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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Update for Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015

I refrained from posting the claims earlier this week that the government had recaptured Musa Qala because I didn't believe it. Well, "Afghan forces are still battling for control of a symbolic district of southern Helmand province, the NATO forces commander told reporters, contradicting the defence ministry, after more than a week of intense fighting supported by U.S. air strikes." To be precise, that is 24 U.S. air strikes.

Meanwhile, a poison gas attack on a school in Herat sickens 134 girl students and their teachers in Herat city, one day after 200 were poisoned elsewhere in the province.

Seven police are killed and their weapons taken in southern Helmand province, apparently after having been rendered unconscious by a spiked drink. A similar tactic was used in August in Lashkargah.

Three police defect to the Taliban in Baghlan

For what it's worth, the Afghan MoD makes the usual claims of 100 Taliban killed or wounded vs. 8 ANA soldiers killed in the past 24 hours. Make of it what you will.

Xinhua gets specific, reporting 1 ANA soldier killed and 2 injured in Kunar province in an attempt to reopen the road between Asmar and Ghazi Abad district. The police chief's statement indicates that this has yet to be accomplished.

Vikram Sood comments on the bizarre unwillingness of the U.S. to distinguish between friend and foe  in its continuing pretense of alliance with Pakistan. Can't really summarize it all but here's a bit:

Pakistan’s Deep State finds its stock of terror assets depleted in the last few years. The first to go was Osama Bin Laden sheltered in Pakistan for 10 years while Pakistan pretended to ‘co-operate’ with the US in his hunt.. . Mullah Omar, nursed by the Pakistanis for two decades, died in a Karachi hospital on April 23, 2013 but this too was disclosed in July this year. . . .

The acknowledgement that Mullah Omar was irrevocably dead and the postponement of the next round of Pakistan-owned talks were followed by what was obviously Pak-inspired terrorism in Kabul. The Haqqani group unleashed a string of attacks in early August and President Ghani's ten-month old peace overture to Pakistan died a quick death as he angrily accused Pakistan of fomenting terror. 

It is difficult to accept that the Americans were blissfully ignorant about Mullah Omar's death unless there was a failure of both intelligence and imagination. This was a failure to imagine that, having once hidden the truth from them about Osama bin Laden, Pakistan would repeat this subterfuge. It was a failure to accept that Pakistan would not change its policy on Afghanistan (or any other delinquency) and invite only some gentle rebukes. This reflects a consistent American unwillingness to distinguish between friend and foe. 
Couldn't have said it better myself.
akistan’s Deep State finds its stock of terror assets depleted in the last few years. The first to go was Osama Bin Laden sheltered in Pakistan for 10 years while Pakistan pretended to ‘co-operate’ with the US in his hunt. - See more at:
Pakistan’s Deep State finds its stock of terror assets depleted in the last few years. The first to go was Osama Bin Laden sheltered in Pakistan for 10 years while Pakistan pretended to ‘co-operate’ with the US in his hunt. - See more at:

Pakistan’s Deep State finds its stock of terror assets depleted in the last few years. The first to go was Osama Bin Laden sheltered in Pakistan for 10 years while Pakistan pretended to ‘co-operate’ with the US in his hunt. - See more at:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Update for Saturday, August 29, 2015

I'm just going to focus on one issue today, but it's an important one. Former Afghan secret service chief Amrullah Saleh tells Der Spiegel that the Taliban insurgency is sponsored by Pakistan. Straight up. Here's an excerpt:

The Taliban have a reputation for brutality and mercilessness to defend. Their new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor wants to prove that he can maintain these capabilities. All the major attacks require enormous military and financial resources. They are planned and executed with the aid of ISI, Pakistan's secret service. The aim of the attacks is to establish Mansoor as the new strong man. The violence is intended to show that the Taliban brand still exists, and the message as the same as before -- that the Taliban is united and powerful. . . .

The Taliban can only continue to fight in this way with help from the ISI [Pakistani equivalent of the CIA]. Mansoor will now be provided with the necessary resources in order to solidify his authority and keep opponents within his own ranks in check.
Meanwhile, there's this:

US President Barack Obama has proposed over $1 billion in civilian and military aid to "strategically important" Pakistan for fighting terror, economic development, safety of nuclear installations and improving ties with India among other objectives.

