Sunday, October 15, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - October 15, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Commentary on Afghanistan


Kicking the Taliban Out of Qatar? Some believe that the move by President Trump to have the Taliban 'diplomatic office' closed down would be a mistake. A few 'experts' on Afghanistan have collaborated on an opinion piece that advances the argument that the conflict will end only through a negotiated settlement among the United States, the Afghan government, and the Taliban. Read "Expelling the Taliban From Qatar Would be a Grave Mistake", Foreign Policy, October 6, 2017.

Why Soviets Failed in Afghanistan. A Canadian military officer provides his thoughts in a short article on why the Soviets could not win the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan. He contributes the failed COIN campaign to two major factors - the political situation in the Soviet Union and the failure of the Soviets to recognize the objection of Afghans to a communist regime. He believes that the U.S. support to the Afghan resistance was not as great a factor as some believe. Read "Did Reagan Defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan?", Small Wars Journal, October 14,2017.

RS Mission in Afghanistan. A researcher, Rajat Ahlawat of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), outlines the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan - providing info on the organizations, missions, and objectives. Read "The Future of US Troops in Afghanistan: Assessing Potential Roles - Analysis", Eurasia Review, October 10, 2017.


Afghan Governance News




Upcoming Afghan Elections. The parliamentary elections are coming up soon. Afghanistan is facing some significant technical problems coupled with political wrangling. These elections will be followed by Presidential elections one year later. See "Afghanistan election plans face political, technical test", EuroNews, October 10, 2017.

Karzai Speaks Out. Former President Karzai held a press conference where he criticized the United States for the role it plays in Afghanistan. He also called for an immediate loya jirga, talks with Pakistan, and talks with the Taliban. See "Karzai Calls for Urgent Loya Jirga"Tolo News, October 12, 2017.



Security News on Afghanistan


War now 16 Years Old. On Saturday, October 7th the war in Afghanistan turned 16 years old. For the Afghans the war is much older.

"Taliban Can't Win". The commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, says that things are now improving on the battlefield with the new South Asia strategy of the Trump administration. See "The Taliban Can't Win, Says Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan", National Public Radio, October 13, 2017.

UH-60s Replacing Mi-17s. Read a news release by the U.S. Air Force on the recent transfer of the first of 159 Blackhawks to the Afghan Air Force. (Air Force, 10 Oct 2017).

Mattis on Pakistsan - 'One Last Time'. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis says that the U.S. will give it one more try. He says that Pakistan needs to stop its support of the Taliban See "One Last Time: The United States and Afghanistan-Pakistan Cooperation", The Diplomat, October 12, 2017.

Pressure on Pakistan. There are some hopeful signs that the Trump admin's change in position toward a 'supposed' ally in the fight against terrorism will reap some benefits. Some observers are looking at possible shifts in Pakistan's support of insurgent groups fighting the Afghan regime. But it may be too early to see if it will change things on the battlefield. Read "Some See Trump Pressure Tilting Pakistan's Afghan Policy", Voice of America, October 13, 2017.

1 BCT, 10th Mtn Advisors Train Up. Members of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division recently attended the Military Advisor Training Academy. The school is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and was recently established to provide advisory training to those heading out to advisor assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. (DVIDS, Oct 10, 2017).


Videos about Afghanistan


Testimony Before Senate about Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and General Joe Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Afghanistan on October 3, 2017. The video is 1 1/2 hours long.
www.dvidshub.net/video/555471/mattis-dunford-testify-before-senate-armed-services-committee-part-1

Afghan Air Force Black Hawk Ceremony, DVIDS, October 9, 2017. Resolute Support HQs and the Afghan government staged a ceremony celebrating the transfer of the first of 159 UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). (1-min long).
www.dvidshub.net/video/556924/afghan-air-force-black-hawk-ceremony


Afghan War News Snippets



Training for Senior Military Advisors. The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI) has seen a host of advisors come and go over the past decade and half. Some of these advisors have been effective while others have been found wanting. The effectiveness of an advisor at the MoD or MoI is determined by a host of factors - personality, education, experience, age, background, selection for the position, and advisor training. The Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute has published a tract that looks into the senior leader advisor attributes necessary to be successful. Read "Training for Senior Leaders Going into an Advisory Role - Is there a Training and Education Gap?", Peace Stability Journal, Volume 7, Issue 2, October 2017, pages 22-25.

40 Years of Photography. See some photos of Afghanistan by Steve McCurry in "See the Beauty and Brutality of Life in Afghanistan", Vice.com, October 10, 2017.

Visual Anthology of War. More than a decade and a half of war in Afghanistan is reflected in a series of photographs. See "The War in Afghanistan: A Visual Anthology", Stratfor, October 8, 2017.

New Deputy Cdr for RS. Lieutenant General Richard Cripwell is the designated Deputy Commander of the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

ICRC Cutting Back Opns. The International Committee of the Red Cross has cited security concerns as the reason to cut back on its personnel and activities in Afghanistan. (VOA, Oct 9, 2017).


Stay Abreast of Happenings in Afghanistan

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Expansion of Afghan Special Operations Forces



Four-Year Plan and SOF. The Afghan government and its security ministries have developed a four-year plan for upgrading and professionalizing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). A big part of this four-year plan is the expansion of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF). The ASSF is comprised of special operations units and organizations within the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI). For the most part, these special operations force (SOF) units have borne the brunt of the fighting in Afghanistan. Reports by the U.S. military and others indicate that between 70 to 80% of the offensive operations are carried out by Afghan SOF units.

Inability of ANDSF to Hold. The conventional Afghan National Army (ANA) is somewhat limited in its ability (or is it willingness?) to carry out offensive operations. While the Afghan Army is fully equipped and manned (there is the ghost soldier problem) it does not do very well in offensive operations. The ANA doesn't seem to be able to 'hold' territory very well either. In addition, the Afghan police, serving the role of community police and as a paramilitary force, doesn't do 'hold' very well.

