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, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

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.

"Wow, Afghanistan Is Getting a Lot Worse", War is Boring, August 2, 2017.

"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",, 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).

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, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

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, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

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",, 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",, 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, 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).

ISKP Update

The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) is still an effective insurgent force. It has suffered the decapitation of its leadership (compliments of US air strikes). In addition, ground forces of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) - enabled with U.S. SOF advisors/fighters and air support - have been hammering away at ISKP. Of course, there is conflict on the ground between ISKP and the Taliban as well. Despite all of this the ISKP has remained resilient. Read more on this topic in the articles below:

Another ISKP leader "dead": Where is the group headed after losing so many amirs?, by Borhan Osman, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), July 23, 2017.

"Behind the front lines in the fight to 'annihilate' ISIS in Afghanistan", by Max Bearak, The Washington Post, July 23, 2017. The U.S. military says it wants to annihilate ISIS in Afghanistan by the end of the year. U.S. SOF are working hard with their Afghan partners to do that but it is a tough, slow fight. ISIS-K is replenishing its ranks of fighters as quickly as it suffers casualties. From a high of almost 3,000 fighters ISIS-K has been reduce to less than 1,000 - according to U.S. military sources in Kabul. But Afghan intelligence officers in Nangarhar dispute this - saying ISIS-K is much stronger.

Development News for Afghanistan

Solar Power Water Pumps (USAID photo)

Solar Energy & Education.
 USAID is helping schools and farmers across Afghanistan to be equipped with electricity. Read more in "Solar Energy Advances Education in Afghanistan", May 2017, USAID.

Illegal Extraction of Minerals. Most mineral extraction in Afghanistan is either illegal or unregulated. This contributes to conflict by inducing competition over access to mining profits and financing the insurgents and criminal networks. It also deprives the Afghan government of needed revenue to run its operations. However, mining also has the potential to make significant contributions to Afghanistan's economy. Read more in a paper entitled Illegal Extraction of Minerals as a Driver of Conflict in Afghanistan, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), July 24, 2017.

Untapped Wealth. There is a reason that Afghanistan's resource wealth remains untapped. Read "Afghanistan: All That Glitters Is Not Gold", The Diplomat, July 27, 2017.

Technology and Education. Claire Anderson writes about the importance of technology in advancing the educational system in Afghanistan. Read "Can Technology Change the Education Landscape in Afghanistan?", The Asia Foundation, July 26, 2017.

Commentary on Afghanistan Conflict

What the West Must Do. Zabihullah Noori, an Afghan journalist based in London, writes about the desperate situation in Afghanistan and what the international community must do to correct the downward slide of Afghanistan to instability. Read "The West on the Brink of Failure in Afghanistan", Tolo News, July 25, 2017.

Time for a 'Peace Surge'? Laurel Miller, a senior State Department official with the Obama administration, writes on the need to step up the support for negotiations with the Taliban. She believes that is the only strategy that will work to resolve the conflict. Read more in "A Peace 'Surge' to End War in Afghanistan", The New York Times, July 23, 2017. Miller is a senior foreign policy expert at the RAND Corporation. While with the State Department she worked on the peace process for Afghanistan from 2013 to 2017.

Fixing the ANDSF. The international community needs to make some drastic changes on how it does business in Afghanistan. The current approach of the past several years has not worked. Patronage networks, nepotism, ethnic favoritism, corruption, and poor leadership has hobbled the ANDSF and the security ministries. The senior leaders of the ANP and ANA need to be purged - getting rid of the corrupt and inept leadership. Resolute Support leaders need to step up and conduct a house cleaning to set things right. RS advisors need to get below the ANA corps and police zone level to interact with mid and lower-level leaders. In addition the National Security Directorate (NDS) needs to be strengthened as well. Read "Fixing Afghanistan's Struggling Security Forces", The Diplomat, July 24, 2017.

