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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Update for Friday, September 30, 2016

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says a U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar Wednesday morning killed 15 civilians. They are said to be men who had gathered to welcome a returning pilgrim.

As readers know, the Afghan government is reluctant to acknowledge casualties among its forces, and I am not able to collect accurate totals. However, the Washington Post is reporting that it has seen U.S. military documents tabulating Afghan casualties for the week of August 22-29. Afghan forces averaged 18 KIA per day. (This is far more than the Afghan government has ever acknowledged, as far as I can recall.) And this is likely an understatement:

The documents reviewed by The Post contained figures tracked by U.S. troops responsible for advising the Afghan air force medical evacuation crews. Thus, the actual number of dead and wounded could be higher as the documents only pertain to those casualties lifted out by air. According to the documents, the Afghans performed 118 total air evacuation missions — the majority of which were with their aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 helicopters and C-208 Cessnas — between Aug. 22 and 29, recovering 288 patients and 125 human remains.  A U.S. officer familiar with the documents confirmed that the 125 human-remains figure refers to those Afghan security force members killed in combat during that time.
Well folks, it looks like the assault on Mosul will begin soon. I will try to provide comprehensive daily coverage. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Update for Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi says the U.S. has agreed to send more troops to Iraq in addition to the 4,400 who are already officially deployed there. However he does not specify a number.

Pentagon walks back claim that a rocket fired at Qayyara air base last week contained mustard gas. Laboratory tests failed to confirm a positive field test.

IS sets fire to 3 more oil wells in the vicinity of Qayyara. While Iraqi workers succeeded in extinguishing oil well fires IS ignited as it abandoned the town, others continue to burn in areas not yet secured. (Note that the decision by IS to ignite wells in areas it still controls suggests they lack a means to transport and sell the oil. -- C)

Iraqi forces launch offensive al-Doulab near Ramadi after capturing additional nearby territory last week.

U.S. helicopters are said to have transported IS captives from remote areas in Anbar to undisclosed destinations. (It is of considerable interest if Iraqi authorities are indeed allowing the U.S. to hold, and presumably interrogate, these captives. -- C)

Muqtada al-Sadr opposes the participation of Iranian-backed militias in the assault on Anbar but allows that his Saraya al-Salam (the reconstituted Mahdi Army we remember from the U.S. occupation) could participate under certain conditions, including granting control of Anbar to him. (Which is not going to happen and seems a bizarre demand, frankly. -- C)

IS bombings in Shiite areas of Baghdad kill at least 17.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Update for Thursday, September 22, 2016

With U.S. air support, Iraqi forces continue to make gains against I.S. Iraqi troops have seized the city center of Shirqat, and essential link between Mosul and the staging area for the offensive in Qyara.  A U.S. air strike is said to have killed I.S. forces fleeing the town.

Iraqi forces also continue to expand control of territory around Ramadi, also here.

This is pretty inconsequential but it's being widely reported so here you go. A rocket fired in the direction of the Qayara base where U.S. troops are stationed fell harmlessly in the desert, but field tests indicated the possible presence of a mustard agent. As the linked story indicates, I.S. attempts to make chemical weapons have been crude and ineffective.

Conditions in Fallujah following it's "liberation" have not gotten any better, with no rebuilding of infrastructure and displaced people still being treated as potentially hostile by the Shiite-led government. The prospects for reuniting Iraq are not improving, to say the least.

Update: SecDef Ashton Carter testifies before Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. force build-up in Iraq and Syria. There are now 300 U.S. troops in Syria. U.S. advisers are now placed at the Brigade level with Iraqi forces, and the U.S. is ending in more High Mobility Artillery Rocket System batteries to support the assault on Mosul. The U.S. has also provided the peshmerga with $415 million in cash.

The Pentagon is asking president Obama to authorize deployment of 500 additional troops to Iraq

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Update for Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sorry for not posting for a while, I will resume a more regular schedule. As I've noted before, the situation in both Afghanistan and Iraq has been fairly static, although of course the daily drumbeat of violence and humanitarian catastrophe continues in both countries.