Mowing the Grass? So it seems that the cycle of operations in Afghanistan is that the Taliban will take an area, region, or district and hold it for a few days or weeks (sometimes months). In time, the ASSF (usually ANA Commandos) will move and and sweep the Taliban out. The Afghan regular Army troops and Afghan police will enter the scene to 'hold' the area or district. Then the cycle repeats itself.

ASSF the Only Effective Fighting Force. So, the ASSF seems to be the only effective fighting force within the ANDSF. And there's the rub. The ASSF have now become less special operations focused and more highly effective elite light infantry or 'shock troops'. And the ASSF has been overused and are conducting the wrong type of missions.

Doubling the Size of ASSF. The Afghan government and Coalition answer to this vexing problem is to create more Afghan special operations forces. While this might make sense to some it is a troubling path to take. The real problem is that the regular Afghan Army units are not performing their mission. The primary reason for the non-performance is the lack of good ANA leadership. There are other causes as well.

More on this Topic. Franz J. Marty, an independent correspondent based in Kabul, has penned an extensive article on the expansion of SOF units. He points out that the focus on re-capturing lost territory rather than attempting to 'hold' territory may be the wrong answer. Read his very detailed and well-documented piece below posted on the Afghan Analysts Network (AAN) on October 2, 2017.

Expanding Afghanistan's Special Operations Forces: Doubling their success or further diluting their mission?



Commentary on Afghanistan


Kicking the Taliban Out of Qatar? Some believe that the move by President Trump to have the Taliban 'diplomatic office' closed down would be a mistake. A few 'experts' on Afghanistan have collaborated on an opinion piece that advances the argument that the conflict will end only through a negotiated settlement among the United States, the Afghan government, and the Taliban. Read "Expelling the Taliban From Qatar Would be a Grave Mistake", Foreign Policy, October 6, 2017.

The Invisible War. Michael Kugelman writes on the likely course of events in Afghanistan in "America's inevitable war is now an invisible one", CNN, October 6, 2017.

"Soft Power Strategy Needed?" Daniel Runde has penned an opinion piece that proposes a combined a combined security surge with economic assistance, better governance, more regional integration, and increased diplomacy. See "The New U.S. Commitment to Afghanistan Needs a Soft Power Strategy", Forbes.com, October 6, 2017.

The War will Grind On. One analyst sees that not much will change over the next few years. Read "Sixteen Years and Counting: The Afghan War Grinds On", Stratfor, October 7, 2017.

Kabul Security Posing Problems for NUG. A close look at the security situation in the city suggests that the present state-of-affairs has the potential to pose bigger problems for the National Unity Government (NUG). The Afghan govt has responded to the uptick in attacks in the capital city with a new security plan ("green zone") but this may end up being counter-productive. Read "Kabul Security: The NUG's Achilles Heel?", Eurasia Review, October 6, 2017.


Afghan Governance




"Worst Job on Earth". Evidently President has had better gigs. He recently said that being President of Afghanistan is not so much fun. He made the statement during a BBC interview. The comment did not pass without lots of criticism from political opponents.



Afghan Security News


War now 16 Years Old. On Saturday, October 7th the war in Afghanistan turned 16 years old. For the Afghans the war is much older.

AAF 'Friendly Fire' Incident. A airstrike by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in Gereshk district, Helmand province on Sunday, October 1st killed approximately ten members of the ANDSF. Several others were wounded. The Afghan government (and U.S. military) has been pinning hopes on the expansion of the Afghan Air Force . . . believing an increase in close air support capability will go a long way to defeat the insurgents. However, many times the use of air power in a counterinsurgency environment can be troublesome. (Reuters, Oct 1, 2017).

Aussies In for the Long Haul. The Australian military has a train, advise, and assist mission in Afghanistan generally in the Kabul area. See "Australia's commitment in Afghanistan to last decades", SBS.com, October 5, 2017.

OCC-R in Helmand Tracks the Battlefield. The Marines with Task Force Southwest are helping the ANDSF utilize their  Operational Coordination Center - Regional at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan more accurately and efficiently. Read "A Clear Picture: U.S. Marines and ANDSF continue to enhance battle tracking capabilities", DVIDS, October 4, 2017.

3rd ID Sustainment Bde to Afg. The Fort Stewart-based Sustainment Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division is heading to Afghanistan. The brigade, nick-named "The Providers", will keep other units supplied with essentials like food, ammo, and repair parts for vehicles. The deployment is expected to last 9 months and will be headquartered at Bagram Air Field. (Savanah Now, Oct 5, 2017).

1,000 More NATO Troops. News reports say that the U.S. Department of Defense is looking for NATO to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan to augment the 3-4K the U.S. is sending. The increase of U.S. troops is expected to cost over 1 Billion per year. Hmmmm. I wonder how far that would go if we just handed over the money to the Afghans? Oh, that's right. The corruption thing.

Pakistan Artillery Fire Landing in Nangarhar. The Afghan government is protesting the firing of artillery rounds over the border in recent days.

Downed U.S. Aircraft? Nope, Didn't Happen. The Taliban issued a statement saying that they had shot down an aircraft in Parwan province. Resolute Support HQs was quick to deny the report.

Blackhawk Helicopter Ceremony. The U.S. and Afghan government held a ceremony in Kandahar to celebrate the passing of a couple of UH-60s from U.S. to Afghan Air Force (AAF) control. The outfitting of the UH-60s to the AAF is being heralded as a 'big deal'. No word on how the AAF will maintain the very complex and expensive helicopters. Nor is there any real discussion on how air support will really help change the tactical situation on the ground. Presumably the Afghan Army and police will improve their performance because some expensive helicopters are overhead. I guess time will tell  . . . in about four to ten years?

R4&S. A new acronym has emerged from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that possibly spells out the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained what R4&S means during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 3, 2017. Read "R4&S - A New DoD Acronym for the Afghanistan Conflict", SOF News, October 3, 2017.