"Just a Little Bit Longer". The new Afghan strategy is still being developed - this after 16 years of conflict and an administration entering its seventh month in office. Read some background on this topic in "$700 Billion and 16 Years at War Is a 'Modest Amount,' U.S. Officers Say", The Daily Beast, July 24, 2017.

Afghanistan and Arab Gulf Countries. The countries in the Gulf region need to look at their policies towards and interaction with Afghanistan. Iran is extending its influence with the Taliban as well as continuing to support the Afghan government. This should be a matter of concern for Arab Gulf countries. Read more in "Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf",, July 24, 2017.

Mistrust of Pakistan. One observer examines the issues that poison the relationship between the United States and Pakistan in "Pakistan-United States relations: Mutual mistrust continues", Modern Diplomacy, July 25, 2017.

Identity Politics in Afghanistan. Patricia Gossman provides some insight on how ethnicity and corruption plays a big role in Afghan politics and governance. Read "Afghanistan's Deadly Identity Politics", Foreign Affairs, July 24, 2017.

Security News about Afghanistan

Resolute Support advisors attend a Shura with members of the
202nd Police Zone HQs in eastern Afghanistan on July 21, 2017
(RS HQs photo)

Afghan JTACS Important to Combat Operations. Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators or ATACs are proving themselves to be increasingly valuable as the Afghan Air Force (AAF) brings its A-29 Super Tucano close air support aircraft online. Read more in "Afghan JTACs in high demand"Military Times, July 24, 2017.

ANA Medics - The Things They Carry. Take a look (photos) of what a medic serving with the Afghan National Army carries during combat operations. Read "The Things They Carried: The Afghan Field Medic", Foreign Policy, July 24, 2017.

Kabul Bombing on Monday, 24 July. A bomb exploded on Monday morning 7:00 am Kabul time in a busy market area of Kabul (Police District 3) killing many civilians. Latest count is 36 killed and 60 wounded. The incident took place close to the residence of Ustad Mohaqiq. Many of those killed worked for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. The Taliban claimed credit for the bombing and says that they were targeting two buses carrying intelligence personnel. Reports say the car bomb rammed into one of the buses. Read more in "Afghan Taliban Claims Deadly Suicide Car-Bomb in Kabul", Gandhara, July 24, 2017.

SECDEF and Afghan Uniforms. The Secretary of State was not happy when learning how the U.S. wasted millions on Afghan uniforms not suited for the terrain or geography of Afghanistan. $28 million more was paid for a proprietary pattern instead of using a pattern owned by the U.S. government. In addition, the uniforms featured a woodland pattern in a nation that has less than 2% forested areas. See "Mattis: Overspending on Afghan Army Uniforms Exposes Waste", Voice of America, July 25, 2017.

CASA CHOD Conference Hosted by Votel. The CENTCOM commander hosted the Central Asia South Asia Chiefs of Defense conference on July 26-27, 2017 in Weisbaden, Germany for security talks. Read a press release by U.S. Central Command Public Affairs, July 28, 2017.

Taleban of Takhar Province, Northern Afghanistan. There are tensions and power struggles among the Uzbek and Pashtun Taleban cadres in northern Afghanistan. This is particularly so in Takhar province - situated between Kunar province in the west and Badakhshan province in the east. Read "The Non-Pastun Taleban of the North: The Takhar case study", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), July 29, 2017.

ScanEagle Contract. Insitu (a UAS firm) is being awarded a $20 million contract to provide unmanned aerial systems for Afghanistan. Five ScanEagles along with the support equipment, operators, and spare parts will be provided. See "Insitu receives contract for Afghan ScanEagle UAS services",, July 26, 2017.

70 Civilians Kidnapped. Civilians who were heading north from Kandahar were abducted. Seven killed. 30 released.

Taliban Using Captured or Bought U.S. Weapons. The number of M4s, vehicles, and night vision devices supplied by the United States to the Afghan National Defense Security Forces has increased significantly. Some of the equipment is captured but a greater number is sold to the Taliban by corrupt Afghan army and police personnel. Read more in "US weapons complicate Afghan war", Navy Times, July 25, 2017.

