Sunday, February 18, 2018

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - February 18, 2018



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.


Lead IG Quarterly Report on Afghanistan (Oct - Dec 2017)




The Lead Inspector General for Operation Freedom's Sentinel Quarterly Report to the United States Congress has been published. It covers the period of time from October 1 to December 31, 2017. The report summarizes significant events involving OFS. Topics covered in the 140-page report include:

  • South Asia Strategy Update
  • Increase of Political Tensions
  • Oversight Issues
  • Battle for Population Control
  • Highly Volatile Security Situation
  • Record Opium Harvest
  • Humanitarian Assistance

Some of the highlights and findings in the report indicate that there has been no improvement in security. While Resolute Support HQs maintains that the ANDSF (specifically the ASSF) has improved this has not translated into increased security on the ground. In fact, it appears that the Taliban have increased their control or influence of some of the districts in Afghanistan. The opium poppy cultivation has set a new record for crops produced in 2017; which, in part, funds the Taliban insurgency. Political tensions within the National Unity Government have polarized the government bureaucracy and rendered some of the institutions ineffective. The failure to implement an electronic ID card is - in part - affecting the ability of the government to conduct the 2018 parliamentary elections.

There are some key challenges facing the Afghan government and and the NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan. These include the task of defeating the Islamic State in Khorsan Province (IS-KP), pressuring Pakistan to eliminate terrorist safe havens, holding credible elections on time, and preventing violence from undermining humanitarian relief efforts.

The report is available at the link below:

www.dodig.mil/reports.html/Article/1443298/lead-inspector-general-for-operation-freedoms-sentinel-quarterly-report-to-the/


Threat Assessment for Afghanistan



Daniel Coats, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, testified before Congress on February 13, 2018 where he provided a worldwide threat assessment. His remarks were provided in a 28-page document entitled "Statement for the Record: Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community". Afghanistan got a brief mention on page 22; the text is below.
"The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) performance, and chronic financial shortfalls. The National Unity Government probably will struggle to hold long-delayed parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for July 2018, and to prepare for a presidential election in 2019. The ANSF probably will maintain control of most population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain. Afghanistan's economic growth will stagnate at around 2.5 percent per year, and Kabul will remain reliant on international donors for the great majority of its funding well beyond 2018."


TA3E - Train, Advise, Assist, Accompany, & Enable


A U.S. medical advisors discusses medical evacuation
procedures with Afghan counterpart in OCC-R South (RS photo)

Reporting on the 'Train, Advise, and Assist' Mission. The renewed emphasis and modest increase in the advisory effort with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will not win the war; however, it is an important component of the U.S. and NATO strategy for Afghanistan. For that reason, the Afghan War Blog will continue to report on Security Force Assistance efforts by NATO and other Coalition / Partner nations.

NATO Adding 3K More Troops. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is aiming to increase the number of its forces in Afghanistan to conduct the training mission with the ANDSF. (Khaama Press, Feb 14, 2018).

Seminar on SFA. The primary mission of NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is Security Force Assistance (SFA). Norway is hosting a seminar on the topic in March 2018.
www.prio.org/Events/Event/?x=8619

Paper on SOF Advising. The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) has published a 106-page publication entitled Growing SOLO: Expanding the Spectrum of SOF Advisory Capabilities, by Troy White, JSOU Report 18-1, Feb 2018.
https://jsou.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=39956197

News & Info about the 1st SFAB

Veteran Questions Usefulness of the SFAB. A veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts looks at the new SFAB about to deploy to Afghanistan and wonders if it will really make a difference. Read "Repeating the mistakes of Vietnam today in Afghanistan", The Hill, February 12, 2018.

SFAB - A New Way to Train. Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart writes about the 1st SFAB in "In Long Afghan War, US Army Tries New Way to Deploy Trainers", Reuters, February 14, 2018.

Security Element for 1st SFAB. The insider threat is a huge concern for advisors working with the ANDSF. It is for that reason (as well as the threat from insurgents) that advisor teams are protected by security elements (like Guardian Angels). The 1st SFAB will soon deploy to Afghanistan with soldiers from Task Force 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment (based at Fort Benning) who will serve as their security force element. (WLTZ TV, Feb 12, 2018).

References

Read more about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read recent news reports about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read about the Army's newly established Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA).


Commentary on Afghanistan



Time Running Out for Afghanistan. Mike Gallagher, a Marine veteran and U.S. Congressman, provides his perspective on the Afghan conflict - "In Afghanistan, Hard is not Hopeless - but Time is Running Out", Real Clear Defense, February 12, 2018.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul's View on Afghanistan. A fiscal conservative, Senator Paul says our time in Afghanistan should come to a close. We are now embarked on a mission of nation-building and it is too costly. Read "Is Senator Rand Paul Right about Afghanistan?", Conservative HQ, February 12, 2018.

Current Afghan Strategy Is the Right One. Gary Anderson, a retired USMC colonel and former civilian advisor in Afghanistan, provides his thoughts on why the current strategy in Afghanistan is the correct one. (The Washington Times, Feb 15, 2018).

A Call to Continue Kinetic and TAA. Alicia Chavy, a columnist associated with the Georgetown Security Studies Review, advocates for a continuation of kinetic strikes against the Taliban and the train, advise, and assist mission to further develop the Afghan security forces. Read "Amid Recent Terrorist Attacks, US and NATO-led Efforts in Afghanistan Must Persist", GSSR, February 16, 2018.

NDS Needs to Improve. Kabul has been the target of some major terrorist attacks by the Taliban and IS-KP in recent months. The uptick in the violence has the city's residents pointing fingers at the Afghan government. Javid Ahmad, a Non-Resident Fellow with the Atlantic Council and West Point's War Institute, presents his views on the failures of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in "The Major Flaws in Afghanistan's Intelligence War", The National Interest, February 12, 2018.