Videos about Afghanistan


Testimony Before Senate about Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and General Joe Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the situation in Afghanistan on October 3, 2017. The video is 1 1/2 hours long.
www.dvidshub.net/video/555471/mattis-dunford-testify-before-senate-armed-services-committee-part-1


Afghan War News Snippets


Book Review - Our Latest Longest War. A collection of authors write on a range of topics about the Afghan conflict - training the ANDSF, Rule of Law, Village Stability Operations, cultural friction points with the Afghans, development, governance, and more. Read the book review by Will Selber (an Afghan Hand) about Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, edited by Aaron B. O'Connell, 2017.
https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2017/9/4/reviewing-our-longest-war

Beau Bergdahl to Plead Guilty. The long-running saga of the U.S. Soldier held captive by insurgents for over five years may be coming to a close. See "Bowe Bergdahl Expected to Plead Guilty in Desertion Case and Avoid Trial", Time.com, October 6, 2017.

Possible Release of Taliban Detainees in the Future? The Afghan government is working out a deal to exchange and release prisoners in an attempt to help out in future peace negotiations. See "To Cultivate Taliban's Trust, Afghanistan Working on Releasing Prisoners", Gandhara Blog, October 6, 2017.

Poverty Increase. Poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan rose in the three years following the start of international troops withdrawing in 2011 due to a sharp fall in growth and rise in insecurity. See a report by The World Bank, May 8, 2017.


Keep Up to Date on the Afghan Conflict

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - October 1, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Return from an Extended Vacation

The planned 3-week vacation for the writing staff of the Afghan War Blog was extended a bit. In addition to the time off; various short-term work projects presented themselves during the month of September. However, we are now back on track and will resume the weekly newsletter.


Afghan Territorial Army

Members of the 8th Special Operations Kandak provide
training to a contingent of the Afghan Local Police (ALP).

Another Militia? It appears that the U.S. and Afghan military may be considering the establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army. The proposed force of 20,000 would be under the control of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and would be an army version of the Afghan Local Police (ALP). The purpose of the force is to provide security to isolated communities that are threatened by insurgents.

Read more:

"More Militias? Deja vu double plus with the proposed 'Afghan Territorial Army'", by Kate Clark, Afghan Analysts Network, September 21, 2017.

"More Militias? Part 2: The Proposed Afghan Territorial Army in the Fight Against ISKP", by Kate Clark and Borhan Osman, September 23, 2017.

"U.S. Plan for New Afghan Force Revives Fears of Militia Abuses", by Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, September 15, 2017.


SIGAR Report - Reconstructing the ANDSF


A recent SIGAR report provides lessons learned about the train, advise, and assist mission for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The 283-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, published in September 2017, examines how the U.S. government (DoD, DoS, Justice Department) developed and executed security sector assistance programs for the Afghan security forces and institutions. A number of lessons learned are identified and recommendations are offered for improved performance in efforts to assist the ANDSF as well as other security sector assistance programs in future operations around the world.

The analysis by SIGAR finds that the U.S. government was not prepared to assist the Afghan army and police forces adequately. The U.S. lacked a comprehensive approach to security sector assistance and lacked a whole-of-government approach to develop a capable and self-sustaining Afghan security force. Read Reconstructing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan, SIGAR, September 2017.

www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-17-62-LL.pdf

The report is also available as an interactive online resource
https://sigar.mil/interactive-reports/reconstructing-the-andsf/index.html


Commentary


Trump's Afghanistan Strategy is Problematic. Sahar Khan, a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute's Defense and Foreign Policy Department, believes that President Trump's new Afghan strategy has three fundamental faults that will worsen the conflict. Read "Three Problems with Trump's Afghanistan Strategy", CATO at Liberty, September 13, 2017.

Civil War or Counterinsurgency? One writer, Kevin Laiveling of The Stimson Center's South Asia program, advances the notion that Afghanistan is not conducting a counterinsurgency; that it is instead engaged in a civil war. An interesting way of looking at the 16-year long conflict that could have an impact on the strategic approach to take by the government of Afghanistan (and its international supporters) on how to resolve the conflict. Read "Afghanistan: A Civil War State of Mind", The Diplomat, September 20, 2017.

Iranian Interests in Afghanistan. Iran has played the U.S. well in Afghanistan. The U.S. support of the Afghan government provides an acceptable level of security along the Iranian - Afghan border. The U.S. has not done much to negate Iranian influence and interaction with the Hazara Shiite minority inside Afghanistan. The western area of Afghanistan - in particular the large city of Herat - sees very little interference in Iranian activities by the U.S., Germans, and Italians. However, Iran is concerned with the amount of Afghan refugees that cross the border and the drug trade poses difficulties as well. In addition, it is worried about the future security situation in Afghanistan - one reason why it is hedging its bets by supporting Taliban groups in western Afghanistan. Read more in an interview of Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in "Afghan Opium Trade Sticks a Thorn in Iran's Side", The Cipher Brief, September 27, 2017.

Water Wars. John Nixon, a former senior leadership analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency provides his thoughts on where the Iranian Afghanistan relationship will turn sour. Iran's water crisis and partial dependency on Afghan rivers flowing across the border is the source of tension between the two nations. Read his column in The Cipher Brief, September 2017.


Security News - Afghanistan



Romanian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan. On September 15, 2017 a Romanian Soldier was killed in a suicide attack in Kandahar. Two other Romanian Soldiers were wounded in the attack when the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was targeted at their patrol.

Air Mobility and the CH-47 in Afghanistan. The Chinook helicopter has been a solid performer over the past decade and a half in the Afghan conflict. The helicopters have moved troops, heavy weapons, supplies, and cargo to remote mountain regions. Read more in "Chinooks Over Afghanistan: The Unsung Workhorse of America's Never Ending War", The Warzone, September 21, 2017.

How's That Strategic Security Plan for Afghanistan Working? Tom Bowman, a correspondent for National Public Radio, is interviewed on the security situation in Afghanistan. (NPR, Sep 26, 2017).