Governance News

Dostum as a Hero? One writer, John Sjohom, presents an alternative view of one of Afghanistan's Vice Presidents - General Dostum. His article looks at the current political situation not commonly reported in the news media. He also points out the 'political reality' that Afghanistan is not a nation ruled by a central government but a collection of regional power brokers and warlords. Dostum being one of the bigger players. There is a good bit of history in this article - although one that tends to put Dostum in a more favorable light than the international community might accept. A good read though. See "General Dostum, the hero Afghanistan deserves", Lima Charlie News, July 22, 2017.

Ghani Finding it Tough to Govern. There are a lot of reasons for the inability of the Afghan national government to get its act together. Certainly President Ghani is a competent and well-meaning leader but the odds are stacked against him. Political opposition, a power-sharing arrangement with Abdullah Abdullah that isn't working out, a resilient Taliban, and many other factors contribute to his difficulties. Read more in "Afghan Leader Struggles to Build Working State Amid Dysfunction", The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2017.

Government in Disarray. The Taliban are gaining strength in Afghanistan at the same time that President Ghani is facing a powerful opposition alliance. See "Resurgent Taliban and a government in disarray", Deutsche Welle,  July 25, 2017.

"Opposition Coalition". The leaders of three major political parties have announced their decision to form a new coalition with the aim to prevent the collapse of government, avoid political chaos, and restore national trust. Read more in an analysis by Ali Yawar Adili and Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) in The 'Ankara Coaltion': Opposition from within the government, July 25, 2017.

Governments IDP Policy and Actions. The plight of internally displaced persons has worsened in Afghanistan since the withdrawal of international troops in 2014. Read more in "The Rise and Challenges of Afghan IDPs Beyond the Launch of IDP Policy", Eurasia Review, July 28, 2017.

Negotiating with the Taliban. The overwhelming majority of 'Afghan experts' say that the Afghan conflict will not end with a military victory but a negotiated settlement. But not everyone agrees. Javid Ahmad, a non-resident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point expresses his opinion in "How To Negotiate With the Taliban", Modern War Institute, July 27, 2017.

Ministry Nominations. President Ghani has nominated Hamid Tahmasi as Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation, Gul Agha Shirzai as Minister for Borders and Tribal Affairs, and Matin Bek (currently Deputy with the NDS) as the head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG).

National Unity Government (NUG) - Not So Unifying. The NUG - the result of then Secretary of State John Kerry trying to salvage the Afghan elections of 2014 - has failed miserably. The two power-sharing officials are not quite getting along and neither are their subordinates. In addition, one of Ghani's own Vice Presidents (Dostum) is now allying himself with a powerful political coalition aligned against the NUG. Read more in "Troop Levels Aren't Afghanistan's Problem. An Increasingly Illegitimate Government Is", The Diplomat, July 26, 2017.

Videos about Afghanistan

The Longest War. The Aspen Institute recently held a panel discussion about the war in Afghanistan. Now in its 16th year, the war in Afghanistan shows no sign of ending. If anything, the Taliban are resurgent. Meanwhile, al Qaeda and ISIS remain active in Afghanistan. The panel features Shah Nazar Khan, First Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan; James Cunningham, Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan; Hamdullah Mohib, current Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States; and Robin Raphel, Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia. A one hour and 15 minute long video. Very informative.

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).

News Snippets on Afghanistan

Former TAAC-South Cdr Promoted. Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the former commander of Train, Advise, and Assist - South, has been selected to command the 36th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army National Guard. He was recently promoted to MG. See "The 36th Division holds Change of Command at Texas State Capitol", DVIDS, July 15, 2017.

Human Rights Violations. An international organization finds that all sides to the Afghan conflict are violating the rules of war. Read "Afghanistan: All Sides Violating Human Rights", Institute for War & Peace Reporting, July 27, 2017.