Afghans Abroad Need to Help Afghanistan. M. Ashraf Haidari, the Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, believes that Afghans living abroad should try to assist their home country with the challenges it faces. Read "Securing the Future of Afghanistan: The Diaspora's Debt of Service", The Diplomat, February 13, 2018.

Some 'Inconvenient Truths' about America's War in Afghanistan. Danny Sjursen, a fellow at Defense Priorities and combat veteran, expresses his views about the Afghan conflict. "America has done all it can in Afghanistan - more troops won't 'win' us anything", The Hill, February 11, 2018.


Afghan Security News

Member of National Mission Brigade trains at KMTC
(Photo by SPC Austin Boucher, NSOCC-A, Feb 12, 2018)

New Head of Afghan Border Force. General Juma Gul Himat has been appointed as the new Afghan border security forces commander. Many parts of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) has been transferred from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to the Ministry of Defense (MoD).

Insider Attack - Helmand Province. Sixteen members of a National Directorate of Security (NDS) unit were killed by four of their colleagues in an 'insider attack' on Feb 11th, Sunday. (VOA, Feb 11, 2018).

Sangorian. A secret unit established by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) is causing some angst within the Taliban movement in Helmand province. (Gandhara, Feb 15, 2018).

Terrorism Conference Hosted by Kabul. The Afghan capital hosted a regional conference on ways to defeat terrorism on Tuesday, February 13th. Military chiefs from several neighboring countries attended - including Pakistan. Hmmm. (RFE/RL, Feb 13, 2018). See also "Central Asian defense leaders meet in Kabul for security talks", Resolute Support, February 14, 2018.

777th SMW on Display. Senior officials of Central and South Asian countries visited the Special Mission Wing on Feb 13th for a static display of its men and equipment staged at Kabul's international airport. The static exhibit was held at the end of a two-day CASA Chiefs of Defence conference. (Resolute Support, Feb 15, 2018).

More U.S. Airpower. The U.S. has increased its air assets in Afghanistan which will provide a decisive edge in the fight to destroy Taliban networks and enable air support to U.S. personnel embedded with the ANDSF. (455th Air Expeditionary Wing, Feb 16, 2018, DVIDS).

Retiring the Old Generals. The Afghan military has more general officers than the U.S. Army. Many of them don't have a real job . . . and if they do . . . well that's another story. Read more in "Afghan army shake-up to push out old guard in fight against Taliban", Reuters, February 14, 2018.

Badakhshan Province Threatened. A recent news report provides information on how the Taliban and other foreign fighters are increasing their control of some of the districts in Badakhshan province. Read "Taliban Increasing Presence in Remote Afghan Region Bordering China", Gandhara, February 12, 2018.

Three Kunduz Districts Controlled by Taliban. The Afghan government has failed to establish security and government control of three districts in northern Kunduz. (Pajhwok Press, Feb 11, 2018).


Politics and Governance in Afghanistan



National ID Debate. President Ashraf Ghani is ready to roll out implementation of the national identification card for all Afghans. However, the Chief Executive Officer - Abdullah Abdullah is resisting. The controversy is all about the word "Afghan" on the identity card - sometimes referred to as "E-ID" or "E-NIC". Some ethnic groups don't want to be called "Afghan". Unfortunately, use of the electronic ID is considered instrumental for the upcoming 2018 parliamentary elections - which may or may not happen.

Supporting Warlords. Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq is the head of the Afghan National Police in Kandahar province. That is his official role . . . but he is much more. A valuable ally of the U.S. that has a handle on the insurgency in his province - but also a 'strongman', 'warlord', "political leader", and much more. However, he comes with some baggage and is a favorite target of the international human rights crowd. Read "Impunity for U.S.-Funded Warlords in Afghanistan", by Katherine Hawkins (investigator for the Project on Government Oversight), Just Security, February 16, 2018.

Feud between Ghani and Noor. President Ghani has fired Governor Noor (Balkh province) but Noor refuses to leave office. Many observers believe Noor is setting himself up for a run at the Presidency in 2019. There are many perspectives to this political fight - Governor Noor gives us his in "The View From Balkh: how to fix the dysfunctional system in Afghanistan", TRT World, February 15, 2018.


Development & Economic News - Afghanistan



Railway Corridor. The Afghanistan National Railway Authority (ANRA) says that a report for the establishment of 880 klics of railway line is 50% complete. The railway system will connect five countries in the region. Read "Five Nations Railway Corridor to Power Regional  Economies", Tolo News, February 15, 2018. The rail system in Afghanistan is very undeveloped; read more about railroads in Afghanistan.

U.S. Aid to Afghanistan Needed. The Borgen Project aims to ensure U.S. foreign policy ensures the providing of aid to humanitarian needs of impoverished countries. Read "How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to Afghanistan", Borgen Magazine, February 14, 2018.

Squandering of Afghan Mineral Resources. Afghanistan has lots of mineral resources that are not being leveraged properly. Read "Riches Lie Below the Surface in Afghan Province", Institute for War & Peace Reporting, February 12, 2018.

Herat Cleared of Mines. Using United Kingdom funding HALO Trust says that Herat province is now cleared of minefields. The effort started in 2008. Certainly good news for the farmers working in the fields. (Gandhara, Feb 16, 2018).

Illegal Mining in Afghanistan. Mohammad Ismail Amin writes about the mining industry in "Illegal Mining: Headache for Afghanistan Government, International and Local Investors", Eurasia Review, February 12, 2018.


