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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Update for Sunday, January 25, 2015

Afghan ambassador to Pakistan announces Pakistan will repatriate 1.6 million Afghan refugees, based on an agreement among the countries and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. However, there does not appear to be any timeline for the process.

At the same time, Pakistan is arresting and apparently deporting unregistered refugees.

Generally, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan appear to be thawing, with high level military contacts and evidence that Pakistan will no longer support Afghan insurgents. NATO is trying to faciliate increased cooperation between the two countriesHowever, it appears India is skeptical of this and is concerned about its investments in Afghanistan as foreign troops leave.

Since I'm not posting every day, of course we are no longer recording all reported security incidents. But just to reflect the general level of violence I will link to recent reports on days I do post.

Car bomb near Kabul airport (now renamed after Hamid Karzai) injures 2, results in temporary closure of the airport.

Motorcycle bomb injures 2 police, 1 civilian in Panjwaee, Kandahar province. This same report says police found 2 bodies elsewhere in Kandahar, their killers unknown; and discusses the appearance of IS in Zabul and Helmand. (Seems a bit of a non-sequitur but there it is.)

 Two border police killed, 2 injured by an explosion in Jalalabad on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, gunmen kill a police officer in Lashkargah.

Protest grow in Zabul and Farah against depictions of the prophet by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Ghani accedes to parliament and will replace cabinet nominees with dual citizenship.

Cabinet nominees are presenting their platforms to parliament in pursuit of votes of confidence. Parliament will hear all the nominees before starting to vote.

From our friend Chet, a CNN feature on depression and suicide by military and veterans' spouses and family members.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update for Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Political turmoil continues as parliament rejects 7 cabinet nominees over dual citizenship. These include the nominees for Interior and Foreign Minister. Of course, given the decades of war and the period of Taliban rule, many educated Afghans have been expatriates. The nominees can be considered if they drop their second citizenship.

Human Rights Watch reports attacks and threats against journalists in Afghanistan are on the rise, with 2014 being the most violent year on record. "An already fragile media freedom has been jeopardised still further by intimidation and violence from both state and non-state figures, combined with a lack of government protection and waning international support."

NYT reports that internal divisions in the Taliban have created an opening for IS. This has been noted before, but the NYT goes into more depth. It is not entirely clear whether IS just provides a new brand for some Taliban factions in Helmand, or if there really are strong ties with the organization in Syria and Iraq and an influx of foreigners.

India offers a workaround to the Pakistani blockade of Afghan exports.

And of course, the low-level war continues with 8 civilians dead in Ghazni, and 4 ANA soldiers killed in Kunduz along with a claimed 23 militants. (As always, no way to confirm these typically lopsided casualty reports.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

News of the Day for Sunday, January 18, 2015

(I actually would have posted sooner but I've had Internet access problems.)

Five Pakistani men are arrested in Afghanistan in connection with the Peshawar school massacre. Pakistani says it has detained additional people on its own territory.

Four Afghan Public Protection Force soldiers are killed, 14 injured in a suicide bombing in Helmand. The APPF is a special unit that protects foreign compounds and provides highway escort.

A district education director is murdered in Ghor province.

Army spokesman announces yet another "clearing" operation in Dangam, Kunar, on Friday, claims great success. (This battle has been going on for weeks, and is always being won. We shall see.)

A poll finds widespread distrust in the peace process, with many believing that High Peace Council members do not really want peace.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are in a dispute over fees charged to Afghan importers at the port of Karachi. Lest we forget, Afghanistan is landlocked and must depend on a viable relationship with Pakistan for access to world markets.

A death sentence is pronounced for the killing of two Finnish aid workers last July.

Taliban shoot down a helicopter, killing the ex-boyfrend of Britney Spears. (No, I'm not making this up.) John Sundahl, 44, was working as a private helicopter pilot. He met Britney in AA and helped her get sober.
Unknown armed men murder journalist Aqil Waqar in Hajian village of Batikot district, Nangarhar province.

Five health care workers are abducted in Herat.

Two civilians are injured in an explosion in Kandahar.