Kabul Security Plan. The Green Zone will soon expand. In years past I used to be able to walk (alone and unafraid) from the ISAF compound, enter Massoud circle (roundabout), and go to the New Kabul Compound (NKC). Then on a subsequent tour I had to go via vehicle (no foot movement), and in recent years I needed to take a chopper ride to go that short distance. That is how bad the security situation in Kabul has become (or how much more strict our force protection measures have increased). Now it appears there is a plan that will fix the problem - but probably at the expense of the residents of Kabul that will have to live with increased security measures. See "U.S. Expands Kabul Security Zone, Digging in for Next Decade", The New York Times, September 16, 2017.

And this . . .

'Green Belt' Security Plan. The folks at Afghanistan Analysts Network provide us details of the new security plan for Kabul. It should improve security for government institutions and international organizations. (AAN, Sep 25, 2017).

Kabul Airport Attack. Militants attack the Kabul airport the same day that SECDEF Mattis was visiting Afghanistan. It appears that it was a rocket attack. Some news reports indicate the Taliban and ISIS have both claimed credit for the attack.

MD-530F "Little Birds" - Success Story? According to one news report the little helicopter used by USSOCOM is working out very well for the Afghan Air Force. See "Warplanes: Little Bird Flocks to Afghanistan", Strategy Page, September 30, 2017.

CIA, Afghanistan, and . . . drones. One former worker in the 'drone industry' is speaking out against granting the CIA authority to conduct drone attacks within the borders of Afghanistan. "Ex-Drone Warrior: Don't Give the CIA Authority to Deploy Killer Robots in Afghanistan", (got to love the headline), The Daily Beast, September 28, 2017.

Aussies at ANAOA. The Afghan National Army Officer Academy is fortunate to have many able mentors and advisors helping the Afghan instructors perform their duties. Read more in a news report by SBS News, Sep 29, 2017.

U.S. Forces in Remote Areas. The United States has some of its forces advising (and fighting) at the tactical level. At times they are in remote areas at the very tail end of the logistical chain and require resupply. See "US steps up Afghan fight with airdrops to troops in Nangarhar", The Sunday Times, September 28, 2017.

DoD Report on CSTC-A Oversight of Afghan Ammo Usage. The DoD Inspector General has issued a 32-page report faulting the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan for its oversight of where over $700 million in ammunition has gone in 2015-2016. Read the DoD IG report dated September 22, 2017.

More F-16s to Afghanistan. The U.S. Air Force is increasing the number of F-16 Fighting Falcons in Afghanistan in order to provide more air support to U.S. and Afghan military forces fighting insurgents. (Military.com, Sep 19, 2017).

6,000 Plus More HMMWVs to Afghanistan. The U.S. DoD has approved a big contract that provides thousands of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles to the Afghan security forces.

UH-60 Black Hawks. The U.S. has decided to replace the Afghan Air Force's Mi-17 utility helicopters with the Sirkorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter. The Mi-17 is currently used (has been for decades) by the Afghan Air Force and is ideally-suited for the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. The UH-60 is not the preferred chopper for the AAF but political considerations drove the U.S. to the UH-60 option.

Abducted Finnish Woman Released. A Finnish aid worker who was kidnapped in Afghanistan has been released. A Swedish organization, Operation Mercy, that employed the woman has provided little details of the abduction and the release. She was taken captive on May 20th. (ABC News, Sep 14, 2017).


Governance News - Afghanistan




Decentralization Needed. A recent article proposes that a ". . . centralized political system in Afghanistan only intensifies the competition for power and increases the cost of holding the country together." The Obama administration tried to use the Afghan presidential elections of 2014 to re-enforce political legitimacy of the central government . . . however, the National Unity Government has been a failure thus far. Read "In Order for Afghanistan to Succeed, America Must Let it Decentralize", The National Interest, September 7, 2017.

Ghani - Trump Meeting. President Ghani recently made a trip to the United States where he met with President Trump and addressed the United Nations. The White House issued a statement on the meeting. Seems its all about rare earth minerals! Read the 'readout' of the meeting (White House, Sep 22, 2017). One of the topics discussed during the meeting was the closure of the Taliban's diplomatic mission that is maintained in Qatar. See "Trump pushing Afghan president to close Taliban office in Qatar", The Guardian, September 26, 2017.


Videos about Afghanistan


EAPs Prove Vital to ANDSF Success in Helmand, DVIDS, September 21, 2017.
An Expeditionary Advisory Package (EAP) is a purpose-built team organized to provide training, advise, and assistance to elements of the Afghan Army and Police below corps or zone level. The EAP provides the opportunity to advisors to train and assist Afghan forces at the brigade and kandak level. The push of advisors to lower levels of the Afghan security forces is part of the new South Asia strategy. www.dvidshub.net/video/553001/eaps-prove-vital-andsf-success-helmand

In the Warlords' Shadow: Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan, New America, September 7, 2017. A book author talks about the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs that reflected a 'bottom-up' strategy to provide security at the local community level. Daniel Green provides a first-hand account of how this initiative functioned in practice.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jml53biWOHQ

The Non-Military Components of the United States Strategy in Afghanistan, Center for Strategic & International Studies, September 8, 2017. A panel discussion that explores the importance of a whole-of-government approach to the new strategy for Afghanistan. (1 1/2 hours long).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9PSTwdPOLg


News Snippets


Book Review - Our Latest Longest War. A collection of authors write on a range of topics about the Afghan conflict - training the ANDSF, Rule of Law, Village Stability Operations, cultural friction points with the Afghans, development, governance, and more. Read the book review by Will Selber (an Afghan Hand) about Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, edited by Aaron B. O'Connell, 2017.
https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2017/9/4/reviewing-our-longest-war

Government Revenue Increases. Afghan govt revenues grew by 13 % during the first 8 months of 2017 when compared to a similar period in 2016. That is good news for Afghanistan's economy. Read more in a report by Afghanistan Analysts Network, September 27, 2017.

India's Future Role in Afghanistan. SECDEF Mattis recently met with Indian officials. India states that it will continue to provide assistance for development projects in Afghanistan but will not put 'boots on the ground'.