Movies and Videos about the Afghan War


Camp Commando, Afghanistan. A Slovakian Special Forces soldier talks about his job training Afghan SOF in Afghanistan. (2-min, Resolute Support, Feb 15, 2018).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sp76xyuTBA

RS Cdr Visits TAAC-East, Resolute Support, February 12, 2018. General John Nicholson visited Train, Advise, and Assist Command East where he discussed (in this 1-min long video) the recent attacks by the Taliban in Kabul.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn-MfISciEU

Can Economic Interventions Reduce Violence? New Evidence from Kandahar, New America Foundation, February 16, 2018. A new report from Mercy Corps and the Political  Violence FieldLab at Yale University is discussed. (video is 1 1/2 hours long).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAsCvXX1aCU

Afghan Special Mission Wing: Wings of the Commandos, NSOCC-A, February 11, 2018. This short (30 sec) video features the 777 Squadron of the Afghan Air Force.
www.dvidshub.net/video/584170/afghan-special-mission-wing-wings-commandos

ANASOC's Cobra Strike Kandaks, NSOCC-A, February 10, 2018. This short video (30-secs) provides information of a newly established unit that belongs to the Afghanistan National Army Special Operations Command.
https://www.dvidshub.net/video/584041/commandos-add-firepower-and-mobility-with-cobra-strike-units

Task Force-3 Geronimo Leads the Charge in Force Protection, USFOR-A, February 1, 2018. Short video describes the job of a U.S. Army unit that provides protection to Bagram Air Field (BAF).
www.dvidshub.net/video/584949/task-force-3-geronimo-leads-charge-force-protection

View a list of videos about Afghanistan.


Afghan War News Snippets



Book Excerpt - Directorate S. An excerpt of Steven Coll's new book is provided by Barnes and Noble. www.barnesandnoble.com/readouts/directorate-s-the-c-i-a-and-americas-secret-wars-in-afghanistan-and-pakistan/

Annual UNAMA Report on Civilian Casualties. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has released its annual on "The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict", February 2018. https://unama.unmissions.org/protection-of-civilians-reports

IO - The Taliban are Eating Our Lunch. Arnel David, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer with Afghan deployment time, writes about how the U.S. (and Resolute Support) needs to step up their game in the information operations environment. Read "Winning the War of Perceptions in Afghanistan & Beyond", Real Clear Defense, February 16, 2018.

Taliban's 'Peace Letter'. The Taliban have disseminated a letter to the "American people" urging them to press their government to engage in peace talks with the Taliban. The 3,000-word letter was released on Feb 14th. (Gandhara, Feb 14, 2018).

Book Review. Niamatullah Ibrahimi's new book "The Hazaras and the Afghan State" is reviewed by John Waterbury. (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2018).

Return of the Fatemiyoun Fighters. For the past few years Iran has sent (either through incentives or coercion) Afghans to fight in the Syrian conflict. The Afghans were part of the Fatemiyoun brigade. Now that the conflict with ISIS has subsided the Afghans are returning to Iran or, in some cases, Afghanistan. Ahmad Shuja Jamal, a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University, explores the future of the Fatemiyoun in "Mission Accomplished? What's next for Iran's Afghan Fighters in Syria?", War on the Rocks, February 13, 2018.


Afghan War References: Bibliography, Glossary, and Site Map



Afghan War News Site Map
www.afghanwarnews.info/sitemap.htm

Glossary of Terminology Used in Afghanistan
www.afghanwarnews.info/glossary/afghanglossary.htm

Afghanistan: Annotated Bibliography for Resolute Support
www.afghanwarnews.info/pubs/RSM-Bibliography.htm


Keep 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 www.afghanwarnews.blogspot.com 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.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - Feb 11, 2018



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.


Counterinsurgency 'Light' Campaign in Afghanistan



Charles Barham, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and veteran of various programs and projects in Afghanistan, provides an excellent argument on the need for the government of Afghanistan to wage a counterinsurgency campaign. He stresses that the Afghans would be in the lead; but that they would be assisted by Resolute Support and other organizations. The COIN campaign would be a package of security, governance, and basic services.
"This does not need to be the full spectrum, comprehensive COIN led by the U.S. from 2010 to 2012, but a "light" version of that campaign. Regardless, GIRoA will likely require coalition forces to work by, with, and through them, providing training, advising, and assistance (TAA) in order for GIRoA to identify and address the specific elements of security, governance, and basic services which are the most critical for winning over the population and bringing the Taliban insurgency to an end"
This work by Barham is one of the more very informative articles about the way forward in Afghanistan that has appeared in the media. One wonders if the newly established U.S. Army's Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA) or the soon-to-deploy to Afghanistan 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) has included within its training topics relating to counterinsurgency. Another good question is whether the Counterinsurgency Training Center - Afghanistan (CTC-A) is still operating.

Read "The Case for Counter Insurgency 'Light' in Afghanistan", by Charles Barham, Real Clear Defense, February 5, 2018.

Read other publications and papers about counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.


Train, Advise, Assist, Accompany, & Enable Mission in Afghanistan

An Intel Advisor Mentoring ANDSF

Reporting on the 'Train, Advise, and Assist' Mission. The renewed emphasis and modest increase in the advisory effort with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will not win the war; however, it is an important component of the U.S. and NATO strategy for Afghanistan. For that reason, the Afghan War Blog will continue to report on Security Force Assistance efforts by NATO and other Coalition / Partner nations.

Italian Troops Travel to Farah. About 50 Italian military personnel are now in western Farah province to support Afghan forces during operations against militants.  (MENAF.com, Feb 7, 2018).

TFSW Marine Advisors Worked at Kandak Level. The Marines from Task Force Southwest are working with the Afghans in Helmand province at corps, brigade, and even (at times) down to battalion level. The past rotation of Marines did this without suffering casualties - the current rotation of Marine advisors may get even closer to the front lines. Read "For U.S. troops in Afghanistan, new questions about where to be in combat", The Washington Post, February 8, 2018.

SOD-O TAA's ANASOC and More. The Special Operations Detachment-O of the Maryland Army National Guard has been working at Camp Morehead (Camp Commando) for the past several months with the primary mission of training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC). But, in addition, the unit members have found time to conduct a little humanitarian service work in Afghanistan. (The Baltimore Sun, January 25, 2018).

