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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Update for Friday, August 18, 2017


U.S. soldier killed in Nangarhar on Wednesday is identified as Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, 27, of Monticello Utah. He was a Special Forces soldier assigned to the Utah National Guard’s B Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. He was killed, and 11 others injured, when trying to clear a building that was wired with explosives.

The National Security Council will meet with the president at Camp David, to come to a decision on the future strategy for Afghanistan. Military leaders want to increase the U.S. troop commitment, but it appears that some in the White House oppose them.

Iraq

Airstrike by unidentified forces kills 2 civilians and injures another in a village in Anbar.

Announcement from Operation Inherent Resolve on recent air strike activity.  They claim to have destroyed only military targets. Activity in Iraq and Syria is occurring at the pace of about 15-20 sorties per day.

Kurdistan officials are holding fast to a Sept. 25 date for the independence referendum, although they could conceivably delay if Baghdad guarantees agreement to a later date.

BBC reports on current conditions in Mosul. It's still too dangerous for many to return to west Mosul due to booby traps and unexploded ordinance. Neighbors no longer trust each other.

The Pentagon hopes to declassify the location of known unexploded ordinance in Mosul to aid in the recovery effort.

PM Abadi concedes that Iraqi forces committed atrocities in Mosul and promises prosecution.








Thursday, August 17, 2017

Update for Thursday, August 17, 2017

One U.S. soldier is killed in action, several wounded in a battle in Achin, Nangarhar. Additional information from Major General Jefferson Burton, commander of the Utah Army and Air National Guard is that the number of soldiers injured is 11 and that all were members of the Utah National Guard, of whom three are not residents of that state. We are awaiting information on the severity of the injuries but the statement implies that all 11 are being transported to Germany.

Afghan intelligence says it has arrested a Pakistani agent of the Inters Services Intelligence who was planning an attack on a prison. He is said to be involved with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. If this is true it calls into further question the $1 billion a year the U.S. still gives in civilian and military aid to Pakistan. Here's a bit more from TOLO.

Taliban attacks in Zabul kill 11 police.




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Update for Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Two U.S. soldiers are killed in an accidental explosion of ordinance while firing at an IS position in northern Iraq. (Exact location is not disclosed.) Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, and Spc. Allen L. Stigler Jr., 22, were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Five other soldiers injured in the incident are expected to survive.

Thousands of civilians flee as airstrikes ramp up on IS positions in Tal Afar  in preparation for an assault on the town. Those still trapped are facing severe shortages of food and water.

Shiite militias backed by Iran will take part in the assault.

Afghanistan

Three employees of Catholic Relief Services are murdered in Ghor.

Attack on a military convoy in Kunduz kills 4 Afghan soldiers  according to one source, kills one according to another.

Afghan army source claims Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid is critically injured in operation in Faryab.








Friday, August 11, 2017

Update for Friday, August 11, 2017

U.S. air strike said to kill 11 civilians in Nangarhar. "“On Thursday afternoon, the American forces bombarded a civilian private vehicle... when they were travelling inside the district,” he told AFP. “Unfortunately, in the airstrike we have casualties. Eleven people were killed and one wounded. All the victims, which included women and children, were civilians and they were from one family. “The victims were beyond recognition, and they were placed inside the sacks and were buried late last night,” he added." Afghan MoD claims the dead were all militants.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission confirms that attack on Mirza Olang was a joint Taliban-IS operation. (Note that there is probably no real operational connection between Afghan militants who use the IS brand and the group in Iraq and Syria. As the Reuters report says, "But in a region where different bands of fighters often switch between different militant groups, it can be difficult to establish allegiances with any certainty.")

Army says it has launched an operation to retake the village.

Al Jazeera reports on the 2 million widows left by the Afghan war, who are often reduced to beggary.

John McCain wants to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Of course he never met a war he didn't like.






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Update for Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Militia backed by Iran on the Iraq-Syria border blames U.S. for an attack that killed 36 of its fighters, including some Iranian Revolutionary Guards. U.S. denies responsibility, and IS claims responsibility. Iraqi PM Abadi also says that preliminary investigation indicates IS was responsible.

Exodus of physicians and other highly educated professionals from Iraq causes shortage, threatens the country's future.

An Iraqi Civil Defense commander says some 3,000 corpses remain buried in rubble in Mosul.

Next target appears to be Tal Afar as coalition air strikes soften up defenses and a French artillery battalion prepares to advance on the city.

An Iraqi armored division also reaches the town.

In yet another indication of ethnic tensions, Kurdistan president Barzani claims most of the Turkmen residents of Tal Afar are loyal to IS. The participation of Iranian-backed Shia militia in the fight for Tal Afar remains controversial. Barzani also wishes for Iraqi government forces, rather than the militia, to exclusively conduct the operation.

Iraq sentences 27 to death for the Speicher massacre in which IS killed as many as 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers.

One hundred additional U.S. Marines are deployed to Afghanistan to bolster forces in Helmand.

Taliban capture a village in Sar-e-Pul. Details of the attack are unclear and disputed, with some officials claiming that the the Taliban and IS cooperated in the assault. Fifty civilians are said to have been massacred in the assault .Some civilian prisoners who have been released seem to corroborate this. Locals criticize the slow response by the security forces.

If indeed the Taliban and IS are cooperating it would appear even stranger that Iran is supporting the Taliban. Iran has strongly condemned the attack in Sar-e-Pul, and separately denies any link to the Taliban or armed groups in Afghanistan.

I can't even . . .  Trump administration considers a plan to contract out the war in Afghanistan to mercenaries. The idea is being pushed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who compares it to Britains colonization of India through the British East India Company.

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams comments on this idea.

In an op-ed for USA Today published Monday, Prince elaborated on his war plan, which Manson notes would be very similar to his approach in Iraq, where he had significant influence on U.S. policy.
Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, argues that Trump should "restructure" the war—a process he suggests would resemble "bankruptcy reorganization"—by "aligning U.S. efforts under a presidential envoy," which in a previous op-ed he called a "viceroy."
Critics have warned that while Prince's plan may save money, it will potentially open the door to deadly abuses by unaccountable forces, like those seen in Iraq.
"If contractors are replacing soldiers and they are on the frontline they could kill or be killed, there could be kidnaps or insider attacks—what happens if they commit a crime or bodies have to be sent back; there would be a large number of legal complications," one official told the Financial Times.
Ronald Neumann, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, echoed these concerns in an interview with the Navy Times.
"There's a bad record of contractors and human rights abuses," Neumann said. "There's no legal structure to govern this."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Update for Saturday, August 5, 2017

Here's an odd juxtaposition of information. President Ghani is in Iran for the inauguration of re-elected president Rouhani. According to TOLO, the principal matter for discussion between them is water. Apparently Iran objects to dam projects in Afghanistan.