Story on Afghan Captain Seeking Asylum. An Afghan Army Captain who was training in the United States tried to defect to Canada. He was apprehended and is now in detention facing deportation. However, his legal team has managed to keep him in the United States through a system of costly appeals (costly to the U.S. government and taxpayers) for the past three years. He is now seeking asylum. Read "The Fight of His Life", Esquire, August 16, 2017.


Sign Up for Our Weekly Newsletter!

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - August 6, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Two U.S. Military Members Killed in Kandahar on Wednesday

A Vehicle-Borne-Improvised-Explosive-Device (VBIED) exploded as a U.S. convoy passed by. The event took place on a road near the Kangahar Air Field (KAF). Two U.S. service members from the 82nd Airborne Division were killed in the suicide bombing. The incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon. Their deaths bring to 9 the number of U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan this year. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Read news account of the bombing incident below.

"Two Americans killed in vehicle-bombing of NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan", Stars and Stripes, August 2, 2017.

"DoD Identifies Army Casualties", Department of Defense, August 3, 2017.


RS Casualties - One KIA & Six Wounded Thursday Night in Kabul



One KIA & Six Wounded Thursday Night in Kabul. One Resolute Support Soldier was killed and six others were injured by a suicide bomber on Thursday evening in the Qarabagh district, Kabul province. The patrol was conducting a partnered mission with the Afghan National Army when a personnel-borne IED detonated. All of the wounded were reported to be in stable condition.

One Soldier from Georgia was killed and three Georgian Soldiers were wounded. Two U.S. Soldiers were also wounded. One of the wounded was an interpreter. Two Afghan civilians were killed and seven wounded. There are over 900 Georgian Soldiers in Afghanistan - the country is the largest non-NATO contributor to the RS mission.

(Resolute Support News Release, August 4, 2017).


SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress



The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued its Quarterly Report to Congress. The report covers the period of April through June 2017. The 272-page report covers reconstruction, oversight issues, governance, security, and more.

"SIGAR Quarterly Report July 2017", SOF News, August 1, 2017.
www.sof.news/afghanistan/sigar-quarterly-report-july-2017/

"Wow, Afghanistan Is Getting a Lot Worse", War is Boring, August 2, 2017.
https://warisboring.com/wow-afghanistan-is-getting-a-lot-worse/

"Here's Exactly How Much the US Has Spent on the War in Afghanistan - So Far", Task and Purpose, August 1, 2017.


Resolute Support Advisors at Work in Afghanistan



RS HQs and Social Media. Read the story on how one Public Affairs Officer (PAO) assigned to Resolute Support HQs in Kabul spent her time on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in "Resolute Support Social Media and the Afghan Conflict", SOF News, August 1, 2017.

TAAC Air Advisors work with AAF. The USAF advisors are working with all types of personnel from the Afghan Air Force - from line pilots to the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD). Two of the workhorses of the Afghan Air Force are the A-29 Super Tucano and the Cessna 208 Caravan. The air advisors work in Kabul at the main airport as well as at forward locations across Afghanistan. Read more in "Building Momentum in Afghanistan", Air Force Magazine, September 2017.

TAAC Air Advisors Hope to Work Themselves Out of a Job. A USAF maintenance operations officer working with the Train, Advise, and Assist Command - Air would like to think that he is working himself out of a job. Currently 80% of the maintenance work done on aircraft belonging to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is done by contract maintenance workers. His hope is that number will slowly decline. But . . .  with plans to buy refurbished UH-60 Blackhawks for the AAF that seems unlikely. The UH-60 won't show for a couple of years and it will likely be one of the most complex aircraft in the AAF. Read more on this topic in "Afghan Air force Takes Over A-29 Maintenance Ops", DVIDS, July 26, 2017.


Afghan Strategy



Scaling Back as an Option? The White House is unable to come to grips with developing a strategy for the Afghan conflict. The Resolute Support commander, General Nicholson, would like to see an increase of almost 4K new troops to allow for an expansion of the Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) mission. Others in the U.S. government are reluctant to send more personnel into a quagmire with no end in sight. Pakistan continues to support the Haqqani Network and other Taliban groups and some Gulf nations are still financing the Taliban and the madrassas (producing Taliban recruits) in Pakistan. The National Unity Government (NUG) is divided (not unified) and ineffective. The Afghan Army and police senior leaders are corrupt and inept. But most important the Taliban are resurgent and enjoy a measure of popular support in the Pashtun areas. There seems no way out. The 4K additional personnel for the TAA mission is a band aid on the problem; it doesn't lead to a long-term solution. Until the corrupt Afghan government and incompetent security leadership get their act together nothing is going to improve. Some in the White House recognize the situation for what it is. Read more in "White House Looks at Scaling Back U.S. Military Presence in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2017.

Plans for Afghanistan are MIA. Paul Shinkman, a national security writer for U.S. News & World Report, says the U.S.-backed Afghan government is faltering and needs White House support. The security situation is the worst it has been since the 2001 invasion by U.S. forces. The White House, U.S. DoD, and other government leaders are struggling to come to a consensus on what to do with America's longest-ever war. Read more in "Trump Plans for Afghanistan MIA as Pressure Builds in America's Longest War",  August 1, 2017.

Erik Prince Strategic Plan for Afghanistan - Good for Contractors! A much discussed plan that was immediately dismissed by many political and military observers. But it seems the story won't die. Some commentators think the concept might save money and extricate the U.S. military from America's longest war. Read more in "Industry Talk: The Historic Implications of Erik Prince's Plan for Afghanistan", July 2017.

Trump not Happy with Generals. Although everyone assumes that President Trump has a special bond with his generals (SECDEF, NSC advisor, WH CoS, etc.) there is the possibility that the love affair is ending. See "Trump Says U.S. Losing Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals", NBC News, August 2, 2017. Additional speculation has it that McMaster is on the way out - he is on the receiving end of nasty press coverage from Fox News, Breitbart, Russian news agencies and trolls, and the Alt Right. Some rumors say he might be "moved up" to 4-stars to take General Nicholson's place as RS Commander.