Seminar on SFA. The primary mission of NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is Security Force Assistance (SFA). Norway is hosting a seminar on the topic in March 2018.
www.prio.org/Events/Event/?x=8619

References

Read more about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read recent news reports about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read about the Army's newly established Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA).


Advisors and the Insider Threat in Afghanistan




In late 2012 the Afghan campaign by NATO and the U.S. came to a screeching halt for several weeks. Advisors were told to not meet with their Afghan counterparts; partnered units were instructed to stick to unilateral operations, and combat operations were dramatically down-scaled. The cause of this drastic reduction in operations was the significant increase in 'green-on-blue attacks' - later referred to by ISAF as 'insider attacks'. Afghan policemen and soldiers were killing Coalition Servicemen at an increased rate. The increased rate of attacks, if not stemmed, would have a strategic effect. Defense ministers of European countries were calling General John Allen (ISAF cdr) and threatening the withdrawal of their forces if Afghan security personnel continued to kill their soldiers. Eventually a series of steps - Guardian Angels, vetting of Afghan security personnel, cultural awareness classes, situational awareness instruction, force protection measures, etc. - slowed down the rate of insider attack incidents. These measures, once implemented, allowed the Coalition Forces to resume their partnered and security force assistance missions.

This insider threat continues to exist today. The advisors of the many countries working with their Afghan counterparts continue to keep force protection as an integral part of their operational planning and execution. In the Spring of 2018 the 1st SFAB will deploy 36 advisor teams to Afghanistan to work at the tactical level with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Presumably the advisors are well-trained in force protection measures and have an appreciation of the insider threat.

More Info on Insider Threats

Read the account of one insider attack that took place in Helmand province in August 2012 in "Why  Some Marines Fear Afghan Allies More Than the Taliban", by James Laporta and Rory Laverty, The Daily Beast, February 6, 2018.

Description and Info about the Insider Threat from the ANDSF
www.afghanwarnews.info/insiderthreat.htm

News Reports about the Insider Threat from the ANDSF
www.afghanwarnews.info/insiderthreatnews.htm

Afghan War Blog - Posts about Insider Attacks and Threats
www.afghanwarblog.com/search/label/insider-threat

Afghan War Blog - Posts about Green-on-Blue Attacks
www.afghanwarblog.com/search/label/green-on-blue

Statement by General Dunford, ISAF Commander - April 20, 2013 on Insider Threats
www.afghanwarnews.info/insiderthreat/dunfordstatementinsiderthreat.htm

Insider Threat References
www.afghanwarnews.info/insiderthreat/Insider-Threat-References.htm

ISAF Insider Threat Handguide 2.0, June 2014
www.afghanwarnews.info/insiderthreat/Insider-Threat-Handguide.htm


1st SFAB is Officially Activiated




The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) has been officially established. It will soon be on its way to Afghanistan. The Army has needed a full-time, permanent advisor corps for a long time. Observers of the ad hoc advisory effort in Afghanistan and Iraq have pointed out the need for army advisor units. [1] General Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, announced in 2016 the proposed formation of six Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs). [2] Certainly this is a move in the right direction.

News Stories on 1st SFAB Activation

"1st SFAB hosts activation ceremony; Heraldry announced", Army.mil, February 8, 2018.

"It's official: Army unveils brown beret, new patch for military advisors, SFAB", by Meghann Myers, Army Times, February 8, 2018.

"Army's top general tells new Fort Benning unit they are 'marching into history'", Ledger-Enquirer, February 8, 2018.

"Secretary of Defense James Mattis makes special trip to Fort Benning", Ledger-Enquirer, February 9, 2018.


1st SFAB News

New SFAB Handgun. Some Problems? Some of the Army's units, including the 1st SFAB, are getting fielded the U.S. Army's Sig Sauer M17 Modular Handgun. Recent news reports have revealed some problems in its performance. Read "The Army is working to fix problems with its new handgun after critical DoD report", Army Times, February 1, 2018.

"SFABs Play a Critical Role". A U.S. Army Colonel with past Afghan advisory experience in RC East says that "SFABs play a critical role as part of a total Army force, and, as such, should remain a permanent force structure". He also provides some 'lessons learned' for the SFABs:

Don't advise FSF into a new version of the American Army
Have capabilities in CI, interrogation, SIGINT, and HUMINT
Share your intel with your partner forces
Interagency transparency and cooperation is important
Interact with SOF

Read "An Advise-and-Assist Commander Has Advice for the US Army's New Partner-Trainers", Defense One, February 6, 2018.

Stakes are High for 1st SFAB. Dan Lamothe writes about the upcoming Afghan deployment for the 1st SFAB. About 800 Soldiers from the unit will go to Afghanistan along with a few hundred Soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. "For this newly formed Army unit, the stakes in Afghanistan will be high", The Washington Post, February 8, 2018.

Footnotes and References

[1] See Institutionalizing Adaptation: It's Time for a Permanent Army Advisor Corps, by John A. Nagl, CNAS, June 27, 2007 and Learning From Our Mistakes in Selection and Training of Military Advisors, by John Friberg, SOFREP, January 14, 2016.

[2] See Advisory Brigades to be Established by U.S. Army, by John Friberg, SOFREP, June 29, 2016.

Read more about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read recent news reports about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read about the Army's newly established Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA).


Update on Air Operations in Afghanistan (Feb 11, 2018)

A-29 Super Tucano

'Operators' Graduate from ATAC. Special Operators with the Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps and General Command Special Police Units graduated from the ATAC Course at the ANASOC School of Excellence on Feb 1, 2018. Some of the graduates will move on to the ANASOC Air Targeting Officer's  Course to learn how to prepare A-29 fixed-wing and MD-530 light-attack helicopter strike packages. Read more in "Afghan Tactical Air Controllers bring more firepower to the battlefield"NSOCC-A / DVIDS, February 1, 2018.

