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, 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.