Trump Skeptical of Generals. One former combatant in Afghanistan, Paul Szoldra, provides his analysis on Trump's dismissing the latest 'strategic plan' for Afghanistan provided by General McMaster. Read "Trump is Right to be Skeptical of the Pentagon When it Comes to Afghanistan", Task and Purpose, August 3, 2017.

More on Contractors for Afghanistan. Max Boot writes that a plan to use contractors for Afghanistan is flawed - says there is no silver bullet for fixing Afghanistan. "The Bad Faith Case for Contractors in Afghanistan", Commentary Magazine, August 1, 2017.

The John McCain Strategic Plan for Afghanistan. U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says he will propose a plan for a U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as part of the upcoming defense authorization bill. See "McCain Says He Will Propose New Afghanistan Strategy", Gandara, August 1, 2017.


Commentary on Afghanistan



STRAFOR Assessment. The folks at STRAFOR have offered their assessment of the war in Afghanistan. They provide the historical context and the current situation the Trump administration finds itself in - devising a strategy that works for Afghanistan (and the United States). Read "In Washington, War Fatigue is Setting In", STRAFOR Worldview, August 2, 2017.

The War Can't be Won by Military Means. Laurel Miller, formerly of the State Department, had a leading role in the Afghanistan conflict during the Obama administration. She is interviewed about the the current security situation in Afghanistan and outlines three courses of action under consideration by the Trump administration. See "America's former envoy to Afghanistan says the war can't be won", Vox.com, August 1, 2017.

It's Time to Leave Afghanistan. Lucian K. Truscott IV writes in a column that it is time to leave Afghanistan. Read "Why we lost the war in Afghanistan",  Salon, August 5, 2017.

Max Boot on Trump and Afghanistan. Max Boot, a constant critic of President Trump, continues his critique in a commentary about Afghanistan, a proposed firing of General Nicholson, advancing McMaster to 4-stars to be RS Cdr, and comparing the Afghan conflict to a restaurant business. Read more in "The Afghan War's Third President", Commentary Magazine, August 3, 2017.

How Trump is Losing Afghanistan. Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, writes on the slowly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in "How the Trump Administration is Losing Afghanistan", CSIS, August 2, 2017.

Needed Timeline for Success in Afghanistan. James Durso, a retired naval officer, writes about the need for a strategy that isn't 'more of the same' and that will show measurable results. Not facts and figures of how many ANP and ANA were trained in the past year; but something more concrete - like how many districts that Afghan security forces now control vice last year. Read "McMaster and Mattis Have Twelve Months to Succeed in Afghanistan", Real Clear Defense, July 31, 2017.

Evaluating the Privatization of the Afghan War. Rebecca Zimmerman believes we should take a closer look at the plan to use contractors in place of the military in Afghanistan. Read her thoughts in "Is It a Good Idea to Privatize the War in Afghanistan?", RAND Corporation, August 4, 2017.

Private Armies for Afghanistan Conflict? White House advisors Stephen Bannon and Jared Kusher recently had Erik Prince (former Blackwater) and Stephen Feinberg (DynCorp) in for a chat on how using contractors in Afghanistan could take the burden off the U.S. military. Probably not a good idea according to the editorial board of The Times Editorial Board. Read more in "The war in Afghanistan needs a change in tactics. Privatizing the military isn't the answer", Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2017.


Security News - Afghanistan



Attack on Iraq Embassy in Kabul. ISIS fighters attacked the Iraq Embassy and held parts of the first floor for about four hours on Monday, July 31st. The Afghan Crisis Response Unit (CRU) - an MoI SOF element - responded. No embassy staff casualties have been reported. The attack was initiated by a suicide bomber blowing himself up outside the gates - then followed by three gunmen who stormed into the building.

National Mission Brigade - Afghan CT / SOF Force. Afghanistan's National Mission Brigade was activated in a ceremony on August 3, 2017. The bridade will have a command element, staff sections, and two kandaks. One kandak will be the 6th SOK based in Kabul and the other will be the CT unit called Ktah Khas. Read more in "Afghanistan's National Mission Brigade - New Afghan SOF Unit", SOF News, August 3, 2017.

Insider Attack. A member of the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) opened fire on coalition troops on August 5th. The Afghan policeman was killed. One Romanian soldier was wounded. This is the fourth insider attack so far in 2017.

Afghan Border Fight. Controlling the Afghan border is a losing proposition. Here's why. "The Battle for the Afghan Border", The Diplomat, August 4, 2017.

Shia Mosque Explosion. An explosion rocked the entrance of the Jawadia mosque in the western city of Herat on Tuesday, 1 August killing almost 29 people and injuring an additional 64. (Radio Free Europe, August 1, 2017).

IS-K Migrating from ME to Afghanistan? With fall of Mosul, tightening noose on ISIS in Syria, and displacement of ISIS in Libya many observers note that Afghanistan could see an influx of ISIS weapons, tactics and personnel. Read "Embassy, mosque attacks fuel fears ISIS bringing Iraq war to Afghanistan", Reuters, August 2, 2017.

HUMINT Program Draws Fire. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has issued a report critical of the Legacy and ASOMs programs that were meant to develop the human intelligence capability of the Afghan intelligence agencies. Read "SIGAR cites lack of oversight in $457M training program", Defense News, August 1, 2017.

Fight for the Districts. The latest report (30 June 2017) from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated that the control and influence of districts (there are about 400 districts in Afghanistan) remains about the same as last year. No gains or losses by the government forces or the Taliban. So the fights for districts continue. In the last part of August the Taliban took Janikhail district in Paktia province. This week the news is the government security forces from the 203rd ANA Corps and regional police zone have retaken the district after ten days of tough fighting. Reports on August 5th say the Taliban have seized control of Sayad district in northern Sari Pul province.

IS-K Thematic Dossier. The folks at Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN) have been tracking the growth of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan for the past few years. AAN has published a number of articles and papers on ISKP and now they have assembled them into one pub. See "Thematic Dossier XV: Daesh in Afghanistan", AAN, August 1, 2017.