Book Review - In the Warlords Shadow. Daniel R. Green's book about Navy SEALs working the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program in Afghanistan is reviewed by Patrick Hughes.

DynCorp Lands Contract. A $217 million contract modification has been extended to DynCorp International to provide support to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. (GOVCONWire, July 26, 2017).

AJSC Six-Month Report. The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee has published its six-month report - and finds Afghanistan a dangerous country for journalists and media. (AJSC, July 24, 2017).

Natural Disasters and the ANDMA. Every year Afghanistan suffers a number of fatalities caused by natural disasters. The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) exists to mitigate the human suffering from natural disasters. Learn more in "Climate in Crisis: How Risk Information Can Build Resilience in Afghanistan", ReliefWeb, July 24, 2017.

EU's Migration Policy and Afghanistan. The European Union is adjusting its migration policy towards Afghanistan. Read more in "Migration Enters the New EU Strategy on Afghanistan", EU Inside, July 26, 2017.

Young Elites Challenge Taliban. The young educated people of Afghanistan are questioning the old ways of Afghan society in hopes for peace. Read more in "Afghanistan's Young Liberal Elites Challenge the Taliban", Der Speigel, July 24, 2017.

Stay Current on News about Afghanistan

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

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, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

JET/IA Patch Explainer

In my travels through Afghanistan I frequently came across a number of Air Force personnel wearing the "JET/IA" shoulder patch. For a few years I just wondered what the "JET/IA" stood for. Finally I started asking. Most of the Air Force dudes just didn't know. One Air Force guy finally offered up "Joint Expeditionary Tasking / Individual Augmentee". Well . . . . that tells me a lot. So it is good to read this recent news release explaining the "JET/IA" shoulder patch. Read "JET/IA Airmen support partners, Afghanistan", DVIDS, July 22, 2017.

Nawa District, Helmand Province Now Under Government Control

One of the districts that continues to change hands over time in Helmand province has . . . once again . . . been 'retaken' by Afghan security forces. Operation Maiwand Four conducted by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) - assisted by Marine advisors and coalition air support - cleared the Nawa district of enemy presence and expanded the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The district, located very close to the provincial capital has been under the control of the Taliban for the past nine months. The district center was captured by the Taliban in October 2016. To assist the Afghan security forces the Marines launched an expeditionary advising package or EAP. This EAP from the Marines' Task Force Southwest provided advisory, air, battle tracking, intelligence, and fires integration assistance.

Of course, the term 'district control' is a very vague term. From a government (and Resolute Support) viewpoint if an element of the ANP or ANA occupies the administrative center of the district (usually a small number of one-story buildings enclosed within a concrete wall) then the district is under government control. From the Taliban perspective, the district is controlled if the Taliban can roam freely day or night throughout the entire district (except for those four or five buildings where 30 ANP are hunkered down). Learn more about the different interpretations of district control in Afghanistan.


Speculative reports indicate that the ANDSF have already started the planning process for Operation Maiwand Five to take place in the summer of 2018 which will recapture the district center, clear the Nawa district center of enemy presence, and expand the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The early planning process has outlined future coordination with various Afghan government ministries for the future government occupation of Nawa district governmental buildings in 2018. Coalition air support is being coordinated to move Nawa district government officials by C-130 transport and then by helicopter from their Kabul villas to the district center for a press conference proclaiming victory and a return of Afghan governance to the troubled district. The district government representatives will then immediately return to Kabul for extended talks with senior officials of various Afghan ministries about establishing funding mechanisms that are not hampered by the 'red tape' associated with bureaucratic and restrictive regulations meant to diminish corruption.

The Afghan Government Media & Information Center (GMIC) has their 16 July 2018 press release already scripted and posted on their website. Essentially it will say that the Afghan governmental ministries will soon resume public services, open schools, and that the ANDSF will restore freedom of movement on the roads and the confidence of the Afghan people in their government and security forces.

