Sunday, September 25, 2016
RS Cdr's News Conference - Some Facts and Some Spin
General John Nicholson recently conducted a press conference with reporters in Washington, D.C. Nicholson is the current commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan. He had a few interesting comments to make. While his comments have a certain amount of spin it is also a very informative news conference.
GoIRA Controls 70%. According to Nicholson, the Afghan government forces controls 65% to 70% of the population, the Taliban controls 10% of the population, and the remainder is 'contested'. Hmmm. Lots of analysis could be done with those 'facts'. First of all control of the population is much different than control of terrain. If much of the population lives in the large cities then the percentage of terrain controlled by the Taliban is likely much more than 10% (which of course it is). Read more on this in "US commander in Afghanistan downplays Taliban control of 10 percent of population", The Long War Journal, September 23, 2016.
DoD News Release. For more DoD spin read "Afghan Security Forces Growing to Take Over Mission, General Says", Defense Media Activity, September 23, 2016. Nicholson emphasizes that the mission has changed from counterinsurgency to 'train, advise, and assist'. He stated that the Afghan security forces executed 'Operatin Shafaq' (or Dawn) in three successful phases - the defense of Kunduz (April and May), expansion of the security zone in Helmand, western Kandahar and Uruzgan (June and July), and then in Nangarhar later in the summer. The problem with his analysis is that the situation in Kunduz is still critical, Helmand's provincial capital (Lashkar Gah) is threatened (with 90% of the province controlled by the Taliban), and Uruzgan's provincial capital (Tarin Kowt) now under attack. So . . . . .
Checkpoints, SOF, and more. He points out the problem of too many checkpoints, how it dilutes offensive power, and leaves police units isolated and vulnerable. Nicholson also speaks about the effectiveness of Afghan SOF units but also about the misuse of these units (using them for conventional force units). A lot of topics (ISIS, ISK, TTP, IMU, troop levels, array of forces, expansion of advisory effort, framework nations, enablers, etc.) covered in this news conference.
DoD Video of News Conference- "Resolute Support Commander Briefs Reporters". Watch a 42-minute video of General Nicholson's news conference held on September 23, 2016 at the Pentagon.