In Iraq, information trickling out of Mosul indicates that IS fears losing control, that there are signs of popular resistance, and that preparations for the coming assault are nevertheless continuing.

A specific act of resistance in Mosul seems to have just occurred as gunmen burn an IS publishing house.

Iraqi forces continue to tighten the vice on Mosul, moving in on the town of Shirqat in Salah-u-Din province and capturing villages in Anbar.

Iraqi parliament removes finance minister from office alleging graft. However they presented no evidence against him and the development could complicate relations with foreign funders. Zebari is a Kurd.

In Afghanistan, a peace agreement between the government and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is expected tomorrow.

Interior minister Taj Mohammad says the security situation in Kunduz is "unsatisfactory" but that a renewed operation has been launched there against the insurgents.

Taliban attack kills a police commander and injures 3 police in Helmand.

Air strikes kill Afghan forces in Uruzgan, apparently a case of mistargeting.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Update for Friday, September 9, 2016

U.S. deploys an additional 400+ troops to Iraq as preparations continue for the assault on Mosul, bringing declared forces in the country to 446. (It has previously been revealed that individuals on short rotations in the country are not counted in the declared total; there are probably special forces and other operatives (e.g., CIA) who are not counted as well.) UPI gives the new deployment as 500.

As Gary Legum points out, it is somewhat disingenous for Hillary Clinton to say that she will not put U.S. troops in Iraq since they are already there.

Time magazine discusses the upcoming battle for Mosul. I recommend this for those looking for a brief, accessible overview of the complex political and military situation.

In Afghanistan,  an official claims that government forces have regained control of Tirin Kot, but I can find no independent corroboration. TOLO relies on the official claim but also gives casualty totals and credits reinforcements from Kandahar for the success.

Rocket attack in Baghlan kills 8, injures 14.

U.S. commandos fail in attempt to rescue American University professors held by the Taliban. The hostages were not at the targeted location.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Update for Thursday, September 8, 2016

Taliban enter Tarin Kot, the Uruzgan capital, amid heavy fighting as residents flee. Senior officials are said to have fled to the airport, while the police and intelligence headquarters are under attack. The police chief admits that many of his men fled without a fight.

Amid deteriorating battlefield conditions, the U.S. will deploy 1,400 troops to Afghanistan from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The UN reports that 93 aid workers have been abducted in Afghanistan so far this year. A spokesman also issues an urgent call for assistance as they expect 1.1 million displaced people by the end of the year, including refugees being expelled from Pakistan at the rate of 5,000 per day. 2.7 million Afghans are suffering from malnutrition, including more than 1 million children.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Update for Monday, Sept. 5, 2015

Two bombs near the president's administrative office in Kabul kill 24, injure more than 90. The Taliban have claimed responsibility. Responders to the first explosion were killed in the second, a common tactic.

Officials say the Kandahar-Helmand highway has reopened after a month-long blockade. However, it appears it is currently only being used by military vehicles. Whether this is because it is still too dangerous for civilian use or because of physical damage is not entirely clear.

Government says it has recaptured Qala-e Zal in Kunduz.

Three security personnel are injured and a tank destroyed in a Taliban attack in Ghor province.

Taliban attack on a military base in Baghlan is repelled. As usual, no mention of government casualties.

Remember the peace process supposedly involving the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan? Not happening.

India will increase military assistance to Afghanistan, displeasing Pakistan, and of course the Taliban as well.

Taliban overrun Omna in Paktika.

In Iraq, explosion of a booby-trapped house near Qayyarah kills 10 soldiers and 8 civilians. This is indicative of the slow process of clearing areas formerly occupied by IS. Long after the recapture of Fallujah, Anbar Operations Command is still clearing booby-trapped houses and other hidden explosives.

U.S. air strike near Qayyarah is said to kill an unnamed high official of IS.

Iraqi army launches assault on Hawija, along with Shiite militias.

Sadrist government employees go on strike in the continuing protest against corruption.