The budgetary proposals released by the state department after Obama sent them to the Congress show a more than six- fold increase in the foreign military financing (FMF) to Pakistan from $42.2 million in 2014 to $265 million in 2016.

I'll retire to bedlam.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Update for Thursday, August 27, 2015

U.S. personnel killed in yesterday's attack by an Afghan army officer are identified as Air Force special operations troops Capt. Matthew D. Roland of Lexington, Kentucky, and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley of Pensacola, Florida. Roland was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, and Sibley was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron based at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina.

The latest version of the incident differs from yesterday's report  in that there was apparently only one attacker, who was injured but not killed by return fire; and that a second Afghan soldier was also injured by return fire. If and when more details come in, you will read it here.

Meanwhile, the death toll of Afghan forces in Musa Kala is now up to 35.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Upate for Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NATO says that two men wearing Afghan army uniforms opened fire on a NATO vehicle, killing two "foreign troops" in Helmand province, and were in turn shot dead by return fire. While NATO has not confirmed further details, the AP, citing various sources, says that the dead foreign troops were U.S. soldiers; that the incident took place in Shorab military base, formerly the UK's Camp Bastion; and that the violence resulted from an argument, suggesting it was not the result of insurgent infiltration. We will provide more information as available.

We noted on Sunday the imminent fall of Musa Kala in Helmand, which has now occurred, with 25 Afghan troops dead and 40 wounded as the Taliban seize control. Haji Karim Atal, the provincial council head, says that security forces have abandoned the district, with civil service personnel and wounded officers sheltered in a "dangerous area." The capital Lashkargah is now threatened.

In Faryab, the Taliban are using schools and hospitals as military bases, preventing children from going to school, according to provincial police. A TOLO reporter who visited a village in Faryab says the Taliban are extracting taxes from the population.

Radio Free Afghanistan (which is a U.S. funded operation, but appears to be playing it straight here) discusses the capture of Musa Kala noting that it is in a major opium growing region, and that the Taliban have also captured the neighboring districts of Nawzad and Baghran. Their success comes despite U.S. airstrikes that killed about 40 fighters.  A local politician says the Taliban enjoy popular support in the area due to the lack of government development projects. More than 400 British troops died in the area before the NATO withdrawal from combat operations. The Telegraph reports that 20 of them died specifically in Musa Kala.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Update for Sunday, August 23, 2015

Car bomb attack on a vehicle carrying mercenaries kills 12 people including 3 Americans working for DynCorp. Sixty-seven people are said to have been injured by the powerful explosion. The attack occurred near a private hospital in Kabul. A local television station identifies one of the dead Americans  as Barry Sutton, a former Floyd County, Georgia Deputy and SWAT Team member.

This was one of several attacks including a bombing that injured 4 Afghan soldiers elsewhere in Kabul, and a bombing that injured 3 Afghan National Civil Order Police in Nangahar.

Bodies of 3 border police abducted last week are found in Ghazni.

A school principal is murdered in Parwan, north of the capital, the second such incident in a week.

Four Pakistani soldiers are killed near the Afghan border by a rocket which the Pakistanis say came from Afghanistan.

Afghan special forces evacuate 60 villagers from a besieged district of Uruzgan. While the army, and Khamaa, portray this as an accomplishment it is of course the abandonment of territory to the insurgency. Meanwhile, the governor of Musa Qala in Helmand says the Taliban are closing in on the center of the district and pleads for reinforcements. A politician says that 45 Afghan soldiers were killed and 20 surrendered in an attack on a security post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Update for Wednesday, August 19, 2015

While I haven't been posting a day-to-day chronicle of events, today's 96th anniversary of Afghan independence from Britain is an occasion to step back and look at the big picture. It is not good.

The UN reports that the first half of 2015 has seen record civilian casualties with conflict spreading to wider areas and more than 100,000 additional people displaced this year alone.