Kandahar - Kabul Road Blocked. Reports circulated in Afghan media about the Taliban shutting down traffic on the Kandahar - Kabul road.

AAF Gets $4 Billion Expansion Plan. The United States is trying to get the Afghan Air Force to grow its capability and capacity. Read more in "U.S. Moves to Help Fledgling Afghan Air Force", Gandhara, July 25, 2017.

Help for the AAF via Blackwater? There is an acknowledge capability gap in air power and air support on the part of the Afghan government. After the Coalition forces pulled out the bulk of its air support the Afghan ground forces were left without aerial resupply, MEDEVAC, close air support, and ISR capability. Erik Prince, of Blackwater fame, has the answer. Read more in "Blackwater founder Erik Prince reportedly wants Afghanistan to use his private air force", Business Insider, August 2, 2017.

HH-60 Hard Landing. A United States HH-60 Black Hawk helicopter suffered a mechanical issue resulting in a hard landing during operations near Achin district, Nangarhar province on Tuesday, August 1st. Two crew members suffered minor injuries. (Khaama Press, August 1, 2017).


Afghan Governance News



NUG Still Dysfunctional. The National Unity Government of Abdullah Abdullah and President Ghani is still mired in ethnic competition. Cabinet ministry positions are still vacant and the two head government officials barely talk to each other. No big change over the past year and no outward signs that things will get better.

Atta and Dostum - Now Good Pals? The Balkh province governor - Atta Noor - is calling for the first Vice President (Dostum) to be allowed to return to Afghanistan unconditionally. Read more in "Atta Noor Calls for Return of General Dostum", Tolo News, August 1, 2017.

Afghan Ambassador to Canada Recalled? It seems the internal strife in Afghanistan among ethnic groups is finding its way to the foreign embassies as well. Read "Why Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada was called home", MaClean's, August 3, 2017.


Videos About Afghanistan



Afghan Tactical Air Coodinator - Army Training. The ATACs of 203rd Corps practice their skills at the firing range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Gardez, Afghanistan with A-29 Super Tucanos. (video by Resolute Support HQs, 3 minutes, July 28, 2017).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBt929LJIo


Afghan War Blog - News Snippets



Program of IDPs Legal ID. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in cooperation with the Afghan government is launching a program that helps displaced Afghans in the Herat region to gain a identity card or tazkera. Read more in "Providing legal identity to displaced Afghans", NRC, August 1, 2017.

Afghan Interpreter Now in Omaha. The inspiring story of how an Afghan 'terp' reaches America after several years of bureaucratic stumbles by the U.S. Department of State. (Omaha World-Herald, July 25, 2017).

Female Police and Ending Gender Violence. Afghan policewomen are challenging societal norms in the male-dominated Afghan National Police (ANP). Read "The Role of Policewomen in Ending Gender Violence in Afghanistan", E-International Relations, August 3, 2017.

Russia - Using 'Soft Power' in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union fought a disastrous counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan a few decades ago. Their armored columns limped back to the homeland in defeat. But the Russians are back; a little more savvy this time. They are using money, aid projects, and propaganda to polish up their image. Their info opns campaign is way ahead of ours. Read more in "While Americans Fight the Taliban, Putin is Making Headway in Afghanistan", The RAND Blog, July 31, 2017.

1186th MP Company Going to Afghanistan. An Oregon Army National Guard military police company has completed its pre-deployment training and is heading out for a 9 month long deployment. (DVIDS, August 2, 2017).

DCoS INT Promoted. BG Gary W. Johnston is now MG Gary W. Johnston. the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence at RS HQs in Kabul oversees the military's daily intelligence operations. See "ATU Alumnus Promoted to Major General", Arkansas Tech University, July 31, 2017.

Guam Army Reservists Complete Tour. Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 368th Military Police Company returned home after a tour in Afghanistan. (Pacific Daily News, July 23, 2017).


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Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - July 30, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at www.afghanwarnews.info, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/afghan-war-news.


Resolute Support Advisors in Action

ANDSF test map reading test at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan
(Marine Corps photo by Justin T. Updegraff, July 16, 2017)

TF Southwest Advisors and Map Reading. After 17 years of conflict and training up the Afghan Army and police our advisors are still teaching basic map reading to Afghan soldiers and police. For the past three weeks U.S. Marines with Task Force Southwest conducted a map reading class for the Operational Coordination Center (OCC) at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan. Hmmm. I would think at this point we would be teaching some advanced topics like . . . I don't know . . . maybe the fine art and science of counterinsurgency. Is there anyone in Afghanistan teaching counterinsurgency? Is there a Counterinsurgency Academy somewhere in Afghanistan? Probably not. Read more in "Building the Foundation: Task Force Southwest teaches map class to ANDSF forces", DVIDS, July 23, 2017.

TF Southwest and Afghan ORC. The Operational Readiness Cycle (ORC) pulls Afghan army units out of combat and puts them through a training program for several weeks. In Helmand province this program is 8 weeks long. 2nd Kandak, 4th Brigade, 215th Corps recently completed its ORC in late July 2017 at the Helmand Regional Military Training Center (RMTC). Read more in a news release by RS HQs, July 24, 2017.

Great Progress? So the above article released by RS HQs would make you think that the Marine advisory mission in Helmand province is right on track. Ummmm, maybe not. Read "Marines facing 'discouraging' challenges in Afghanistan", CNN.com, July 23, 2017.

"Watch the Hands". Of course this TAAC-Air advisor is a pilot;
who else moves their hands like this in a conversation?
(USAF photo by Tech Sgt Robert Cloys, March 3, 2016).