Afghanistan now the Main Effort. Read more about combat and intelligence-gathering aircraft shifting in the CENTCOM AOR. (VOA, Feb 7, 2018).

RS General Offers 'Glowing' Assessment of AAF. MG James Hecker, director of NATO Air Command - Afghanistan, held a press conference on February 7, 2018. The general is very high on the present and future capabilities of the Afghan Air Force (AAF). As usual, he provides the ever-present statement that "The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield". This, despite the fact, that the rural-based insurgency controls or contests probably 60% of the 399 districts in Afghanistan. In this RS HQs press release he says that ". . . they tried taking districts and couldn't do that either". Perhaps he should learn a little bit about how insurgencies operate and what constitutes 'district control'. Despite the cheer-leading content the RS article is a good indication on how well the AAF is progressing as increases its capacity and capability. Read "Afghanistan's Military Primed to "Cripple" Enemies, Thanks to Increased Air Capabilities", Resolute Support, February 7, 2018.

Another MOAB for Afghanistan? Could the 'Mother of All Bombs' be dropped in air opns in Afghanistan again? Could be . . . (Task & Purpose, Feb 7, 2018).

B-52 Strike on Insurgents in Badakhshan Province. A U.S. Stratofortress dropped 24 precision guided bombs on insurgents close to the China and Tajikistan border. The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is operating in the region and reportedly use some training camps also used by the Taliban. It is unknown if any ETIM fighters were actually in the training camp during the strike.. See "New U.S. air campaign expands to the north"Resolute Support, February 6, 2018. Read more about the strike on the ETIM in a DoD news release (Feb 7, 2018).

Bombing Afghan Drug Labs? Resolute Support recently applauded its success in inflicting serious financial losses on the Taliban's financial operations when it conducted an extensive bombing campaign against drug labs in Helmand province. But some observers think that RS HQs has inflated the damage done to the Taliban. US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) says that $80 million in damage was inflicted on 25 drug labs. It is an important distinction; especially when considering that some of the aircraft used include the F-22 Raptor with an operating cost of $70,000 per hour. Read more in "Doubts rise over effectiveness of bombing Afghan drug labs", Air Force Times, February 6, 2018.

Video: B-52 Strike on Helmand Province Drug Lab. Watch a video of a Stratofortress hitting a drug lab. (DVIDS, Feb 2, 2018).

A-29s and Laser-Guided Bombs. The Afghan Air Force just started to use laser-guided munitions with their new A-29 Super Tucanos. In addition, some of the C-208 aircraft will be outfitted with laser-guided rockets. How soon the AAF will be able to employ these modern munitions remains to be seen. (Khaama Press, Feb 8, 2018).

AAF is Increasing Its Capability and Capacity . . . But. A lot of news stories are coming out about how the Afghan Air Force will be a game-changer resulting in the defeat of the Taliban. This article is one more such news report. But my question is: "When is the last time air power defeated an insurgency?". Read "Why the Taliban Should Fear the Afghan Air Force", The National Interest, February 8, 2018.

SMW Instructor Pilot Talks about his Job. A pilot with the AAF's Special Mission Wing talks about his job in this short video posted on DVIDS (Jan 8, 2018).

CRU 222 and 777 SMW Training. Read about a time-sensitive target training exercise involving the Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222 and 777 Special Mission Wing in "Afghan elite hone their skills"NSOCC-A / DVIDS, February 3, 2018.


Commentary on Afghanistan



Optimism Among U.S. Military Leaders on Afghanistan. Kevin Baron, the executive editor for Defense One, writes a detailed article on why our military leaders are optimistic about Afghanistan. Read "Meet the Believers: The Afghanistan War's US Commanders are Ready For a Reboot", Defense One, February 5, 2018.

"Afghanistan is Worse Than Ever". Former SECDEF Chuck Hagel says the situation is bleak and that the time will come when the U.S. will have to leave. (Military Times,  Feb 7, 2018).

"Afghanistan Strategy is Messy, But  . . ." Tom Rogan provides his input on the Afghan conflict. "And even if messy, it's the best possible recipe for a more realistic victory - not defeat'". (Washington Examiner, Feb 5, 2018).

What Winning Looks Like. Nicholas Grossman, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois and editor-at-large of Arc Digital, says we need to hold the line in Afghanistan. He has some good points although he seems to think you 100,000 troops in Afghanistan to do counterinsurgency (Ummm . . . ) Read "The U.S. Needs to Rethink What Winning in Afghanistan Looks Like", National Review, February 7, 2018.

Increased OPTEMP = Increased Casualties. The U.S. has stepped up its bombing raids and close air support operations while the ANDSF (supposedly) has increased its operations against the insurgents around the country. Borhan Osman writes that this may just stiffen the Taliban resolve to not engage in negotiations and could result in an increase in civilian casualties. Read The Cost of Escalating Violence in Afghanistan, International Crisis Group, February 7, 2018.

"The Great Game?" - Not in U.S. Interests. Lyle J. Goldstein, a professor of strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, R.I., assesses the nature of the Afghan conflict while analyzing the motivations of Russia and China. "The Absurdity of the New 'Great Game' in Central  Asia", The National Interest, February 6, 2018.


Afghan Security News

Afghan Commandos prepare for operations in Mohmand Valley,
Nangarhar province against ISKP militants
(Photo by SPC Jacob Krone, NSOCC-A, Feb 2, 2018)

Retiring the Old Guard. President Ghani signed documents that 'gracefully' retired 164 general officers. The Afghan security forces have an excessive number of generals and it is time to see some of them go home and collect their pension. Many of the generals were too old, inept, useless, corrupt, and . . . in many instances . . . did not have a real job. I am sure there was a fair degree of politics involved but still a good step forward!