Nominee for Minister of Agriculture Mohammed Yaqub Haidari is wanted for tax evasion in Estonia

Afghan National Army commander General Murad Ali Murad confirms that Islamic State is active in Afghanistan.

Monday, January 12, 2015

News of the Day for Monday, January 12, 2015

At long last, president Ghani announces cabinet nominees. The 3 month delay was apparently caused by disputes between Ghani and Abdullah. There are as yet no nominees for Attorney General or Chief Justice.

Reuters gives a run-down of the nominees for major positions. There is certainly plenty of political diversity, based on my quick reading. NYT discusses the horse trading behind this and suggests that the national unity government will continue to be stressed.

After previous denials, Afghan officials confirm that IS agents are operating in Helmand.

A police officer kills the district governor and police chief of Nawzad, Helmand, and injures other senior officials. TOLO calls the district Nad Ali. The place has quite a history.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting discusses the challenges faced by NGOs in Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

News of the Day for Sunday, January 11, 2015

A couple of stories today indicating that some militants in Af-Pak are adopting the Islamic State brand, and that foreigners identifying with IS are coming to the region. First, a video posted on-line shows a former Taliban spokesman addressing a crowd to announce that various Afghan and Pakistani leaders have pledged allegiance to IS. A Pakistani soldier is then beheaded with a machete.

Meanwhile, the police chief of southern Zabul says that Arab militants have entered the area, with their families. It is not clear how extensive support for IS is in the region or how seriously one should take all this.

Residents of Sangin, Helmand, also say IS is operating in the area.

Drone strike kills 8 in Nangarhar. But that doesn't count as "combat."

District intelligence agency chief and another person are injured by a roadside bomb in Herat.

Afghan national (association) football coach is stabbed, hospitalized. Unclear if the motive was personal or political.

Another one of those massive body count stories, with provincial police chief claiming 183 insurgents killed in month-long operation in Dangam, Kunar,  vs. 6 Afghan government dead. You'll have to decide if this is credible.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

News of the Day for Saturday, January 10, 2014

(As I've said,  won't be posting here every day but I will try to keep up with events as they merit.)

Remember that new cabinet that was supposed to be announced last week, then Wednesday? Monday is now the official date. We shall see.

Meanwhile, president Ghani apparently offered some government posts to Taliban figures as a way of promoting the peace process, but they refused the offer. These were low-influence posts with little policy relevance, and the three individuals who were offered jobs aren't really active Taliban, they're Taliban associates living openly. Even so.

No real surprise, but hundreds rally in Uruzgan in support of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. However, most political leaders, including president Ghani, condemned the attack.

A protest we hope will have a more positive result is against corruption in Paktia.

I don't get this. Kabul airport will be guarded by Azerbaijani peackeepers. Isn't Afghanistan supposed to be in charge of its own security now?

Eight deminers, working for an international NGO, are abducted in Logar. Overall, attacks on de-miners increased by 50% last year. (Many of the explosions we read about injuring and killing civilians are actually from old ordinance, and the specific victims were not intended targets. Afghanistan is full of mines from decades of war.)

District police chief killed in an ambush in Sar-e-Pul.

Twelve civilians kidnapped in Sar-e-Pul, perpetrators and motive as yet unknown.

Ghani is expected to sign a security pact with Iran. Content is not stated, but sources of irritation between the two countries are drug smuggling, and the treatment of Afghan migrants to Iran. They have a common foe, however, in Sunni extremism.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

News of the Day for Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's been another violent day, with 2 children killed by an explosion in Kandahar province (possibly an accidental encounter with an old mine), 10 children injured, 7 critically, by a separate explosion in the same province, a bomb killing a judge in Jalalabad, 6 construction workers murdered in Baghlan, and a suicide attack injuring 3 police officers in Khost.

Taliban burn the house of a district governor in Maidan Wardak.

Report says 20 cabinet nominees have been selected but for some reason the public announcement, promised for today, did not occur.

About half of pharmaceuticals sold in Afghanistan are smuggled and are likely to be counterfeit or spoiled.