The Ghani and Abdullah Tour. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani for a state dinner this week. Being Secretary of State, John took the opportunity to make some remarks. (U.S. Department of State, March 24, 2015).
Video - President Ghani and the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR has a 'conversation' with President Ghani on March 26, 2015. Richard Haas of CFR hosts the presentation with Robert Rubin of CFR presiding.
Video - Dr. Abdullah Addresses Brookings Institute. On Thursday, March 26th, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the CEO for Afghanistan addressed the Brookings Institute. During his presentation and the follow-on question and answer period he touches on a number of issues to include peace talks, Pakistan, corruption, women's rights, who the Taliban are now, the reclusive Mullah Omar, relationship with China, drug trafficking, the National Unity Government, the Haqqani Network, ISIS, al Qaeda, and more. You can watch the video of his presentation (in English) at the link below posted on YouTube.com.
Ghani to Visit India in April. President Ghani certainly knows how to travel. He spent last several days in the States and prior to that has hit several other countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.). In April he heads to India. Top of the agenda will likely be the 'tilt' of Afghanistan to Pakistan leaving India out in the cold. Looks like it is time to patch up the Afghan-India relationship.
Afghanistan's Economic Plans - U.S. Not Included. An article published on March 26th reflects on the comments of President Ghani during his D.C. tour. Ghani believes that Afghanistan is at the center of an economic revival based on regional cooperation. The article points out that as we (the U.S. and international partners) fund the Afghan government and its security - the neighbors of Afghanistan will benefit economically - the U.S.? Not so much. Read more in "Afghanistan's fantastic plan for economic success leaves the US on the outside", Quartz, March 26, 2015.
Lose the Timeline. Jason Campbell writing in War on the Rocks (March 26, 2015) says we need a better Afghan strategy and we should lose the timeline for withdrawal. He discusses the Ghani visit to D.C., the new U.S.-Afghan relationship, and more.
What is the Endgame? While most observers applaud President Obama's decision to put a 'pause' on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan some are looking past 2016 and wondering what the U.S. commitment will be at that time. Read more in "What's the Afghanistan endgame?", LA Times, March 26, 2015.
Khost Attack. News reports indicate that five people were killed and 10 injured in a missile attack in Khost (eastern Afghanistan).
English for Afghan Air Force Pilots. The lack of English proficiency among Afghan pilots of the Afghan Air Force was creating hazardous conditions for flight operations in Jalalabad. U.S. Air Force Advisors of TAAC-Air responded to the problem with establishing an English course for Afghan aviators focused on aviation terminology. Read more in "Air advisors create English course for Afghan aviators", Air Force Times, March 25, 2015.
"Streetwise Agent vs. Brainy Analyst". The fusing of operations with intelligence is very important in a counterinsurgency environment as well as in the fight against terrorism; and sometimes the U.S. is found wanting in that regard. Yesterday, I wrote about the integration of intelligence processes at company level in Afghanistan (see blog post on the CoIST). Today the NY Times has an article about intelligence fusion at a higher level. The U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies (CIA, FBI, etc.) have a history of not properly coordinating the activities of the "analysts" and the "field operatives". Senior officials have recognized this deficiency and are trying to change the organization and culture. Which means if your are an "Intel Weanie" your status is going up a notch. Read more in "C.I.A. Officers and F.B.I. Agents, Meet Your New Partner: The Analyst", The New York Times, March 27, 2015.
CIA Reorganization. In a move to shake things up at the CIA the head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center is being removed from his post. The center has evolved over the past decade into a paramilitary force that employed armed drones to kill thousands of suspected terrorists and militants. Read more in "CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post", The Washington Post, March 26, 2015. Matteo Fainl writing in The Weekly Wonk of the New America Foundation thinks that CIA Director Brennan's reforms will hurt the CIA.
Drones Suffer High Accident Rate. Drones are less dependable than regular military aircraft and have a higher accident rate. Read more in "How crashing drones are exposing secrets about U.S. war operations", The Washington Post, March 26, 2015.
Beau Bergdahl. The State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, says that the Bergdahl swap for five high-level Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo was 'worth it'. (The Hill, March 25, 2015). Jack Goldsmith writes about the legal implications of the prisoner swap in "Was the Bergdahl Swap Lawful?", Lawfare Blog, March 25, 2015. In other news, Beau provides details of his captivity. (The Washington Post, March 25, 2015) and in article by PBS.
