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

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