The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Update for Sunday, June 21, 2015

Editor's note:  I haven't posted for a while because the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq have settled into a grim stalemate, with government and insurgent forces (or, in the case of Syria, a more complex mix of players) trading small advances and no real strategic change. While events seem largely repetitive from day to day, I do intend to keep up a more regular schedule of posting going forward, in part because the American people are largely ignoring both wars. Today I will focus on Afghanistan.

 Taliban offensive in Kunduz province advances with the capture of Chardarah district just 3 kilometers from Kunduz city, sparking concerns about the possible loss of the provincial capital. Seventy Afghan security personnel are currently surrounded in Chardarah, as civilians flee toward Kunduz city with their livestock and possessions. The streets of the city are deserted as government officials flee and administrative offices are closed.

In Badakhshan province, in contrast, the government claims to have recaptured Yamgan after a 3 week battle. However, in a story which will be familiar to followers of the Iraq war,

head of the Provincial Council Abdullah Naji Nazari has said that insurgents stole most of the security forces' equipment."vYes! Yamgan district has been cleared of insurgents but there are concerns that the insurgents have stolen the weapons cache and the equipment of the government forces," he said.
And who do you think supplied those weapons and equipment?

Civilians trying to return home after fleeing fighting in Marjah, Helmand, hit a mine, with 19 dead including 9 children. Fourteen of the dead are from a single family.

Opium cultivation continues to increase.

Afghanistan marks the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as it is a leading country in the production, cultivation and trafficking of narcotic drugs in the world. Despite this is the most devastating catastrophe in the country officials ended the program by repeating a number of usual statistics and promised plans which have never been fulfilled during the last 14 years. Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics, said: “Unfortunately, the cultivation of narcotic drugs have been increased in Afghanistan.” According to the information provided by counter narcotics minister there are 132 districts in Afghanistan cultivating drugs.

A physician is murdered in Baghlan.

Electricity has been out in Nangarhar and Laghman for 10 days after Taliban cut transmission lines. Work to restore power is just now beginning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Update for Wednesday, June 11, 2015

Slippery slope edition. Obama to send 450 additional troops to Iraq  and establish a 5th U.S. base, this one in Anbar province, to "train and advise" Iraq troops -- or more accurately, it seems, Sunni tribal forces not integrated with the Iraqi army. This is because the $25 billion the U.S. has spent training and advising Iraqi forces since 2003 has apparently failed to have any useful effect.

Some of it might have helped the more than 1 million Iraqis who currently lack basic food, water and shelter. Heck, even $1 billion probably couldn't hurt.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Update for Sunday, June 7, 2015

Afghanistan's upper house of parliament, the Mesrano Jirga, condemns a U.S. drone strike on Friday on a funeral, which is said to have killed 4 civilians. It appears the funeral was for a Taliban leader, and that many of the attendees had crossed the border from Pakistan. [Obviously, just because people are attending the guy's funeral does not make them legitimate targets for a flying death robot. -- C]  (I have found no mention of this incident in U.S. media.)

Taliban capture a district in Badkhshan province, overrunning the police HQ.

Bomb in Uruzgan kills 6 civilians.

Teachers in Kabul go on strike over pay and working conditions. Teachers often do no receive their salaries for months.

The elite SEAL Team Six fighting force which killed Osama bin Laden has warped into an unaccountable organization which has engaged in 'excessive' and 'indiscriminate' killing, according to a new account of the secretive unit.

Former servicemen from the legendary Navy unit said that the unit has veered off course in recent years and become engaged in bloody all-out combat in Afghanistan against low-level militants and 'street thugs' - rather than the targeted anti-terrorist raids for which it is famed. . . . 

Among the accusations are:  
  • Claims that a British general confronted the unit over alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians in Helmand province
  • Afghan claims that eight schoolboys were slaughter in a 2009 raid on the village of Gazi Khan in Kunar Province
  • A former SEAL officer saying endless missions amounted to ‘killing fests’
  • A member of the unit being accused of mutilating a militant’s body after a raid
  • SEALs engaging in hand-to-hand combat using customized Tomahawk axes 
Some described being sent through Afghan villages in search of 'subcommanders' and 'street thugs' - sometimes racking up 25 kills without landing a major target.
"Internal investigations by the Joint Special Forces Command cleared team members of wrongdoing." [Of course -- C]

Mysterious rash of murder in Kabul has city on edge. One victim was a member of
the National Directorate of Security's (NDS) Advisory Board, and there are fears the incidents may be related to the breakdown of an agreement with the Pakistani ISI.

Meanwhile, Britain is sending more troops to Iraq, 
while Republican candidate for U.S. president Scott Walker won't rule out a full-scale re-invasion by the U.S.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Update for Thursday, June 4, 2015

I fear this won't get a response, but the UN is urgently warning that halfof humanitarian operations in Iraq will shut down without a quick infusion of  $500 million.

4 June 2015 – Critical aid operations supporting millions of people affected by the conflict in Iraq are at risk of shutting down unless funds are made available immediately, senior United Nations warned today as they joined an international appeal for nearly $500 million to cover the immediate needs of 5.6 million Iraqis for the next six months. . . .

The implications of this, Ms. Grande said, would be “catastrophic” in what is already one of the most complex and volatile crisis anywhere in the world. Humanitarian needs in Iraq are huge and growing. More than 8 million people require immediate life-saving support, a number that could reach 10 million by the end of 2015.
It doesn't help that having gained control of the Ramadi dam, IS has cut off water to areas of Anbar it does not control.

IRIN traces the displacement of 2.9 million Iraqis in the past 18 months.

Malcolm Nance explains (once again) that the real force behind IS is Baathist revanchism. We should not be misled into thinking that what is really at stake is the 12th vs. the 21st Century:

In light of this history, it is reasonable to surmise that the ex-Baathists flying the ISIS flag today are covertly working to undermine ISIS’s caliphate and eventually achieve their own political goals. The FRLs [Former Regime Loyalists]  may be allowing ISIS to do the hard work of fighting and carving out a Sunni-dominated tribal nation from Damascus to Fallujah to Mosul. Once that geographic goal has been achieved, it should not take much to depose the caliph and eliminate ISIS.
The FRLs and Sunni tribal leadership have clearly demonstrated that the personal aspirations of 7 million Iraqi Sunnis can be a serious political cudgel. If the central government doesn’t play ball, ISIS can march on Baghdad until a deal is made for regional autonomy, money or independence. If the Shiite government defeats ISIS (or if the Sunni community turns against it), the FRLs can just step away and continue to wield power in their communities. Either way, they win.
On the other hand, ISIS did make the FRLs swear oaths of loyalty to the caliphate, and they will certainly take a dim, beheading-filled view of any covert plans to undermine their reign. The FRLs will proceed cautiously. Both ideologies can coexist as long as there is a Shiite-Iranian-American axis to rally against. Baathists are still Muslims, and they have shown that they can feign piety as long as it’s convenient.

'Nuff said.