Not to be outdone the PAO for Task Force Southwest has already crafted the press release for Operation Maiwand Five's successful outcome projected for mid-July 2018. He has posted it in his 'Continuity Book' for his replacements' replacement to utilize in mid-summer 2018. It will read sometime like this:
"We have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police. The ability of the ANDSF to conduct cross-pillar operations of battalion-size and larger provides proof of the abilities of the ANDSF to defend their nation. Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand." 

(Okay, a little satire there in the last five paragraphs, couldn't help myself).

Additional Reading:

"Marines aid Afghan forces in recapture of strategic district", Military Times, July 17, 2017.

"Afghan forces liberate district in central Helmand", Long War Journal, July 17, 2017.

"ANDSF retakes Nawa district center during operation Maiwand Four", DVIDS, July 17, 2017.

New Commanding General for CSTC-A

U.S. Army Major General Robin Fontes is now the commander of the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A). She assumed command on July 15, 2017. Read some news reports on the new commander responsible for working with senior Afghan leadership in the security force assistance mission. The outgoing CSTC-A commander, MG Kaiser, says gender issues remains one of the biggest challenges but he believes progress will be made under MG Robin Fontes. The TwitterSphere is alive with robust statements about how the new commander is the highest ranking female general officer in Afghanistan.

"First Female Commanding General at Resolute Support, Afghanistan", DVIDS, July 15, 2017.

"New Commander is Highest-Ranking Woman Officer in Afghanistan",, July 16, 2017.

Commentary on Afghan Conflict

"Old Wine in a New Bottle". Michael Kugelman writes about Trump's Afghanistan strategy. Says a troop surge of advisors that isn't tied to a broader overall strategy is folly. He recommends four major steps going forward. Kugelman is the Asia program deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "Trump's Afghanistan Strategy Is Simply Old Wine in a New Bottle", The National Interest, July 16, 2017.

Podcast on China's Role. The huge neighbor to the east of Afghanistan and Pakistan would like to see some stability in the region. So it is attempting to (behind the scenes) broker an agreement between the two nations (AfPak). But its not working too well. Listen to a 40-minute podcast where some observers comment on the topic - Abubakar Siddique of Gandhara Blog, Sune Engle Rasmussen of The Guardian, and Hameed Hakimi of the Chatham House think tank. See "Gandhara Podcast: China and Afghanistan, Pakistan Cooperation", Gandhara, July 19, 2017.

So What's the Plan? Everyone is waiting for the Trump administration to roll out the new 'Afghan war strategy' . . . waiting, waiting, waiting . . . . Fred Kaplan explains what's going on behind the scenes in "Making Afghanistan Great Again", Slate Magazine, July 2017.

Amnesty for War Criminals. A mixed result. Amnesty is a long-accepted practice to end conflicts and solidify peace agreements. Afghanistan is a good (or bad) example of the use of amnesty to bring warring or hostile organizations together to forge a government. But it is a problematic solution. Read more in "Afghanistan: Choosing Peace Over Justice", by Neha Dwivedi, The Diplomat, July 20, 2017.

Contracted Private Army to Fix Afghanistan? Streve Bannon and Jared Kushner, trusted advisors of Trump's White House, recently floated an idea of using a contracted military force to solve Afghanistan's never-ending conflict. They met with the head of DynCorp (Stephen Feinberg) and the former head of Blackwater (Erik Prince) for discussions on this topic. Sean McFate, as senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council - and former military contractor - tells us why this may not be a really good idea in "The Blackwater 2.0 Plan for Afghanistan", The Atlantic Council, July 17, 2017.

Afghan Security News

German JTAC advisor training ANA on air support procedures
in TAAC North (Photo Resolute Support July 2017)

What's Been Going On the Last 17 Years? President Trump had lunch with military personnel to come up with new ideas for the fight in Afghanistan. Seems he is wondering what's been going on for the last 17 years. Hmmmm. How about checking in with Mattis or McMaster? Read more in "Trump seeking new ideas on Afghanistan from service members", Military Times, July 18, 2017.