You would think, however, that they would have other matters to discuss since, according to Carlotta Gall, Iran is now a principle backer of the Taliban, supplying weapons, money, training, recruitment assistance, and even support from Iranian commandos. Iran and the Taliban have historically been adversaries, but according to Gall, that has changed with Iran now seeing alliance with the Taliban as a path to influence in Afghanistan. It seems odd that Ghani hasn't heard about this.

Afghan police officer attacks Romanian soldiers near Kandahar airfield and is killed.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Update for Friday, August 4, 2017

Suicide attack near Bagram air field kills 1 Georgian soldier and 2 Afghan civilians, injures 2 U.S. troops and 11 civilians. Georgia has 870 troops in the country, the 4th largest foreign contingent after the U.S., Italy and Germany.

U.S. soldier killed in action Wednesday near Kandahar are identified as Spc. Christopher Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, N.C., and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Ind. Both were infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Taliban attack in Helmand kills 5 security forces. The location, Gereshk, was the site of an erroneous U.S. air strike on July 21 that killed 16 people.

Afghan forces claim to have regained control of a district in Paktia, although the Taliban deny this and government forces are said to still be continuing their operation.

Attorneys for Sgt. Robert Bales, who murdered 16 Afghan civilians in 2012 and is serving a life sentence, are claiming that he was affected by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, which can cause serious neurological and psychiatric side effects. However, it has not been proven that he did take the drug.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Update for Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Explosion at a Shiite mosque in Herat kills 33, injures 66. IS claims responsibility. Herat is a previously largely peaceful city near the Iranian border.

This, combined with an earlier attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, raises fears that IS is essentially shifting the battlefield from Iraq to Afghanistan after its recent defeat in Mosul. However, there is little evidence of fighters relocating. (Few, presumably, were able to escape Mosul alive.)

Suicide bomber strikes a NATO convoy in Kandahar, resulting in an as yet unannounced number of casualties of unspecified nationality. More when information becomes available.

Update: Pentagon now says 2 U.S. troops killed in the attack. Witness reports suggest additional wounded but no official information on that.

Who could have predicted? SIGAR says a $45 million Pentagon program to improve Afghan intelligence capabilities is a failure.

The report, by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) said there was “no indication of improvement in overall intelligence operations” as a result of five contracts for training and mentoring, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, run by Legacy Afghanistan R&D and Afghanistan Source Operations Management (Asom). Only 47% of intelligence sites are ready to transfer to the Afghan government.

The watchdog’s audit of training and mentoring contracts awarded to the Afghanistan national defence and security forces (ANDSF) between 2010 and 2013 said it was “almost impossible” to gauge the US government’s return on investment. This was due to a lack of performance metrics to track progress, said the report. Sigar found that neither Imperatis, the contractor, nor New Century Consulting, the subcontractor operating the programme, retained complete training records.
And, of course, the contractors were paid millions for work they didn't actually do.

I linked to accusations by locals that Iran was backing Taliban fighters in Ghor a few days ago, and I was somewhat skeptical. Now U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also says that Iran is trying to "destabilize" Afghanistan. Iran did not respond to TOLO's request for comment. Note, however, that Tillerson does not mention Pakistan which is most certainly backing the Taliban.




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Update for Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Please, God, no: Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals:

President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies.
 Uh huh. It turns out that most of the valuable deposits are in Helmand province, which is controlled by the Taliban; there aren't any roads; and then of course there's the corruption. But as the reporters on this, Mark Landler and James Risen, helpfully point out:

Mr. Trump has said little publicly about Afghanistan since being elected. But his thinking about what the United States should reap for its military efforts was made clear in another context soon after his inauguration. Speaking to employees of the C.I.A., the president said the United States had erred in withdrawing troops from Iraq without holding on to its oil.
“The old expression ‘To the victor belong the spoils,’” Mr. Trump declared. “You remember?”
I may vomit.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Update for Monday, July 24, 2017

At least 26 are dead in a suicide car bomb attack on a bus carrying government workers in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul. (The linked story raises the prospect of a sectarian element to the attack but the relevance of the location is not entirely clear.) The Taliban claimed responsibility.

News is just now emerging of an attack on a hospital in Ghor in which 35 civilians were killed. The Taliban have captured the Taywara district where the hospital is located. (I am usually reluctant to link to Press TV, an Iranian government property which is often unreliable. However accounts of this incident are still scant and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of this report.)

And, in this context, I should note that a provincial official in Ghor accuses Iran of assisting the Taliban in seizing Taywara. This seems improbable but who knows?

Head of Ghor provincial council says 100 civilians have been killed by Taliban.

Battles in Kandahar said to leave 12 police and 21 militants dead.

Fred Kaplan writes that the U.S. administration has yet to decide on the purpose of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, let alone a strategy:

What is the aim of our involvement in Afghanistan: to defeat the Taliban (scant chance, given that we couldn’t manage the feat with 100,000 troops during Barack Obama’s first term), negotiate a settlement (with whom, to what end), help reform the Afghan government (we tried doing that for a long time, too, to no end), collaborate with old foes to fight off the growing presence of ISIS (about which much has been said lately), or simply train and supply the Afghan army (which, again, we’ve been doing for a long time, to little avail)? No decision can be made about troop levels without first answering those questions.
After those questions are asked, a more basic question must be answered: How long are we going to keep at this? How many more billions of dollars, or hundreds of lives, is the contest worth? What are the stakes of this fight, compared with the stakes of many other fights and interests in the world?


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Update for Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Human Rights Watch says a site has been discovered in Mosul where Iraqi forces executed 24 civilians. "A shopkeeper in a neighborhood west of Mosul’s Old City directed the observers to an empty building where “17 male corpses, barefoot but in civilian dress, [were] surrounded by pools of blood,” according to HRW."