TAAC Air Working with Afghan Air Force. A four-year, $7 billion expansion plan is designed to produce more flight and maintenance crews for the Afghan Air Force (AAF). According to Brigadier General Phillip Stewart, the commander of Train, Advise, and Assist Command - Air, "That is what will provide the asymmetric advantage to break the stalemate on the ground." Hmmmm. Really? A bigger Air Force is needed to defeat insurgents who practice guerrilla warfare? One that has no air force, no tanks, no armored personnel carriers, and no artillery? I believe the problems that the Afghan security forces have run much deeper than not having a big enough air force. But anyway, read "As U.S. weighs Afghan strategy, hopes set on fledgling Air Force", Reuters, July 23, 2017.

US SOF Trapped in Afghanistan. 70% of the offensive operations carried out by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are conducted by Afghan Special Service Forces (ASSF) - the special operations units of the MoI and MoD. The principle advisors to these ASSF units are U.S. and NATO SOF. The worldwide needs of U.S. SOF is immense and the Afghan commitment sucks up a lot of the US SOF resources. Read more in "SOCOM Is In A Prison of Its Own Making", Task and Purpose, July 25, 2017.

Task Force Southeast - Collective Training and Leader Development. One of the serious deficiencies of the Afghan security forces is the lack of leaders in both the army and police that are competent. The advisors and trainers of Task Force Southeast are using the collective training model (combining the army and police) as a method to develop the ANDSF leaders. Read "Training Leader Development: Fundamental to Afghan National Security", DVIDS, July 27, 2017.

TAAC South Soldiers End Deployment. Soldiers from Task Force Rakkasan of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team have returned home after working in the train, advise, and assist mission at Train, Advise, and Assist Command - South (TAAC-South). They were based in Kandahar province but also provided coverage into Zabul, Uruzgan, and Helmand provinces. Check out pictures of their homecoming at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in "Photos: 3rd Brigade soldiers come home from Afghanistan", ClarksvilleNow.com, July 23, 2017.


Districts Changing Hands



Taliban Advances in Kunduz. The Taliban have been ruling several villages in northern Kunduz province for four years. Ten days ago the villages were cleared of Taliban fighters by Afghan security forces in a 'clearing operation'. However, once the government troops left the area the Taliban moved back in. Read "Taliban recapture Kunduz villages as forces retreat"Pajhwok Afghan News, July 27, 2017.

District Falls to Taliban in Ghor. The Taliban took a district center in Ghor province. There were reports of heavy casualties. In addition, 35 people were reported killed in an attack on a hospital in Ghor province. Iran has been accused of aiding the insurgents in the fall of Taywara district which fell to the Taliban on July 23rd. The Afghan government says that the district center was recaptured on Thursday, July 27th. Resolute Support HQs says the Afghan Air Force used its A-29 Super Tucanos to assist in the combat operations to recapture the district center. See "Iran Accused of Helping Taliban Capture a District in Afghanistan"Radio Free Afghanistan, July 26, 2017.

Faryab District Captured by Taliban. A contested district in Fayab province has been captured by the Taliban.

Jani Khel District in Paktia Province Now Owned by Taliban. After several days of heavy fighting a district in Paktia fell to the Taliban.

Khakrez District? The Taliban claim to have taken control of a district center in Kandahar province. Some reports say at least 30 government troops were killed. See "Taliban rout Afghan troops near Kandahar"BBC News, July 26, 2017. See also "Dozens Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Military Base", Radio Free Europe, July 26, 2017.


Afghan Strategy - A Hard Thing to Do



Trump Administration Still Working on Strategy. The U.S. is once again conducting a review of the strategy needed to fight and end America's longest war. The Trump administration's national security team (State, NSC, DoD) has been working with the White House staff for a new strategic plan that is acceptable to Trump. Despite six months of review there still is not a plan acceptable to the White House. General McMaster (National Security Advisor) has a basic plan centered on an increase of 4K new troops to beef up the Train, Advise, and Assist mission but it has met some initial resistance from SECDEF and State. The White House is looking for something that is more than 'stay the course'. Susan Glasser, chief international affairs columnist at Politico.com, explains all of this in great detail in "The Trump White House's War Within", Politico Magazine, July 24, 2017.

Do Minerals Make a Difference on If We Stay or Go? It would seem that one thing about Afghanistan has President Trump's attention. The vast riches of minerals in Afghanistan provide possibilities for economic development for the struggling nation and a return on investment for U.S. funding of the Afghan conflict. Read "Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals", The New York Times, July 25, 2017. See also "Trump's New Afghanistan Strategy: Keep the Minerals!", New York Magazine, July 26, 2017.

DoS - Diplomacy is the Answer. The U.S. State Department thinks the way forward in Afghanistan is more diplomacy in the region and an open dialogue with the Afghan government. See "Seeking a Way Forward in Afghanistan, Tillerson Pushers for Diplomacy", Voice of America, July 27, 2017.

Battlefield Victory Will Not Happen. Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, says that the war will not be won on the battlefield. The Trump administration needs to develop a political strategy that will force the Taliban to the negotiating table. Read more in an article by CBS News,  July 25, 2017.

Playing the Long Game. Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and former deputy assistant secretary of defense says that getting Afghan policy 'right' is better than getting Afghan policy 'fast'. He believes we need to stay committed in the long slog. Read his thoughts in "Brookes: In Afghan terror fight, U.S. must play the long game", Boston Herald, July 28, 2017.

What Should US Do? Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation writes about U.S. options in Afghanistan in "U.S. Turning Away From Afghanistan?", Real Clear Defense, July 28, 2017.

One Possibility? Just Up and Leave! Some believe this is a conflict we will never win. Many in the U.S. have had their fill of the Afghan politicians, elites, warlords, drug lords, and corrupt senior security officers. So . . . in a Trump administration one knows that there are surprises behind every tweet. It could happen. One writer explores this topic by interviewing a number of people from diverse backgrounds. Read "What would happen if the United States totally disengaged from Afghanistan?", The Washington Post, July 26, 2017.

EU Proposal for New Afghan Strategy. The European Commission has issued a press release that outlines a new European Union strategy on Afghanistan. The major themes of the proposal include "peace, stability, and regional security"; "democracy, rule of law, and human rights"; "economic and human development"; "migration", and "empowering women". (European Commission, July 24, 2017).