Heavy ANDSF Losses in Gereshk. The Afghan security forces lost 19 members in Gereshk district on July 20, 2017. The attack involved the use of three captured military vehicles as VBIEDs.

Taliban Leader's Son Carries out Suicide Attack. Some Afghan media reports say that the son of Hibatullah carried out a suicide attack on Thursday when he drove an explosive-laden Humvee into an ANDSF post in Gereshk. Radio Free Europe, July 22, 2017. Afghan government sources are questioning the claim.

Civilians Abducted. The Taliban abducted over 70 civilians in southern Kandahar on Saturday, 22 July. Some civilians were killed. 30 have been released. The civilians were traveling north on the road to Uruzgan.

Pakistan Funds Blocked? The DoD has blocked the disbursement to Pakistan of over $300 million. The purpose of the funds was to reimburse the country for its fight against terrorist groups. It seems the Pentagon feels that Pakistan has not taken 'sufficient action' against the Haqqani Network. You think? Read an article entitled "Pentagon Stops $300 Million Payment to Pakistan, Citing Terrorist Fight", Foreign Policy, July 21, 2017.

ALP Hit Hard in Badakhshan Province. Afghan Local Police (ALP) units were ambushed in remote areas of the province with as many as 30 casualties. Local residents are lodging protests with the central government saying not enough is being done to protect the ALP.

Errant Bombing by Coalition. A US air strike killed as many as 16 Afghan National Police in Gereshk district. The security post was captured by the Taliban earlier but then retaken by Afghan security forces. It was then that the airstrike occurred - reportedly a drone strike. The incident is under investigation. See "Errant US Drone Strike Kills 15 Afghan Troops", Voice of America, July 22, 2017.

Black Hawk Training for Afghan Pilots. It appears that Afghan pilots will begin training on their UH-60 helicopters in the fall of 2017. See a news report in Military Times, July 20, 2017.

Australian SAS Under Scrutiny? Or Just a Cheap Shot. Recent reports by an Australian news media outlet about the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan area being questioned. Read "Australia's Special Forces Deserve Respect - Not Cheap Shots", Small Wars Journal, July 17, 2017.

Taliban Showcasing the FN SCAR. A recent video released by the Taliban appears to show insurgents carrying a rifle used by U.S. SOF. The videos shows a Taliban fighter with a Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) with an AN/PEQ 5 laser and Surefire mounted. See "How Did Taliban Fighters Get Their Hands on US Special Operations Gear?", Task and Purpose, July 18, 2017.

Afghan Governance News

Dostum Denied Landing at MeS? News reports from Afghanistan seem to say that one of Afghanistan's two Vice Presidents tried to land at MeS airport (originating from Turkey) but had some difficulties - either technical aircraft problems or denied permission to land. The NATO-led Resolute Support headquarters says that the German-led Train, Advise, and Assist Command - North (TAAC-North) had nothing to do with the plane diversion. Dostum has been in Turkey for the last several weeks. See "NATO rejects involvement in forced diversion of Afghan vice president's plane"Khama Press, July 18, 2017.

New Political Party. A new political party has been launched by former members of the Jombesh - an Uzbek ethnic-based party of northern Afghanistan. The party leader of the 'old' Jombesh is Vice President Dostum who is currently on 'medical leave' in Turkey (or, evading arrest for kidnapping charges or, sent into 'exile' by the Afghan government). Read "Defying Dostum: A new Jombesh and the struggle for leadership over Afghanistan's Uzbeks", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), July 19, 2017.

News Snippets

Former TAAC-South Cdr Promoted. Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the former commander of Train, Advise, and Assist - South, has been selected to command the 36th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army National Guard. He was recently promoted to MG. See "The 36th Division holds Change of Command at Texas State Capitol", DVIDS, July 15, 2017.