However, it is not clear who these men were and Iraqi forces have been exacting revenge on individuals associated with IS, or believed to be. Excerpt:

Speaking to The Associated Press, four Iraqi officers from three different branches of the military and security forces openly admitted that their troops killed unarmed and captured Islamic State suspects, and they defended the practice. They, like the lieutenant, spoke on condition of anonymity because they acknowledged such practices were against international law, but all those interviewed by AP said they believed the fight against IS should be exempt from such rules of war because militant rule in Iraq was so cruel.
However, the killings risk tipping Iraq back into the cycles of violence that have plagued the country for over a decade, according to Belkis Wille, Iraq researcher with Human Rights Watch. The Islamic State group was able to attract recruits in the past because of people’s anger over abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings, she said.
Mosul is far from secured, as a booby-trapped house explodes, killing 13.

More than a million civilians remain displaced from Mosul and many have no homes to return to:

Those who ventured back to Mosul found wrecked houses, destroyed schools and hospitals, and water and power shortages, alongside the threat of gunfire and booby-traps.
Whole neighborhoods of Iraq's second city are reduced to the crumpled ruins of what were once homes and businesses -– much of the destruction due to air strikes and artillery by the U.S.-led coalition. Charred wrecks of cars litter the streets.
"The end of the battle for Mosul isn't the end of the ordeal for civilians. The humanitarian situation not only remains grave, but could worsen," the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of many international organizations and governments helping the relief and rehabilitation effort, said in a statement.
Iraqi troops pull starving orphans from the rubble. (Warning: Pictures are hard to look at.)

Patrick Cockburn reports that the civilian death toll in Mosul may be 40,000, according to Kurdish intelligence.

[Kurdish official Hoshyar Zebari] accuses the government in Baghdad, of which he was until recently a member, of not doing enough to relieve the suffering. “Sometimes you might think the government is indifferent to what has happened,” he said. He doubts if Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other minorities, who have lived in and around Mosul for centuries, will be able to reconcile with the Sunni Arab majority whom they blame for killing and raping them. He says some form of federal solution for future governance would be best.
Reading from Kurdish intelligence reports, Mr Zebari says that a high level of corruption among the Iraqi military forces occupying Mosul is undermining security measures to suppress Isis in the aftermath of its defeat. He says that suspect individuals are able to pass through military checkpoints by paying $1,000 (£770) and can bring a vehicle by paying $1,500. He says corruption of this type is particularly rife in the 16th and 9th Iraqi Army Divisions and the Tribal Volunteers (Hashd al-Ashairi), drawn in part from the Shabak minority in the Nineveh Plain.

Zebari also says that IS fighters are in some cases bribing their way to freedom, making civilians reluctant to give information about them.

IS attack in Anbar is repulsed by 2 Iraqi soldiers are killed.











Sunday, July 16, 2017

Update for Sunday, July 16, 2017

Are you old enough to remember when the U.S. invaded Iraq, a little more than 14 years ago? According to George Bush II, we were going to create a democracy in Iraq, allied with the west. It was even supposed to get us a settlement of the Israel-Palestine problem favorable to Israel, and a stable Middle East favorable to western oil companies.

Instead, Iraq is now a client state of Iran. Tim Arango tells the tale for the NYT:

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq . . . . If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region. In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.
Senior official of the Iraqi Interior Ministry says Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive after all. Whatev.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Update for Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Haider al-Abadi has once again claimed victory in Mosul, but fighting continues. "Plumes of smoke rose into the air Tuesday as IS mortar shells landed near Iraqi positions, and heavy gunfire could be heard on the western edge of the Old City."

Amnesty International says Iraqi and coalition tactics in Mosul violated international law  and may amount to war crimes. "The rights group said in a report the Islamic State militant group had also flagrantly violated humanitarian law by deliberately putting civilians in harm's way to shield their fighters and impede the advance of Iraqi and coalition forces." Although the government forces  faced an impossible situation in trying to avoid civilian casualties, AI particularly criticizes use of "Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), weapons with crude targeting capabilities that wreaked havoc in densely populated areas."

Iraq's elite Counterterrorism Service suffered 40% casualties in the Mosul battle, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Iraqi spokesmen say that figure is exaggerated. (This includes soldiers lost to injury, as well as combat deaths.)

The generally reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is indeed dead.

An IS leader in Hawija proclaims himself "emir." This report suggests likely infighting within the remnants of IS following Baghdadi's death. However, the IS news service has yet to confirm the report that he is dead. Infighting is also reported in Tal Afar. The latter city is believed to be the next target for Iraqi forces.







Monday, July 10, 2017

Update for Monday, July 10, 2017

You may be wondering why I didn't post yesterday as PM Abadi declared "victory" in Mosul. It's because  he made the declaration for no particular reason, as fighting in Mosul continues.

Fighting in Mosul may end today, however.

Al Bawaba has a roundup of info and photos. The devastation and human toll are incalculable.




Saturday, July 8, 2017

Update for Saturday, July 8, 2017

A correspondent informs me that the new policy of not announcing the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan until after next of kin have been notified is controversial among military families and their advocates. I wanted to look at this more fully. NBC news has a good backgrounder. The policy was purportedly decided by Gen. John Nichols, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and applies only to that theater. The policy elsewhere, still including Iraq and Syria, and historically everywhere since Viet Nam, has been to announce promptly that deaths have occurred, but not to provide identifying information or much specific information about the incident until after next of kin have been notified. From the NBC report:

Captain William Salvin, the director of public affairs for Resolute Support, said that Gen. Nicholson decided to change the policy to protect the families of the fallen and of those who continue to serve in the warzone. Nicholson wants to make sure the families have been notified and have their support systems in place before the U.S. military in Kabul informs the public that an incident has occurred . . .
But while there are fewer U.S. service members in Iraq and Syria than in Afghanistan, the ground commander in Baghdad continues to send out a notification when an incident results in a U.S. death.
And one senior defense official warned that Nicholson's new policy will mean less transparency and more ambiguity about the war in Afghanistan at a time when many Americans don't know what is happening there. "It's a step in the wrong direction," the official said.. . .
Another senior defense official expressed concern about the new policy because it may mean that Afghans become the initial source of information about American casualties. "It's just not appropriate and it's not the way we have been doing things for more than a decade," the official said.
 However, I have not yet found commentary from active duty troops, veterans, or military families.

