman says 50 were "killed or wounded," without explaining how he knows this.

Taliban attack in Farah results in numerous government casualties, with the number of dead reported as either 4 or 7, and a claim that 15 police were captured.

NATO extends funding for Afghan operation to 2024.

Three Afghan national police killed, claim of 15 militants killed in fighting in Ghazni.

Protests in support of exiled warlord Dostum continue with blockage of highways.

Syed Zafar Mehdi thinks the U.S. effort in Afganistan is a failure. Gee, what could possibly make him think that? Pull quote:

So what has the US achieved in Afghanistan in past 17 years? Americans are told by their government that the ‘wasted effort’ in Afghanistan is to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups that seek to attack the US. That argument holds no water. It’s called paranoia.
Pompeo, who was on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking up the new job, perhaps needs a reality check. The security has deteriorated alarmingly, civilian casualties have jumped alarmingly, the cultivation and smuggling of narcotics has increased, corruption has touched new high, and the fledgling government in Kabul that was formed through a deal brokered by Washington continues to be beset with numerous problems. This is the legacy of America in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Update for Tuesday, July 10, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a surprise visit to Afghanistan under extremely tight security, claims U.S. strategy is working and that the Taliban may join the peace process without substantial concessions. However, as this WaPo story (I linked to a reprint to avoid the paywall) makes clear, the Taliban have stepped up their military activity and hold substantial portions of the country.

Suicide attack in Jalalabad kills at least 10, no claim of responsibility as yet.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State meets with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the first time a U.S. official has met with him in decades.

Casualty totals are disputed in separate skirmishes in Farah and Badghis, but up to 11 government troops and 9 Taliban may have been killed.

Schools in Afghanistan are becoming ideological and political battlegrounds, while 2.6 million children lack access to primary education entirely.








Sunday, July 8, 2018

Update for Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sorry I've been away for a while, I'll try to start posting more regularly.

The military has been quite tight-lipped about this but one U.S. service member is killed and two injured in an "insider attack." Although Resolute Support provides no further details, Afghan officials say the incident happened in Uruzgan, and the Taliban have claimed responsibility.

Also in Uruzgan, Afghan army frees seven prisoners from Tabliban.

U.S. Green Berets and Afghan forces assault an IS stronghold in Nangarhar, claim to have suffered no casualties of their own while killing 167 IS fighters. (If it's that easy what took them so long?)

Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will host a conference this week on Afghanistan, in which Islamic scholars will discuss promotion of peace and stability.

Afghan airstrikes in Ghazni are said to kill dozens of militants.

Five people are injured by mortar attacks, also in Ghazni.

President Ghani calls for reining in private militias.

Perhaps this has something to do with riots over the detention of a top aide to warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.






Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Update for Tuesday, June 19, 2018

As ceasefire ends, Taliban attack in Kunduz results in death of 7 Afghan soldiers and 2 police officers, and capture of a humvee. Apparently 7 of the attackers were also killed.

In an attack in Badakhshan, 17 Afghan soldiers are reported killed, and the Taliban seize control of a checkpoint. Twelve of the attackers are reported killed, including foreigners.

An attack in Farah is repulsed with heavy Taliban casualties, no word on government casualties.

A district governor in Nangarhar is assassinated.

Following the ceasefire, the Taliban are reported to have had a leadership shake-up.

Convoy of protesters demanding peace arrives in Kabul after a 37 day journey from Helmand. More on the convoy here.

Although the Taliban rejected president Ghani's request to extend the ceasefire, the government is still hopeful they will reconsider. However, the Taliban are unlikely to stop fighting as long as they are winning, although Michael Kugelman thinks the appetite for war among their rank and file may have lessened.




Friday, June 15, 2018

Update for Friday, June 15, 2018

The Afghan Taliban declare a unilateral three-day cease fire coinciding with the government's cease fire, and Afghans begin Eid without fighting for the first time in 17 years. Whether any peace talks or more lasting rapprochement will come of this remains to be seen.

However, the cease fire does not apply to other militant groups. In a major development (which so far has been little reported in the U.S.) the Afghan defense ministry says that a U.S. drone strike killed Mullah Fazlullah Khorasani, leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was considered responsible for the attack on a school in Peshawar in which some 140 children were killed, and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. Khorasani was in Kunar province, Afghanistan at the time of his death. Keep in mind that while Pakistan provides safe haven to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani group is fighting the government and Khorasani was the most wanted criminal in Pakistan.

An airstrike on an IS munitions depot in Nangarhar kills 3 militants. Apparently this was carried out by Afghan forces.

Hamid Karzai says he will not run for president in 2019.

The U.S. has spent more than $8.6 billion fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan, to no apparent effect.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Update for Thursday, June 7, 2018

Amid claims of voter fraud, Iraqi parliament calls for a manual recount, and replacement of the electoral commission with a panel of judges. The supreme court has approved the plan. Claims of fraud, however, have generally been vague and lack supporting evidence.

An explosion in Sadr City kills at least 16 and injures more than 30. The government says the explosion occurred at a munitions depot.  More recent reports give a total of 20 dead and more than 100 injured. Muqtada al-Sadr calls for an investigation. This report says that while the explosion did occur at a munitions depot, it was caused by planted bombs.

IS attack on a village near Baquba kills one civilian, apparently in retaliation for the arrest of four militants who villagers turned over to security forces.

Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani announces a unilateral ceasefire against Taliban in the hope that militants will respond to the recent fatwa by the Ulema and enter into peace talks.

As of now there has been no response from the Taliban. The cease fire is to begin on June 12 and last through Eid al-Fitr, which will be June 19 or 20 on the western calendar. (It depends on when clerics first see the new moon. They sometimes disagree on this.)

NATO and the U.S. will honor the ceasefire. It does not apply to IS or al Qaeda.




Monday, June 4, 2018

Update for Monday, June 4, 2018

Ulema meets in Kabul, issues fatwa condemning violence, and calling for peace talks. A suicide attacker near the gates of the gathering kills several people. (The linked AFP article gives the death toll as 7 but it has since risen.) I have not been able to locate the exact full text of the fatwa but according to the AP report:

Less than an hour before the attack happened, Ghofranullah Murad, a member of the council, read out a written statement from the gathering saying that innocent Afghan men, women and children are the true victims of the 17-year-long war.
"The ongoing war in Afghanistan is illegal and has no root in Sharia (Islamic) law," the statement said. "It is illegal according to Islamic laws and it does nothing but shed the blood of Muslims."
"We the religious Ulema call on the Taliban to respond positively to the peace offer of the Afghan government in order to prevent further bloodshed in the country," it added.
The fatwa also said that killing people by any means — such as bombs and suicide attacks — as well as violent acts, including robbery and kidnapping, count as sins in Islam.

Three children are killed by a roadside bomb in Nangarhar, as IS threats force school closures in the province.

Half of Afghan children are not in school, most of them girls. "In the worst-affected areas as many as 85% of girls are not getting an education, with child marriage, a lack of female teachers and poor school facilities among the major reasons."

Two police killed as Taliban attack checkpoints in Ghor.

In Iraqsevere drought is compounded by Turkey diverting water from the Tigris, but parliament is unable to muster a quorum to address the issue.

Turkey is expected to launch operations in the Quandil region of Iraq in pursuit of PKK leadership. Turkey already says it has 11 military bases inside Iraq.

Shortages of electricity and water plague the country.

Iraqi courts issue an arrest warrant for Rebwar Talabani, a leader of the Kurdish independence movement.





Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/nation-world/world/article212472174.html#storylink=cpy