Ambassador to Afghanistan Nominated - Finally. John Bass, currently the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, has been nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. The post has been vacant for several months. Bass has also seen service in Iraq - so he is somewhat familiar with nations in the midst of conflict. Bass has been the ambassador to Turkey since fall 2014. He is a career Senior Foreign Service officer. See "White House to Nominate John Bass As U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan", Radio Free Europe, July 21, 2017. View his official bio at DoS.

ANDSF and the "New" APPS. The Afghan Personnel and Pay System is an automated system that generates payroll information for the Ministry of Finance while integrating authorizations, personnel record management and payroll functions into one system for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. According to a press release by RS HQs . . . this is a new system. I don't know; seems like we have been rolling out this new system for about three years now. I could be wrong. Read "ANDSF gets new personnel, pay system", Resolute Support, July 21, 2017. Read more about the Afghan Personnel and Pay System.

More Troops to Afghanistan? Maybe Not? It is hard to get a read on President Trump as he is so unpredictable. A recent quote by Trump during a visit to the Pentagon is revealing. When asked if he would send more troops to Afghanistan he replied "We'll see. And we're doing very well against ISIS. ISIS is falling fast." Ummmm. Not sure what to say about that . . . so I will just leave it right there. For more see "Trump suggests that more U.S. troops might not be needed in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, July 20, 2017.

Afghan Girls Robotics Team. They won the silver in the U.S. in the First Global robotics competition. Lots of press coverage on this. Congratulations! The girls initially had some perplexing visa problems (denied twice by the State Department for no apparent reason - of course) but that got fixed.

'Fatemiyoun Division' - Iran's Afghan Shi'a in Syria. Iran has sent thousands of Afghan Shi'a to fight on its behalf in support of the Assad regime. Many of them are on the front lines after undergoing minimal training and the unit has suffered extremely high losses. Read more in "Iran Aims to Boost Prestige of Beleaguered Afghan Proxy Force in Syria", Radio Free Europe, July 15, 2017.

3rd ID HQs to Deploy. About 250 Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia are heading to Afghanistan. Many of the Soldiers will work at Bagram Air Field where they will function as the U.S. forces national support element in Afghanistan. Read more in "About 250 3rd ID Soldiers prepare for Afghanistan", Savannah Now, July 21, 2017.

SOSi Lands Another Afghan Contract. SOS International has won a $9 million contract to provide information dissemination and counter-misinformation services to Resolute Support. Read more in a news release by GOVCONWIRE, July 21, 2017.

Justice and Human Rights. Dr. Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, provides her perspective on what has gone wrong in Afghanistan and has recommendations on what the international community needs to do next. See "Afghanistan: This War Cannot Be Won With Bombs", Deutsche Welle, July 18, 2017.

Poppies - Not Just the Taliban. Many observers believe that the poppy trade in Afghanistan is controlled largely by the Taliban - not so much. Franz J. Marty, a freelance journalist in Afghanistan, writes up on who the poppy growers are in "Afghanistan's Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers", The Diplomat, July 19, 2017.

MSF Back in Kunduz. Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has reopened a small medical clinic in Kunduz. The new clinic is not at the same location as the trauma center destroyed by a USAF AC-130 in 2015. (Radio Free Europe, July 22, 2017).

UN Report: Increase in Civilian Deaths. Civilian loss of life in Afghanistan due to the conflict has risen when compared to last year. Read "UN reports increase in Afghanistan civilian deaths", Deutshe Welle, July 17, 2017.

Catch Up on the News about Afghanistan!

You can receive the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter by email. It should arrive in your e-mail inbox at 0500 U.S. East coast time or just after lunch (1330) in Kabul every Sunday. It is easy to subscribe. To submit your subscription request go to and enter your email in the "Follow by Email" dialogue box at the top of the right hand column. The only info needed is your email. No personal data, no forms to fill out, and no passwords needed. You will receive a confirmation email asking you if you want to subscribe. Just confirm and you are done. It is also easy to unsubscribe. At the bottom of the newsletter click "unsubscribe" and you will be automatically unsubscribed.