Tribal elder is killed by a bomb placed in his car in Nangarhar. Four other civilians are wounded.

Taliban carry out a coordinated attack on highway checkpoints in Parwan. Little information so far, no reports of military or civilian casualties.

Drone strikes in Nangarhar said to kill numerous IS and Taliban.

In Iraq, civilians displaced from Mosul swelter in camps without electricity, ponder how they will rebuild their lives with their city destroyed.

Iraqi TV says last IS defenses in Mosul are collapsing, predicts imminent victory.

Note, however, that IS still controls the Kurdish town of Hawija, and towns to the west of Mosul including Tal Afar. Presumably Iraqi government and allied forces will turn to them next -- the conventional war in Iraq is not over.

AP has a photo gallery from Mosul showing the devastation and human cost. Warning: this includes many grim and gruesome images, including corpses and injured children. These are a lot of high quality pics, so it takes a long time to load.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Update for Wednesday, July 5, 2017

U.S. soldier is killed in action Monday afternoon by mortar fire in Helmand province. Two other soldiers are injured, and are being treated locally. The deceased is identified as Private First Class Hansen Kirkpatrick of Wasilla, Alaska. This delayed announcement is somewhat unusual.

Update: It turns out the delayed announcement is a new policy. The military will not announce combat deaths until after the family has been notified.

Paranoid, are we? A teenage female robotics team from Afghanistan is refused visas to attend a competition in the U.S. Oddly, teams from Syria and Iran will be admitted.

A group of U.S. senators visiting Afghanistan decries lack of a coherent strategy, and failure to fill essential State Department positions including that of U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

In Iraq, it's going to cost a billion dollars just to repair the basic infrastructure in Mosul. And by the way, that hasn't even started in the Anbar cities.

The editors of The Economist discuss the state of Iraq as IS falls. They are discouraged:

Iraqi ministers estimate that rehabilitating areas liberated from IS will cost $100bn, roughly the sum they and the Americans spent on the war. But the government is broke. Sunni Gulf states are said to be considering their involvement, but have contributed next to nothing. The World Bank has reportedly committed $300m. Germany is offering €500m ($570m). Coalition talks on a ten-year reconstruction plan, set to begin in Washington on July 10th, might drum up a bit more. But, runs an Arabic proverb, commitments are clouds, implementation the rain. . . .

IS’s vestiges, though, may anyway be one of the lesser problems facing Iraq. Exultant armies and militias now occupy the ground once held by the caliphate. A generation of young Iraqis currently earn a living from fighting IS; they may now develop ambitions of their own. Having avoided confrontation while they were assaulting IS, America and its allies are now coming to blows with Iran and its allies across the border in south-eastern Syria. A similar struggle looms in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraq’s politicians squabble, largely confined to the Green Zone, the walled city within a city occupying the core of Baghdad. So far there is not much sign of the fresh dawn that IS’s downfall should bring.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Must read for Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm going to ask you to read this, by Major Danny Sjursen, U.S. Army, in TomDispatch.

As I hope readers have figured out by now, I see absolutely no case for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Neither does Major Sjursen. Do read, but I'll just give you this pull quote:

Remember something: this won’t be America’s first Afghan “surge.”  Or its second, or even its third.  No, this will be the U.S. military’s fourth crack at it.  Who feels lucky?  First came President George W. Bush’s "quiet" surge back in 2008.  Next, just one month into his first term, newly minted President Barack Obama sent 17,000 more troops to fight his so-called good war (unlike the bad one in Iraq) in southern Afghanistan.  After a testy strategic review, he then committed 30,000 additional soldiers to the “real” surge a year later.  That’s what brought me (and the rest of B Troop, 4-4 Cavalry) to Pashmul district in 2011.  We left -- most of us -- more than five years ago, but of course about 8,800 American military personnel remain today and they are the basis for the surge to come. . . .
, there are two things the upcoming “mini-surge” will emphatically not do:
*It won’t change a failing strategic formula.
Imagine that formula this way: American trainers + Afghan soldiers + loads of cash + (unspecified) time = a stable Afghan government and lessening Taliban influence.
It hasn’t worked yet, of course, but -- so the surge-believers assure us -- that’s because we need more: more troops, more money, more time.  Like so many loyal Reaganites, their answers are always supply-side ones and none of them ever seems to wonder whether, almost 16 years later, the formula itself might not be fatally flawed. . . .

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Update for Thursday, June 29, 2017


Iraqi forces enter the ruins of al-Nuri mosque in Mosul. However, resistance continues.
“Counter-Terrorism Service forces control the Nuri mosque and Al-Hadba (minaret),” the Joint Operations Command said in a statement. After a senior special forces commander said the mosque had not in fact been retaken, the operations command clarified that it meant Iraqi forces had isolated the area and were “advancing toward the completion of the goals.”

IS continues to hold civilians in its remaining territory to slow the Iraqi advance.

An analysis finds IS revenue has plunged by 80%  in large part due to territorial losses. However, it will be some time before its territory is completely eliminated:


“The Islamic State’s remaining caliphate is likely to break up before the end of the year, reducing its governance project to a string of isolated urban areas that will eventually be retaken over the course of 2018,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
Canada extends its military mission in Iraq through at least March 2019.

No surprise, the exciting new Pentagon strategy to fight IS is essentially the same strategy they already had

U.S. House Armed Services Committee drafts bill that would cut off funds for Kurdistan if it secedes from Iraq. However, as some U.S. politicians have advocated for devolution, it is not clear whether the full congress will support this.

The KRG representation office in Washington made it clear it took issue with the language, calling it “inartful” and pointing out that the language is nonbinding and may not survive reconciliation with the Senate version of the bill. “It is the democratic right of the people of Kurdistan to hold a referendum on their future,” an official with the KRG office told Al-Monitor, “and no one that we have met in Congress has denied this fact.”


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Update for Wednesday, June 28, 2017


As the battle for Mosul enters the end game, thousands of civilians remain trapped in the remaining IS-held territory under increasingly desperate circumstances.

IRIN reports that many are sheltering in basement bunkers constructed during the Saddam Hussein era to protect against possible U.S. air strikes. However, they are vulnerable to strikes from modern U.S. bombs.

Defeat in Mosul will not eliminate IS from Iraq. IS still holds towns west of Mosul, including Tal Afar where excavation of a tunnel is said to have caused the collapse of a house, killing the inhabitants.