General Officer Moves. MG Townsend of 10th Mtn Div (and formerly commander of Regional Command East) will move to Fort Bragg to replace LTG Joe Anderson who is commander of 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg (and formerly commander of ISAF Joint Command). The 18th Airborne Corps commands four divisions - 82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division (but they don't jump anymore), and the 10th Mountain Division (despite their name they are not located near training areas with any real mountains). (Fayetteville Observer, Mar 26, 2015).
Leadership Changes in Garmser district, Helmand province. According to Tolo News (Mar 26, 2015) the District Governor, District Chief of Police (DCoP), and a former head of security for the district have been fired amid charges of corruption and negligence.
UK and Resettled Interpreters. The UK has resettled less than 100 local interpreters who worked with British forces during the 13-year-long Afghanistan War. (Express, Mar 25, 2015).
Norway and Afghan Refugees. If you are an Afghan refugee in Norway your future is somewhat is up in the air as the current Tripartite Agreement between Norway, Afghanistan, and the UNHCR is subject to re-negotiation. Read "An Uncertain Future in Afghanistan", Prio Blog, March 26, 2015.
Mercenaries in Warfare. The growth of Private Military Corporations (PMCs) over the past 14 years has been significant. In both Iraq and Afghanistan private contractors working for the DoD and DoS outnumbered military personnel. Many of the functions formerly done by the military have been assumed by PMCs - to include providing security for facilities and convoys. Read more in the transcript of an interview of Sean McFate, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and associate professor at National Defense University, who provides us with his perspective on contractors on the battlefield. Read "How Mercenaries Are Changing Warfare" by Kathy Gilsinan, The Atlantic, March 25, 2015.
Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Read about this academy that will train up aid workers. School to be set up by the Save the Children organization. (Devex, Mar 26, 2015).
Video - Afghans Seek Medical Care in Pakistan. This 3 minute-long video is about Afghans who cross over into Pakistan to seek medical care because they can't get the treatment they need in Afghanistan. (Gandhara Blog, Mar 26, 2015).
Behind-the-Scene Story on Women Pilots in the AAF. Resolute Support Headquarters and the U.S. Air Force made much of 'the first female Afghan pilot' who recently received a high-level award from the U.S. Department of State. She has appeared in press conferences, had numerous news reports released by DoD entities, and visited various Air Force units in the states. Behind the scenes and not readily known by the public are a number of previous failed attempts to integrate women into pilot training and getting them assigned to actual flying positions within the Afghan Air Force. Read more in "Why The US Wants to Forget About Female Afghan Pilots", Sunny in Kabul, March 24, 2015.
SOF Likes Palantir; Big Army Says Use DCGS. The ongoing saga of Big Army forcing the SOF community to use the very expensive but broke intelligence system known as Distributed Common Ground System or DCGS instead of the comparatively inexpensive but very able Palantir software application for intelligence processes and targeting continues. Read more in "Bureaucrats Block Special Ops Intel Requests", ABC News, March 26, 2015.
Unity Government Report Card. It has been six months since the National Unity Government (NUG) has taken over the leadership of the Afghan government. Some folks are taking this milestone as an opportunity to evaluate the NUG. Read "The Unity Government's First Six Months: Where is the governance?", Afghanistan Analysts Network, March 26, 2015.
Taliban Leaders Enjoying Qatar. Taliban leaders (and their families) are living the good live in the Gulf region. Read more in "Taliban Leaders Are Living in Luxary in Qatar", Newsweek, March 24, 2015.
133rd Engineer Battalion, Afghanistan, and TAG Dismissed. Last year while the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard was deployed to Afghanistan news leaked out that The Adjutant General (TAG) of Maine was going to disband the 133rd. This was a shocked to the then-deployed Soldiers of the 133rd. The 133rd is a storied unit with a rich heritage of previous deployments in Iraq and news of its future demise was not received well. The TAG was caught in a series of lies about the incident and has just been fired by the Governor of Maine. Read more in "Maine ex-Guard chief lied about battalion plan", Army Times, March 26, 2015.
Guam Air National Guard to Deploy on RSM. About 100 Guardsmen from Guam will go to Afghanistan this coming fall. The members of the 254th Red Horse Squadron received their alert recently. (Air Force Times, March 26, 2015).
Sham Air Force Summit on CAS and Dumping the A-10. The Center for Defense Information at POGO has provided us with their perspective on the U.S. Air Force attempt to rid itself of the close air support mission with its proposed retirement of the A-10 Warthog. Read all about it in "Running for Cover: A Sham Air Force Summit Can't Fix the Close Air Support Gap Created by Dumping the A-10", CDI at POGO, March 25, 2015.