Clashes between the Taliban and other armed opposition groups are becoming more frequent, and the fragmentation of these groups only means that both the complexity and geographic extent of the conflict will continue to worsen. Having received only 195 million dollars, or 48 percent of its 406 million-dollar funding requirement as of July, the U.N.’s humanitarian response plan is faltering. . .

U.N. officials say they need at least 89 million dollars to adequately meet the needs of refugees, but so far only 22.5 million dollars have been pledged.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces do not trust their Afghan counterparts and keep largely separate from the units they are supposed to be training and advising:

For seven months after the formal end of the NATO combat operation in Afghanistan, US forces have guided their counterparts from the sidelines with a mixture of pride, bewilderment - and suspicion.

The latter is clearly evident in the layout of this temporary base in Nangarhar province, where a snaking barbed-wire fence separates the armies of the two nations.  For "Operation Iron Triangle" which concluded on Saturday, US forces kept very much to themselves - with a squad of guard dogs and a 7.62 Caliber machine-gun at the entry point reinforcing a simple message to Afghan forces: do not enter.

[Spec.] Whitten chews his tobacco and spits. "Sometimes they shoot in the air, we don't really know what for," he says, in a sign of the mistrust that permeates US forces after years of "insider attacks", including the killing of General Harold Greene by a radicalised Afghan soldier a year ago.
Vanessa Gezari tells the tale of the utter failure of a ridiculous army social science program called the Human Terrain System.  I won't even try to summarize this, read it for laughs.

Serious tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues as Pakistani shelling kills 8 Afghan police.

Afghan forces abandon Naw Zad district in Helmand province.

And, in a particularly ominous development, former warlord Rashid Dostum, who joined the central government as a Vice President, has given up relying on the government for security in his territory of Jowzjan and raised his own army

Back in his home province of Jowzjan, Mr. Dostum turned his pink palace into a command center and announced that he was coordinating the war efforts there and in the neighboring provinces of Faryab and Sar-i-Pul. Local officials and militia commanders, many of them with fully armed forces despite a costly disarmament campaign, began rallying to his call.

Mr. Dostum’s actions have been publicized here as the bravery of a battle-hardened general. But in what is supposed to be a year that tests the ability of the Afghan security forces to fend off enemy threats on their own, his moves have also raised a serious question: Amid a territory-gobbling insurgent offensive, will the strongmen and former warlords prominent in the Afghan government honor the national security system, or will they remobilize militias that in the 1990s caused the chaos that gave rise to the Taliban in the first place?
So, what does the U.S. get for its blood and treasure? John Quiggin has the answer:

let’s look at the opportunity cost of maintaining a single additional combat soldier in Afghanistan. The direct cost has been estimated at $2.1 million per soldier per year. Indirect support costs (for example, the Pentagon bureaucracy) and the need to provide for future medical care would greatly increase this.
We could look at the opportunity cost in terms of alternative ways of providing aid to Afghanistan. The US development agency USAid provides around $70 million a year in educational and social services aid to Afghanistan, a sum which is claimed to enable one million additional children to enrol in school, among other benefits. Obviously there is plenty of room for more expenditure of this kind, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. So, the opportunity cost of keeping 35 soldiers in the field is school education for a million young people. . . .

Monday, August 10, 2015

Update for Monday, August 10, 2015

In an address to the nation, President Ghani blames Pakistan for harboring the insurgency and says that the recent attacks in Kabul are a "game changer." He says that Pakistan cannot simultaneously broker peace talks while harboring the Afghan Taliban and that relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have come to a critical point.

Ghani said that at the time Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif said the enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan – "now the time has come for him to prove it", he said.
"We have earned the support of the region in our stance against insurgents and the peace process. We are not vanishing, we are integrating," he said.
He said Pakistan has to bring the Taliban to the talks tables and secondly stop harboring the insurgents – this includes barring them access to hospitals and other necessary services, he added.
He said Pakistan needs to have the same policy definition in regard to terrorism for Afghanistan, as it has for itself. . . .
He said that Pakistan's decisions in the upcoming weeks will have a direct impact on Afghanistan's relations with them

[Obviously, Afghanistan is in no position to confront Pakistan militarily. It is not clear what Ghani can do about the situation but it seems to me the international community has been putting up with Pakistan's jive for to long. -- C]