Farah Najjar, reporting for al Jazeera, discusses the likely persistence of IS ideology following the collapse of the self-proclaimed Caliphate. She interviewed Rami Khouri:

Khouri said that unless underlying regional issues such as unemployment, human rights abuses and political repression are addressed, the group's ideology will continue to attract the disenfranchised and politically excluded.
Oxford Research Group also discusses the IS future.

The recapture of territory from IS is only the beginning of the existential challenge facing Iraq. One question is the status and security of Christianswhether the Shiite dominated Baghdad government will legitimately serve and govern the Sunni Arab minority; and of course the now seemingly inevitable declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Parallel problems face Syria, of course. The dissolution of the Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East is just beginning, and will likely unfold amid continued political turmoil and violence for a long time to come.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update for Thursday, June 22, 2017


In what is widely viewed as a concession of defeat, IS destroys the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul. The historic mosque, from which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself Caliph in 2014, was 850 years old.

UNICEF says that more than 5 million Iraqi children are in urgent need of aid.

More than 5 million children are in urgent need of aid in Iraq, the United Nations said on Thursday, describing the war on Islamic State as "one of the most brutal" in modern history. "Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence," the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement. "They have been killed, injured, abducted and forced to shoot and kill in one of the most brutal wars in recent history." In Mosul, children are being deliberately targeted and killed by Islamic State militants to punish families and deter them from fleeing, it said.
In Afghanistana suicide car bombing at a bank in Laskar Gah kills at least 29 people including troops and government workers who were waiting to collect their pay. TOLO puts the death toll at 34.




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 18, 2017

Afghan soldier opens fire on American troops in Mazar-i-Sharif, injuring 7, before he is shot dead by return fire. (Earlier reports erroneously stated that 4 U.S. troops were dead.) This is the same base where Taliban killed 100 or more Afghan soldiers in a brazen assault in April, also believed to be an inside job.

A U.S. citizen working for the World Bank is abducted in Kabul.

Two Pakistani diplomats are missing in Jalalabad, possibly abducted.

Taliban attack a police HQ in Paktia, killing 5 and injuring 9. The attackers are said to be dead as well.

Update: Ahmed Rashid, in New York Review of Books, tells it like it is. As the U.S. prepares to send yet more troops into America's longest war, there is no possibility of a military solution. Read the whole thing, but I'll give you this:

No matter how many troops Mattis decides to send this summer, it will not rectify the political crisis in Kabul. In the absence of clear engagement with the Afghan government, or demands that Ghani create a more inclusive coalition government and yield some of his powers, more US troops will only make things worse.
Nobody in Washington appears interested in exerting more political pressure on the Kabul regime, Pakistan, and the Taliban to begin negotiations that could lead to a ceasefire and a political agreement. To continue seeing the conflict only through the prism of war and troop numbers as the US does will only lead to continuing erosion of the government’s legitimacy. and loss of territory. Taliban attacks will increase, there will be continued loss of territory, and the government may collapse. This is a recipe for failure.
Is anybody listening?

Iraq

We've heard this before, but this time it seems for real. Last of IS-held territory in Mosul on verge of capture by Iraqi forces as they capture civil defense building, medical school and medical complex, and begin invasion of the Old City. More on the assault here.

I'll keep on top of this and provide updates as information becomes available. For obvious reasons, we aren't getting much specific information about the assault as yet.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Update for Friday, June 16, 2017


Russians claim they killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike but U.S. and Iraqi officials are skeptical. He's been killed several times before.

UN now says 100,000 civilians remain in IS controlled territory in Mosul, under increasingly desperate circumstances. IS snipers shoot at anyone who tries to leave.

Iraqi Shiite militias enter Syria.

Latest map from the Institute for the Study of War shows current territorial control in Iraq. Note that the Mosul region is controlled by Kurdish forces to the east and north, and Shiite militias to the west. The regular Iraqi army occupies only a small corridor between the Mosul dam and the city proper. The Kurdish held territory is largely divided between the KDP and the PUK; they have still not unified the KRG army.

Planning for the Kurdish independence referendum continues. The KRG wants to include people in territory disputed between Arabs and Kurds, specifically Kirkuk. At the same time, negotiations between the KDP and PUK are still ongoing.




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update for Tuesday, June 13, 2017


To lead off, a good overview of the issues of Kurdish secession from AFP. Some key points:

  • Iraqi Kurdistan faces some serious challenges, including an oil-dependent economy at a time of low oil prices, and about 1 million refugees within its borders.
  • While Baghdad might tolerate secession, the question of the border between Kurdistan and Iraq is extremely contentious. (The main problems would be the Kirkuk area, which once had a large Kurdish majority, which Saddam Hussein displaced and moved in Arab residents; Sinjar, and the area east and north of Mosul including ownership of the Mosul dam.)
  • Kurdistan would require strong security guarantees from the U.S. for viability.
  • Kurdistan would also require Turkish forbearance. This might be forthcoming if it wins an end to irredentism among  the Turkish Kurdish population, which the Kurdish Regional Government has been angling for by repudiating the PKK.
Regarding the latter point, I had a long conversation with a Kurdish-American man from Turkey, and he is to say the least not happy about it. He opposes the referendum because he sees it as abandonment of the Turkish Kurds, and notes that the 6 million or so Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan are only a  fraction of the total Kurdish population of 25-35 million. He might accept a state including the Syrian Kurdish region, called Rojava in federation with Iraqi Kurdistan as an adequate Kurdish homeland, but Turkey is unlikely ever to accede to that. We'll see how this ends but I doubt the PKK will go away in the foreseeable future.

Britain opposes the referendum.

Food poisoning strikes the Khazer refugee camp east of Mosul, killing 2 and sickening hundreds. Just a reminder of the burden the KRG bears for refugees.

IS control is reduced to the old city center and "medical city" in Mosul. Still, about 200,000 civilians remain trapped in IS-held territory.

Syrian state TV reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a U.S. airstrike. However, this is an unreliable source (to say the least), and previous reports of his demise have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated. We shall see.

Afghanistan

 U.S. soldiers killed on June 10 are identified as Army Sergeant Eric M. Houck, 25, Sergeant William M. Bays, 29, and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, all of the 101st Airborne based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. CNN provides photographs and capsule biographies of the dead.