U.S. Moving Troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Jeff Schogol of Task & Purpose reports that the U.S. is moving units from Iraq to Afghanistan. (Task & Purpose, Feb 5, 2018).

Northern Afghanistan - Refuge for Regional Terrorists? Russia is concerned that former fighters for ISIS will take up camp in northern Afghanistan. (Voice of America, Feb 8, 2018).

Afghan Women Serving with SOF Units. Martha Schaeffer, of the NATO Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (NSOCC-A), shares with us information on how Afghan women are serving with Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) and about the Afghan Female Tactical Platoons (FTPs). Read "Afghan Special Security Forces Women: Pushing boundaries; breaking barriers", DVIDS, February 1, 2018.

Quantity over Quality? There are over 2,500 trainees currently enrolled in the 14-week long Afghan Commando qualification course at Camp Commando (Morehead). The intent is to double the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF). Hopefully ANASOC is not sacrificing quality to obtain quantity (SOF Truth #2). (NSOCC-A, Feb 7, 2018).

Examining Recent Terrorist Attacks. The past few months have seen an increase in terrorist attacks in Afghan cities. Thomas Ruttig, of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), takes a close look in Five Questions to Make Sense of the New Peak in Urban Attacks and a Violent Week in Kabul, AAN, February 5, 2018.

District Policemen Working in Provincial Capital. One of the many reasons that Helmand province suffers from insecurity is that many of the policemen who are assigned to districts are in the provincial capital guarding officials and politicians. For instance, 94 policemen and officers from Kajaki district are currently serving in Lashkar Gah. Read more in "Afghan Police Protect Officials, Not Public, In Frontline Province", Gandhara, February 8, 2018.

Intel Officer Shipping Out. Read Admiral (lower half) Kelly Aeschbach, currently deputy director of intelligence at USFOR-A, is heading to Offutt Air Force Base.

NSOCC-A General Taking Off. BG Kirk Smith, currently DCG of NATO's SOF in Afghanistan, is heading to Europe to take command of SOCEUR.

Kabul Security Plan. The Afghan government has approved in principle a security plan for Kabul city in light of recent terrorist attacks. (Khaama Press, Feb 5, 2018).

China as a CT Partner in Afghanistan? Hmmm. The recent bombin in Badakhshan province of training camps run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) could be the forerunner to an increased degree of cooperation with China. See "Pentagon thinks China could be a partner in Afghanistan", Military Times, Feb 8, 2018.

Afghan Officers Fired Over Kabul Attack. Afghan President Ghani says that seven Afghan army officers - including two generals - have been dismissed for "professional negligence" during a recent deadly attack on a Kabul military base by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). (Gandhara, Feb 6, 2018).


Afghan Governance and Politics



Parliamentary Elections Delayed? The ability of the Afghan government to conduct a national election that is secure, on schedule, and corruption free appears to be far in the future. Despite having conducted a number of country-wide elections the Afghans still are suffering growing pains. Apparently, the parliamentary elections scheduled for mid-2018 will be delayed at least three months. If not held in the fall then the election date will slip to mid-2019. See "Afghanistan parliament elections likely delayed until October", Reuters, February 4, 2018.

Elections and Electronic Identity Cards. A very expensive plan to issue new electronic identity cards ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held in Afghanistan in mid-summer 2018 is raising political tension. Leading figures in some ethnic groups are rejecting the term "Afghan" on the ID card. The term 'Afghan' is closely associated with 'Pashtun'; and other ethnic groups (Tajiks, Hazara, Uzbeks, and others) are taking exception to it. The ID cards, known as e-Tazkira, are viewed as important in the electoral process - a step to avoid fraud in the parliamentary elections for 2018 and presidential elections for 2019. Read more in "Who is an Afghan? Row over ID cards fuels ethnic tension", Reuters.com, February 8, 2018.

Warlords and Governance. The Afghan government is by all accounts - very dysfunctional. One of the factors causing major problems in Afghan governance is the influence of powerful warlords. A seminar on this topic will be held in Norway in March 2018. (Prio).

Gov Noor for President? Atta Mohammad Noor was fired by President Ghani from his job as governor of Balkh province - but he still occupies the office while his appointed replacement works from an office in Kabul. Noor is using the political crisis to position himself for a run for the presidency in the 2019 presidential elections. (Daily Mail, Feb 5, 2018).


Afghan Development & Economic News

Afghan Marble Mine in Herat
(Photo by Melissa Skorka, ISAF CAAT, 2013)

Afghan Mineral Development. Afghanistan is reach in natural resources to include extensive deposits of minerals. However, One shouldn't Count Your Rocks Before Their Mined!  A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has provided 20 pages of information about the abundance of mineral resources and the problems encountered in turning this resource into a productive source of revenue. See Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, SIGAR, January 30, 2018, pages 1-20. www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2018-01-30qr.pdf

Developing Afghanistan's Coal Industry. There appears to be some progress in the coal mining sector of Afghanistan. Read "Afghanistan, US Companies Working on Afghan Coal Deal", Voice of America, February 2, 2018.

Looting of Afghanistan's Mineral Resources. A 2017 report describes the criminal activity involved in the mineral resources economic sector of Afghanistan. Read "Industrial-Scale Looting of Afghanistan's Mineral Resources", by William Byrd and Javed Noorani, United States Institute for Peace (USIP),  May 30, 2017.

Indonesia - Afghanistan Air Corridor? The Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) said that the two countries have talked about opening an air corridor. This would allow Afghan traders to export dried and fresh fruits, carpets, and medicinal herbs to Indonesia. There is an existing air corridor with India - and attempts are in the works to open one up with Kazakhstan and other countries as well. (Tolo News, Feb 6,2018).

