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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Update for Saturday, April 18, 2015

Suicide bombing in Jalalabad kills 35, injures more than 100. (The death toll is variously reported as 33, 34, or 35, a confusion which is reflected in the linked DPA report.) A former spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Shahidullah Shahid, now purporting to speak for the Islamic State, claims responsibility on behalf of that group, naming the bomber as one Abu Mohammed. The group calling itself IS in Afghanistan consists of a disenchanted faction of the Taliban. It is not clear whether they have any allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or have any material support from the organization in Iraq and Syria; nor that there are foreign fighters with allegiance to IS in Afghanistan in any substantial numbers. Nevertheless, the fragmentation of the Taliban and the rise of what are likely irreconcilable factions makes the prospects for peace more tenuous.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, intensified fighting in Anbar has left thousands of refugees from Ramadi stranded near Baghdad. The government has barred them from entering the city due to security concerns.

"Tens of thousands of displaced civilians have escaped from Ramadi in the past few days, but on arrival at Baghdad, they are denied entry unless they have a sponsor in the capital," Masrur Aswad, a member of the non-governmental group the Higher Commission for Human Rights, said. "Now the displaced are staying in the open air on the edges of Baghdad without having a shelter and basic needs," he said in a press statement.
Note that these refugees are Sunni Arabs who no doubt will continue to perceive the Shiite dominated government as failing to protect them or represent their interests.

Government forces have regained control of most of the Baiji oil refinery, which IS fighters overran earlier this week. Reinforcements are heading for Ramadi as well and the city is less imperiled than it was yesterday.

In Tikrit, recently re-captured by government forces and Shiite militias, a mass grave has been discovered containing the remains of some of the 1,700 Shiite soldiers massacred by IS when they seized the city last June.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Update for Thursday, April 16, 2015

Today, we are still in Iraq, where IS has launched an offensive in Anbar and captured 3 Ramadi villages. Government forces retain control of the city center, but a provincial council member has told the BBC that the insurgents are close to the government compound. Some 2,000 families hav fled toward Baghdad and are currently without shelter.

Ned Parker, Reuters Bureau Chief, was forced to flee Iraq after reporting on atrocities committed by Shiite militias in Tikrit. Parker was threatened on social media and television. He says that PM Abadi has defended him in a statement in English, but criticized reporting from Tikrit in Arabic. His original report is here. It describes the killing of a captured fighter, looting, and arson, by the Shiite forces.

Our friend Chet informs us that DoD has announced the death of an airman "supporting operation Inherent Resolve" in a non-combat incident at a base in "southwest Asia." That means the Middle East; the U.S. is discrete about its use of bases in Arab countries for operations in Afghanistan. the deceased is Tech. Sgt. Anthony E. Salazar, 40, of Hermosa Beach, California, 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron, 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group, U.S. Air Forces Central Command. The incident is under investigation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Update for Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Those of you who remember Today in Iraq will know that the Nisour Square massacre in 2007 preoccupied us for a long time. We never believed that there would be justice in the incident, but a federal judge has sentenced 4 of the perpetrators to what amounts to life in prison. They continue to maintain their innocence and insist that they acted in self defense, but the evidence is clear that nobody shot at them. The original investigation was botched, perhaps deliberately, and the Bush Justice Department tried to find reasons not to prosecute, but the trial finally happened.

The Bush Administration paid Blackwater something like $1 billion to provide mercenary services in Iraq. Why hire mercenaries instead of having the military do the job it exists to do? That's an interesting question. Unfortunately, this was only one of innumerable instances of mercenaries murdering Iraqis. But it happened to result in prosecution.

Meanwhile, PM Abadi is in Washington asking for money and weapons. The administration has indicated he'll likely get what he wants. Obama has already pleged $200 million in humanitarian aid.

But what as the result of the previous U.S. investment in the Iraqi military? It was completely squandered, as soldiers involved in the former round of training have discovered upon their return.

Colonel Schwemmer said he was stunned at the state in which he found the Iraqi soldiers when he arrived here. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?”
Apparently, not much. The current, woeful state of the Iraqi military raises the question not so much of whether the Americans left too soon, but whether a new round of deployments for training will have any more effect than the last.
Car bombs kill 20 people in and around Baghdad.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Update for Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's been a rough weekend. A Taliban attack in Jurm, Badakhshahn results in death, capture or injury to 33 ANA soldiers. Khaama doesn't clarify how many were killed but at least 14 were captured and of those, 4 are said to have been beheaded. MoD spokesman says 20 militants were also killed. TOLO says 20 ANA killed, which with 14 captured actually adds up to 34.

Five aid workers with Save the Children, captured in March, are found dead, their bodies riddled with bullets, in Uruzgan. They were apparently killed because their captors' demand for a prisoner exchange was rejected.

Bomb in Siagard, Parwan province injures 11 on Saturday.

100 schoolboys are sickened, apparently by tainted beans, in Herat. It is unclear if this was a deliberate act.

A police officer is killed and 2 are injured by an explosion in Kandahar city.

In another incident in the same city, 2 civilians are injured.

Three Taliban killed by a "foreign" drone in Kunar. (Gee, I wonder who those foreigners are?)

Scores of families are in debt peonage in Nangarhar.

Corruption in Ministry of Defense fuel contracts is said to exceed $200 million. Whistleblowers claim senior government officials are involved.

The UN says civilians are being killed at an increasing rate due to the intensification of ground combat. Overall, 655 civilians were killed and 1,155 injured in the first quarter of this year.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Update for Thursday, April 9, 2015

I held off yesterday because the shooting of a U.S. soldier by an ANA soldier was ubiquitously covered by the corporate media and I wanted to see if I could get any additional information. The Afghanistan Times does have a few scraps, which I have not seen reported elsewhere. The dead U.S. soldier has yet to be identified, but AT offers the following:

  • The attacker was a 2-year veteran of the ANA, who had been in combat several times and had a clean record.
  • His name is Abdul Azim, a native of Laghman province
  • In addition to the dead U.S. soldier, 7 U.S. soldiers were injured (I have not seen this reported elsewhere)
  • U.S. fire killed 2 ANA soldiers, one of whom may have been an innocent bystander (I have not seen this reported elsewhere either
  • Azim has not been linked to insurgents and his motive is unknown.
Taliban assault on a court compound in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, kills 10, including 4 prosecutors and 5 police, and injures more than 60. The 4 attackers are also killed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Amnesty International Report on Violence Against Women in Afghanistan

I thought this worth its own post.

Amnesty raises alarm over rising violence against female leaders and activists. Excerpt from al Jazeera:

Afghanistan is turning its back on women leaders and activists and leaving them vulnerable to violence, Amnesty International said Tuesday, urging the international community to stand up for women's rights.
Women politicians and rights campaigners have endured an escalating number of targeted car bombings, grenade attacks and killings of family members, the London-based rights group said in a report.
“Laws meant to support them are poorly implemented, if at all, while the international community is doing far too little to ease their plight,” the report said.
Most of the threats come from the Taliban and other armed opposition groups, but government officials and local warlords also commit abuses against women leaders and activists, the report added.