Mad Dog says he will propose an Afghanistan strategy to the President "very soon."  There are indications this will include deploying additional troops to the country.

Several Afghan army personnel are sentenced to prison in relation to the disastrous Taliban attack on an army base in Balkh in April. Here is some information from TOLO about the Shaheen 29 army corps.

U.S. troops accused of killing 3 civilians by "indiscriminate fire"  in Nangarhar after an IED attack on their vehicle, in which no U.S. personnel were injured.



















Sunday, June 11, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 11, 2017

A third U.S. soldier has died of his injuries after an attack by an Afghan soldier in Achin, Nangarhar.

The U.S. president has yet to speak with his commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan after five months in office, delegating all responsibility to the SecDef, including setting troop levels. This has caused problems including embarrassing miscommunication with the public. Also:

Another incident, according to Military.com, that saw Trump's approach questioned was when he refused to take any of the blame for the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens. Owens was killed during a botched raid in Yemen on January 29 - along with more than a dozen civilians, including women and children. . . .

In the wake of the death, Bill Owens - the soldier's father - told The Miami Herald that he refused to meet with the president and his daughter Ivanka when they both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son. 'I'm sorry, I don't want to see him,' Owens recalled telling the chaplain of Trump. 'I told them I don't want to meet the President.'. . . 'Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why?

'For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. 'Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?' The upset father, who is also a military veteran, shared that he was also troubled by the attack Trump leveled at Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, an American Muslim family whose Army officer son died in Iraq in 2004.
In Iraqairstrike by U.S.-led coalition on a house in Mosul occupied by 20 civilians who are left buried in the rubble. No information on survivors. Witnesses claim numerous civilians casualties recently as the assault on the old city continues.

The UN says that 50-80 civilians died in air strikes on May 31. "Heavy ordnance, such as 227 kilogramme air-delivered bombs, are causing excessive and disproportionate damage to civilian life and property, organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict warned in a report published on Thursday. The groups said the use of such weaponry — and the bombing of densely populated areas where civilians are used as human shields — could amount to war crimes."  The number of civilian casualties attributed to IS is larger.



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Update for Saturday, June 10, 2017

In breaking news, 2 U.S. soldiers reported killed, 2 injured, when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in eastern Afghanistan. I'll have further information once it becomes available.

U.S. air strike kills 3 Afghan border police and injures 2 in Helmand province. U.S. military confirms the "friendly fire" incident. Another report gives a much higher toll of 6 dead and 14 injured.

Shooting at a mosque in Paktia kills 3.

In Iraq, Kurdistan has scheduled a referendum on independence for September, with strong opposition from Baghdad, Turkey and Iran.

Suicide bomber kills at least 31 people in the town of Musayab, south of Baghdad.

Syrian army reaches the Iraq border, threatening clashes with U.S. forces. It has been little noted in the U.S., but U.S. warplanes have already attacked Syrian government forces in the area.

U.S.-led coalition is reported to be using white phosphorus munitions in populated areas of Iraq and Syria.

Many civilian casualties in Mosul as pro-government forces are relying on heavy weapons to dislodge IS from its remaining strongholds. "Heavy ordnance, such as 500-pound air-delivered bombs, are causing excessive and disproportionate damage to civilian life and property, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law, organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Center for Civilians in Conflict warned." Many of the recently recaptured areas of Mosul are rubble.



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Update for Sunday, June 4, 2017


Tack on another mini-Friedman unit in Mosul. Iraqi forces slow effort to retake old city due to the difficulty of protecting civilians.

“We are fighting a very difficult battle,” Iraqi Major General Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri told VOA. “It will take at least another month before we liberate the Old City because IS is using civilians as human shields.” Al-Jubouri said his forces halted their offensive temporarily to open new safe passage routes for civilians fleeing their homes to cross government lines.
IS is shooting people who try to escape. Bodies litter the ground near the front lines. 

Iranian-backed militia takes the town of Baaj near the Syrian border.

Dozens of civilians found in underground prison in western Mosul. The captives appear to be largely from cities in Anbar that were recaptured by Iraqi forces some time ago.

Speaking of which, the city of Fallujah has received little support from the Baghdad government and has depended on international assistance for such rebuilding as it has accomplished.

In  Afghanistan,  continued violence and political chaos following the massive truck bombing on Wednesday. On Friday, police shot dead 5 protesters demanding improved security, and on Saturday attackers killed 20 people at the funeral of a senator's son who was among the dead protesters.

His party, Jamiat-e-Islami, holds an emergency meeting and appears to  hold the government responsible. [This is a largely Tajik Islamist party, which includes Abdullah Abdullah among its adherents. The implication is that this incident reflects the antagonism between Abdullah and president Ghani. In other words the National Unity Government may be in peril. -- C)






Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Update for Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Huge truck bomb explosion in Kabul's diplomatic district kills 80 people and wounds hundreds. The death toll is expected to rise. The explosion happened close to the German embassy, but it is not clear what the intended target was, or if there was a more specific target. No credible claim of responsibility as yet.

There is a report from a Lebanese television station that IS has claimed responsibility, but it is too soon to  evaluate this.

Taliban deny involvement and condemn the attack.

New York Times covers the emergency response and also says Afghan intelligence blames the Haqqani Network, which is a Taliban faction. (It is not clear what their motive would be, however. -- C)

The Turkish embassy was also nearby. Turkey says it will evacuate some diplomatic personnel from the country.

Egyptian embassy also damaged.

Afghan security personnel at the German embassy among the dead.

Bombings in Iraq as well:

 Suicide bomb in Heet (also spelled Hit) kills 17.

Two bombings in Baghdad, one at an ice cream parlor, kill a total of 31. Among the dead was a 12 year old Australian girl who was in the city to visit her grandfather.

Air strikes by Iraqi forces in Mosul continue to kill civilians by the dozens.

This certainly clarifies the situation. Iranian backed Iraqi militia proposes entering Syria to support Assad regime.

So, the U.S. is increasing its arms shipments to allied forces on the Syrian side of the border to block them. What could possibly go wrong?