Northern Afghanistan DDA's Get New Facilities. The Afghan-German Cooperation has built 13 new administrative buildings and three conference rooms for District Development Assemblies (DDAs) in Badakhshan, Baglan, Kunduz, and Takhar. The German Stabilisation Programme Northern Afghanistan SPNA financed the new facilities. Deutshe Zusammenarbett, February 2, 2018.

CDCS. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is developing its new Country Development and Cooperation Strategy for Afghanistan. Implementation date is likely to be mid-2018.

For more info see development in Afghanistan.


Movies and Videos about Afghanistan


Afghan Police Women Driving School, Resolute Support, YouTube.com, February 6, 2018. An Afghan policewoman talks about attending a driving course sponsored by Train, Advise, and Assist Command - North.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WGL3KrtYjg

Afghan Star, Tolo TV, February 9, 2018. Watch some music performed by Afghan singers.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVqboLvthQ0

Trauma, The Colony Media, January 18, 2018. The two-minute trailer of a Black Hawk MEDEVAC crew saving lives in eastern Afghanistan.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YO7YlZI_bw

A Force to Reckon With, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, February 2, 2018. This 2-minute video highlights the mission of the Czech Republic 9th Force Protection Company providing security to the Bagram Ground Defense Area (BGDA).
www.dvidshub.net/video/582992/force-reckon-with

IP of SMW is Interviewed. An instructor pilot with the Afghan Air Force's Special Mission Wing talks about his job. Posted on DVIDS by Resolute Support HQs, January 8, 2018.
www.dvidshub.net/video/583282/interview-with-first-afghan-special-forces-instructor-pilot-trained-country-english

Directorate S: America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Part I, New America, February 9, 2018. Author Steve Coll presents topics related to his new book. (video starts at 13 min mark).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=or_DRr3_O-U

Directorate S: America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Part II.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkK07tHRmLs


View a list of videos about Afghanistan.


Afghan News Snippets



Paper - Conflict between Settlers and Nomads in Afghanistan. James A. Michener's book Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan (published in 1963) captured the imagination of a generation of Americans who wanted to know much more about this remote country in the mountains of Central / South Asia. The merchants and nomads who traveled along Afghanistan's roads have diminished in numbers. Trucks have replaced camels and a modern society is slowly eroding the nomadic life of Afghanistan. The nomadic people of Afghanistan still exist but in state of conflict with the ever-growing settled areas. Read a detailed paper by Dr. Antonio Giustozzi entitled Typologies of Nomad-Settler Conflict in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), January 2018 (40 pages). https://areu.org.af/archives/publication/1801

Paper - ISIS and South Asia. Kabir Taneja has wrote a 12-page paper entitled The Fall of ISIS and its Implications for South Asia, January 2018. IT is posted on the web site of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
http://cf.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ORF_Issue_Brief_220_ISI_all.pdf

U.S. Senators Question War Effort. In a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee State Department and Defense officials attempted to explain the administrations goals in Afghanistan. Many of the committee members expressed concern that the new strategy will not achieve its goal of forcing the Taliban into peace talks. They noted that the Taliban control more Afghan territory now than they have since the October 2001 U.S. invasion. Read "U.S. senators concerned Trump's Afghanistan strategy will not succeed", Reuters, February 6, 2018.

$45B Pricetag / Year for War. The Afghan conflict is costing the United States about $45 billion a year and that cost is likely to continue for years to come. (Military Times, Feb 6, 2018).


References on the Afghan Conflict



Afghan War News Site Map
www.afghanwarnews.info/sitemap.htm

Glossary of Terminology Used in Afghanistan
www.afghanwarnews.info/glossary/afghanglossary.htm

Afghanistan: Annotated Bibliography for Resolute Support
www.afghanwarnews.info/pubs/RSM-Bibliography.htm


Keep Abreast of the Afghan Conflict

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 www.afghanwarnews.blogspot.com 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.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - Feb 4, 2018



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.


Train, Advise, Assist, Accompany, and Enable Mission in Afghanistan

A Marine advisor with Task Force Southwest (TFSW) battle tracks
with a soldier from the 215th Corps at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan.
(photo Jan 22, 2018 by SGT Conner Robbins, USMC)

Reporting on the 'Train, Advise, and Assist' Mission. The renewed emphasis and modest increase in the advisory effort with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will not win the war; however, it is an important component of the U.S. and NATO strategy for Afghanistan. For that reason, the Afghan War Blog will continue to report on Security Force Assistance efforts by NATO and other Coalition / Partner nations.

Upcoming CoC for TAAC-Air. Brig. Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commanding general, Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air; and commander, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, Air Combat Command, Kabul, Afghanistan, will be the commander, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Alliance Ground Surveillance Force, Allied Command Operations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sigonella, Italy. He will be replaced by Col. Joel L. Carey, who has been selected for the grade of brigadier general. Carey is currently the commander, 12th Flying Training Wing, Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, to commanding general, Train, Advise,Assist Command-Air; and commander, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, Air Combat Command, Kabul, Afghanistan.

New DCoS Ops for RS. BG (P) Dan Walrath will soon be back in Afghanistan. He did a great job as cdr of 2/101st in RC East. The Strike BCT was one of the first SFABs to deploy to Afghanistan in 2012.

The Afghan military attache at the Afghan Embassy in D.C. meets with
two U.S. Army officers to discuss the training of the ANDSF.

Paper: "Afghanistan Army Development: What Went Wrong", Interagency Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 1, Winter 2015, LTC Tommy J. Tracy.

Marines to Lease Reaper Drone for Helmand. The Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest are looking to use an armed drone to keep an eye on things in Helmand province while they conduct their 'advise and assist' mission. Read "Marine Corps Wants Reaper Drone to Provide Overwatch for Helmand", Defense Tech,  January 29, 2018.