Monday, May 29, 2017

Update for Monday, May 29, 2017


On Memorial Day, the NYT editorial board contemplates the "Groundhog Day" war in Afghanistan, as the administration contemplates a request from the Pentagon for an additional 5,000 troops. Excerpt:

The United States has spent 16 years fighting the longest war in its history at a cost of more than $800 billion and 2,000 American lives. Where there is still no peace, and where everything seems to be going backward. Where the Taliban has regained the initiative, attacking as it pleases and expanding its territorial reach, and where other extremists — Al Qaeda and the Islamic State — also have a foothold.
There are now about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan. Military commanders have asked for reinforcements of up to 5,000 more. Just a modest increase, they argue, a “mini” surge of troops. But 5,000 troops would boost the American commitment by roughly 60 percent, a sizable reinvestment in a conflict that President Barack Obama had promised was drawing to a close.
It is not unusual for American military commanders to ask for more troops and weapons in pursuit of victory. But can they make a decisive difference? How can 3,000 or even 5,000 more American troops ensure victory when the United States at one point had a force of nearly 100,000 in Afghanistan and was unable to defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country? And what would victory look like anyway?
Regardless of whether the generals get their 5,000 additional U.S. troops, the White House is pressuring allies including Canada to send troops, and Australia has already modestly increased its contingent, though some are asking "What's the point?"

In IraqPM Abadi is said to expect the battle for Mosul to conclude within a week, after the death or injury of more than 30,000 civilians.

Oil well fire in Kirkuk, apparently result of sabotage.

UN warns of water and food shortages for the 200,000 civilians still trapped in IS held territory in Mosul.

Mad Dog announces "annhilation tactics" against IS, says that civilian casualties are "a fact of life."

Iran-backed militia advances toward the Syrian border.

Poet Archibald MacLeish wrote this for his brother, who died in World War I.

Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) lie here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young . . .
All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door:
I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
Taut, and to me who had never been before
In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
And felt beneath the earth in the wind’s flowing
A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
Listening.
. . . Reflects that these enjoy
Their country’s gratitude, that deep repose,
That peace no pain can break, no hurt destroy,
That rest, that sleep . . .

At Ghent the wind rose.
There was a smell of rain and a heavy drag
Of wind in the hedges but not as the wind blows
Over fresh water when the waves lag
Foaming and the willows huddle and it will rain:
I felt him waiting.
. . . Indicates the flag
Which (may he say) enisles in Flanders plain
This little field these happy, happy dead
Have made America . . .

In the ripe grain
The wind coiled glistening, darted, fled,
Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
Waiting—listening . . .
. . . Dedicates to them
This earth their bones have hallowed, this last gift
A grateful country . . .

Under the dry grass stem
The words are blurred, are thickened, the words sift
Confused by the rasp of the wind, by the thin grating
Of ants under the grass, the minute shift
And tumble of dusty sand separating
From dusty sand. The roots of the grass strain,
Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits—he is waiting—
And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Update for Saturday, May 27, 2017

Linda Bilmes in Common Dreams discusses our forgotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do we largely ignore them, Congress has put the whole thing on the tab.

Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war. . . .
The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades.
But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits.

Attack on militia backed by the CIA kills 13 in Khost, Afghanistan. "provincial police chief Faizullah Ghairat said the victims were civilians and members of the elite Khost Provincial Force (KPF) -- known to be paid and equipped by the American CIA. "The bombing took place early morning when KPF members were heading to work," Ghairat told AFP. The KPF, estimated to have around 4,000 fighters, are known to operate a shadow war against the Taliban in a province that borders Pakistan and are accused of torture and extrajudicial killings."

Taliban kill 15 soldiers in attack on army base in Kandahar.


Remember candidates Trump's "secret plan" to defeat IS? Obviously, there wasn't one.

For what I believe is the 17th time (I've lost count) Iraqi forces launch the final assault to complete the capture of Mosul. Will this time be for real? Iranian-backed militia also said to seize two villages.

Toronto Star documents horrific torture perpetrated by U.S.-backed Shiite militia in Iraq.

The images are merciless: Iraqi detainees slung from ceilings by their wrists like rag dolls; a blindfold to hide the next torturous blow, a gag to muffle the screams.
A glance jolts the sickening memory of Abu Ghraib prison, circa 2003, when the United States army and the CIA let their humanity slip away.

Yet here they are again, 14 years later — damning images from the ongoing battle of Mosul that incinerate the fog of war, revealing physical abuse, torture and the murder of Sunni Arab Iraqis perpetrated by a unit of American-trained, coalition-equipped Iraqi commandos on the front lines in the war against Daesh.
Among “trophy” images the soldiers gave to Arkady: a shocking 12-second clip of an execution in which a barefoot suspect tries to flee, arms bound behind him, as two Iraqi officers shoot him in the back, firing nine shots in all; a 20-second clip showing an Iraqi special forces interrogator looming over the lifeless bodies of two Sunni Muslim brothers after a night of torture, snarling, “We crushed them” in revenge for sins against Iraq’s Shiite community.

Oh by the way -- have you seen any reference to this in U.S. media? 
 


Friday, May 26, 2017

Update for Friday, May 26, 2017

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. The U.S. and Iraqi military have been claiming almost every day that the battle for Mosul is nearly over -- predicting maybe two or three more weeks of fighting, which  has become a kind of mini-Friedman unit. So here is what appears to be the true state of affairs.

France, as well as the U.S., is supporting the Iraqi forces with troops on the ground. This French TV program sent reporter to Mosul. They summarize the situation:

[T]he battle is extremely difficult. The fanatics are putting up stiff resistance in Mosul’s criss-crossing of narrow streets, which are conducive to urban warfare and difficult for armoured vehicles to enter. . . .

As our team was able to witness on the ground, the battle to retake Mosul is progressing, but it is laborious - even chaotic. Soldiers are killed by friendly fire, the flow of refugees shows no sign of easing up, and the fate of prisoners is unknown - while reports are circulating of torture, rape and summary executions as many Iraqi soldiers are filled with revenge.
Additional allegations of abuse of civilians by Iraqi forces.

Rod Norland for the NYT find U.S. military leaders are no longer making predictions.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Col. Ryan S. Dillon, the American coalition spokesman for Iraq and Syria, would not predict a timeline for the Iraqi military, supported by American advisers and air power, to finally oust the extremists. “I am confident they will retake Mosul,” he said. “This is inevitable. It will happen.” . . .Colonel Dillon declined to predict whether the Iraqis would retake the city within a year of the start of their offensive.

Pentagon issues report on U.S. air strike in March that killed more than 100 civilians. They claim that IS had placed explosives in the building which caused most of the damage; and that neither U.S. nor Iraqi forces knew that there were civilians present.

U.S. service member dies in Syria in vehicle rollover.

Foreign Policy reports that U.S. coaliation allies do not publicly admit to civilians casualties.

The United States’ coalition partners in the war against the Islamic State are responsible for at least 80 confirmed civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. military officials. Yet none of their 12 allies will publicly concede any role in those casualties. These dozen partner nations have launched more than 4,000 airstrikes combined, the vast majority of which were undertaken by the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. However, they have so far claimed a perfect record in avoiding civilian casualties. An Airwars investigation for Foreign Policy has now uncovered evidence that disproves that assertion.

U.S. lost track of $1 billion worth of arms and equpiment in Iraq, which may have ended up in hands of IS.

I will try to post more regularly in the days ahead.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Update for Tuesday, May 9, 2017


When you're in a hole . . . U.S. military leaders will ask for an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. "The new military strategy would also give the Pentagon, not the White House, the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan. It would also give the military more authority to use airstrikes against the Taliban, and lift Obama-era restrictions that limited the mobility of US military advisers on the ground."

Paul Szoldra does not think this is a good idea.

Sending in 3,000 more troops, as the Trump administration is reportedly debating, will do little, especially when the 100,000 boots on the ground during Obama’s “surge” didn’t result in “winning.” . . .
The US military can train a complete civilian off the street and turn them into a highly-capable soldier or Marine over a period of about three months. But we still can’t claim Afghan security forces are a “strong, sustainable force” after training them for 15 years.


Heavy fighting reported near Kunduz city.




Monday, May 8, 2017

Update for Monday, May 8, 2017

A border skirmish between Pakistani and Afghan forces on Friday resulted in the death of 50 Afghan soldiers, according to the Pakistani military. Afghan sources deny that, saying there were only two military and one civilian death. The conflict erupted as Pakistan took a census in villages that are apparently in disputed territory.

The U.S. military says it has confirmed that Abdul Hasib, commander of IS in Afghanistan, was killed in the raid in Nangarhar in which two U.S. soldiers died. Hasib was successor to Hafiz Saeed Khan, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike last year. However, some commentators argue that killing senior leadership of the group has little effect.

A provincial official is assassinated in Kandarhar.

Taliban take control of a district in Kunduz, Afghan forces are counterattacking in an attempt to reclaim the territory.

Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar comes in from the cold and signs a peace accord with the government. The linked essay speculates that the U.S. viewed him as a potential asset and so refrained from droning him. He also has ties with the Pakistan ISI.

Iraq

It gets little attention, but many U.S. mercenaries are working for the Iraqi government.

Iraq's interior minister was once accused of providing weapons to Shiite militias attacking U.S. troops and involvement with the Iranian al Quds militia. He was imprisoned by the U.S. for nearly two years.

IS attacks a Kurdish base where U.S. advisers are stationed, but the attack is thwarted by peshmerga.

Civilians fleeing Mosul continue to tell horrific tales:

Iraqi officials say they hope to liberate the city completely within three weeks. But civilians fleeing on Friday report that the renewed push has been accompanied by mounting civilian deaths. "My uncle died yesterday," said Mrs Ibrahim. "His house collapsed in a strike." The housewife had fled her own home earlier that day with her husband and their two young children and new-born baby.

Life under Isil had grown increasingly difficult in recent months, she said, but it was only when soldiers approached that they deemed it safe enough to flee. When she gave birth at home two weeks ago, there was no doctor available to assist the delivery or prescribe medicine when her baby became ill. "Look, my baby's face is blue," she said.
The family hoped to receive medical care but no medics were immediately available at the muster point, which was being managed by the Iraqi army. Over 1500 civilians arrived at the site on Friday and there were chaotic scenes as soldiers distributed food from the back of trucks.

As civilians scrambled among rain-soaked cardboard boxes for cans of food and bottles of fruit drink, many reported it was their first food other than bread that they had eaten in weeks.

The slow advance into Mosul continues, with troops hoping to open more escape routes for civilians.

Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, of Falmouth, Maine, is killed in action in Somalia. (The SEALs are now officially called "special warfare operators.")

Monday, May 1, 2017

Update for Monday, May 1, 2017

U.S. soldier killed by IED near Mosul on Saturday is identified as army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi says the humanitarian situation in Mosul is catastrophic. He cites famine among the hundreds of thousands who remain in the city.

The Pentagon says U.S. air strikes have killed at least 352 civilians during Operation Inherent Resolve. Others say the total is much higher, by an order of magnitude.

Here's an analysis of the problem of civilian casualties from an AP reporter.

Iraqi army chief of staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi expects the battle for Mosul to be over before the end of May. However, we have heard some overly optimistic projections in the past.




Read more here: http://www.macon.com/news/local/article147764159.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Update for Thursday, April 27,2017

Two U.S. service members killed, 1 injured in Achin province, Afghanistan. This is the same area where the U.S. has been engaged with IS fighters, where the GBU-34 bomb was dropped earlier this month. Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar was killed in action in the same area April 8.

Update:  U.S. troops killed in action are identified as army rangers Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Illinois, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio — both assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, Georgia.  The operation was attempting to capture an IS-K leader. He was not captured but it is unknown whether he was killed.

The UN reports a 54% increase in war-related deaths of Afghan women in  the first quarter of this year compared with last year, and a 17% rise in child deaths. Most resulted from ground fighting. The majority are blamed on the Taliban but there has also been an increase in civilian casualties resulting from aerial operations. Nevertheless, the total number of civilian casualties has declined slightyl due to people fleeing areas of fighting.

Increasing numbers of children are suffering from malnutrition in Kandahar province.

The Afghan government has still not released a definitive casualty total from the April 21 attack  on the army base at Mazar-e-Sharif. Tolo News has reported that a total of 256 soldiers died, and the number may be higher. The defense minister and army chief of staff resigned  on Monday because of the incident. The Ministry of Defense has announced that "at least" 135 were killed but apparently this is not considered a credible total. Members of parliament call for the prosecution of responsible officials.

Authorities have detained 35 soldiers from the base under suspicion that they may have provided inside help to the attackers.