Increased Risk of U.S. Casualties. As advisors work closer to the front lines (at Afghan kandak level) the probability of casualties rises. See "US troops at greater risk in Afghanistan under Pentagon's new approach, top official says", Fox News, February 2, 2018.

Advising - Lessons Observed: Not Actually Learned

Some Familiar Themes Here - Vietnam and Afghanistan. Read "US Combat Advisors in Vietnam Knew the Score and Got Ignored", by James A. Warren, The Daily Beast, February 2, 2018.

USMC's CAP in Vietnam. The US SOF's Village Stability Operations (VSO) program in Afghanistan bore a resemblance to the U.S. Marine's Combined Action Program (CAP) - advisors living in small Vietnamese communities. "Preventing the Barbarization of Warfare: The USMC CAP Program in Vietnam", Small Wars Journal, February 2, 2018.

Want to Read more Papers on Advising? Take a look Afghanistan: Annotated Bibliography for Resolute Support, over 200 pages referencing documents and publications on SFA in Afghanistan.
www.afghanwarnews.info/pubs/RSM-Bibliography.htm

Breaking News - COIN Actually Worked in Vietnam. J. R. Bullington, a man who spent considerable time in Vietnam, writes on how counterinsurgency actually was the right strategy in Vietnam. Other factors contributed to the lost effort; but not COIN. "Assessing Pacification in Vietnam: We Won the Counterinsurgency War!", Small Wars Journal, March 23, 2012.

News on the 1st SFAB


1st SFAB - "Fully Capable".  On February 8, 2018 the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade will be recognized as fully capable at a ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 1st SFAB is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

SFAB Recruiting. The U.S. Army is on a big push to recruit for the six Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) that it is in the process of standing up. The first one was brought online in August 2017 at Fort Benning - it has finished its training and will deploy to Afghanistan soon. The 2nd SFAB is now forming at Fort Bragg. The SFABs, 800-men strong, are key to the U.S. efforts to advise foreign military forces. Read "Event highlights options in Army", Fort Hood Sentinel, January 25, 2018.

Modernization and Equipping the SFAB. Standing up a brand new unit like the 1st SFAB (August 2017) and deploying it within its first year of existence poses an number of huge problems. One of which is fielding the equipment for a new brigade (yes it is undersized in strength but still . . . ) In addition, the U.S. Army wants it to have the latest and greatest in equipment (more fielding and training issues there as well). Read more about the latest of comms gear going to the 1st SFAB in "A special Afghan unit could be the Army's test case for its future network", C4ISRNET, February 2, 2018.

1st SFAB EOD Specialists. An EOD specialist talks about his assignment to the 1st SFAB and it's impending deployment to Afghanistan. (DVIDS, Jan 23, 2018).

SFABs New Pistol. The 1st SFAB trained up on the Army's new pistol - the M17 Sig Sauer 9mm P320. But . . . there seems to be a few problems. (The Warzone, Jan 2018).

Read more about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read recent news reports about the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - SFAB.

Read about the Army's newly established Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA).


District Control in Afghanistan



One way of measuring success or failure in Afghanistan is to label how many of the 399 districts are 'controlled' or 'contested' by the Taliban. There are four or five organizations that periodically release the stats on this topic. (Note: there are varying figures for the number of districts; 399 seems to be the most consistent).

The most important organization to follow is Resolute Support HQs based in Kabul. RS figures tend to be on the optimistic side; usually its figures are stated in the bi-annual DoD 1225 report or in SIGAR's Quarterly Report to Congress. The latest SIGAR report (Jan 30, 2018) did not have these figures because RS HQs (or DoD) classified (for the 1st time) the information. Under pressure from the media RS HQs quickly released new figures. Last November 2018 the Afghan government controlled 64% of the population and now (Jan 2018) it controls 60% of the population.

The Long War Journal also tracks district control in Afghanistan. It's figures are more reliable than Resolute Support's figures as it takes a more realistic view of what 'district control' is. The Long War Journal blog periodically releases an updated map on what districts are controlled or contested.

The Afghan government also will provide stats on district control on a periodic basis. However, take it with a grain of salt. It is a very optimistic and unrealistic portrayal for sure. Currently, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) says that only 11 districts are under Taliban control. Hmmm. There are about 13 districts in Helmand province alone; of which probably 11 districts are under the control of the Taliban. What about the other 33 provinces?

BBC News has published an article with a small video segment on how much area the Taliban control - with the alarming headline of "Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds" (January 30, 2018).

Want to learn more about district control in Afghanistan?


SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress (Jan 2018)



The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has posted its Quarterly Report to Congress for January 2018. This 293-page report provides an overview of reconstruction activities in Afghanistan with updates on:

Overview and Status of Funds
Security
Governance
Economic and Social Development
Counternarcotics

www.sigar.mil/quarterlyreports/index.aspx


Afghan Air Force (AAF) Update


AAF's  A-29s Using Guided Bombs - Almost. The A-29 Super Tucano began its first combat operations in the Afghan conflict in April 2016. The highly maneuverable aircraft is capable of flying a low altitudes and is an excellent close air support platform for the Afghan National Army (ANA). The A-29 pilots are now learning how to drop laser-guided bombs. Recently two A-29s participated in a training event to employ these very accurate munitions utilizing the on-board Forward Looking Infrared System. The A-29s were piloted by TAAC Air mentors while the back-seater (AAF member) managed the weapons system. Read more in "In another first, Afghan pilots are now dropping laser-guided bombs", Air Force Times, January 28, 2018.



UH-60s Replacing Mi-17s - A Bad Political and Operational Decision. Alexandra Gutowski, a senior military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes how "Blackhawks Threaten to Undermine Afghan Air Force Development", Real Clear Defense, January 29, 2018. Naturally, this is a hot issue. There are those who believe the UH-60 is a great fit for the AAF. Time will tell. Read more news about the UH-60 Black Hawk and AAF.