Thursday, December 4, 2014

Afghan War Daily News Snippets

News about the NATO Conference. NATO has released a statement (Dec 2, 2014) about the meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO and 14 partner countries where it was decided to launch the Resolute Support mission.

News about the London Conference. A political analyst and historian, Helena Malikyar, provides us with her analysis of the London Conference receiving so much press coverage. She disputes the "feel good" press releases of the U.S. military, ISAF, NATO and other international agencies touting "metrics" that laud significant progress in security, health care, education, etc. Malikyar points out that there is a difference between quality and quantity. Read her article in Aljazeera posted on the Yahoo! News website (December 3, 2014) entitled "Afghanistan conference won't rock the boat".

Watch a video of President Ghani's remarks at a press conference with the President of the European Union (Donald Tusk) that took place on Tuesday, December 2, 2014. Published on YouTube by the Presidential Palace Directorate of Communications (5 Mins).

Congress has approved the White House and Pentagon's requests to cut benefits for members of the military - although not to the extent that was wanted. Troops will see smaller pay raises, reduced housing allowance, and increased co-payments for health care. Pay raises are capped at 1 percent. Meanwhile very expensive F-35 is fully funded and entitlement programs such as welfare are untouched. The 1% of the population that serves the country is penalized. I am not sure our high-ranking generals and admirals are serving us well. Read more in "Budget deal calls for troop benefit cuts next year", Stars and Stripes, December 2, 2014.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a report stating that Afghanistan's 2014 economic performance has been hurt by political and security uncertainties. The IMF has recommended the restarting of the sale of the New Kabul Bank and the establishment of a nine-month long Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) to assist Afghan authorities on macroeconomic policies and a reform agenda. (UK News Yahoo, December 3, 2014.

The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade's pathfinder company - Company F, 2nd Aviation Assault Battalion located at Bagram Air Field - is tasked with recovering downed pilots and unmanned vehicles, setting up landing zones for helicopters, and helping ship out equipment from closing bases. Read more in "82nd Airborne pathfinders on call to move quickly in Afghanistan", Stars and Stripes, December 2, 2014.

New Secretary of Defense. Now that it is known that Ash Carter will be the new secretary of defense folks are looking into his capabilities. He is known as a technocrat with a deep knowledge about advanced weapon systems and the budget; however, he never served with the military and has never led troops in combat. Read more in "New defense secretary would inherit old tensions", The Washington Post, December 3, 2014.

The monthly average of mine blast victims for 2014 is 37. According to the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA) more than 350 people have been killed or disabled as a result of mine blasts. (Tolo News, Dec 2, 2014).

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is supporting initiatives to provide legal aid to those accused of crimes or imprisoned in Helmand province. The Afghan judiciary system is horribly corrupt and most criminal cases are not resolved until a bribe is paid. Read more in a news release by the UNDP (Dec 3, 2014).

The construction of a new bridge in the Kharoti area of Garam district has cut down the travel time by half for residents bringing produce to market, attending school, seeking medical care, and more. The new bridge over the canal was funded by Japan and supported by the National Area Based Development Programme. Read an UNDP news release (Dec 3, 2014).

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) is a battalion-sized unit which is part of the secretive Joint Task Force 2 and has been active in the war on terror in Afghanistan. Read more in "CSOR - Canada's Special Operations Regiment", Special Ops, August 3, 2014.

A recent posting of The Long War Journal (Dec 3, 2014) states that the US has conducted airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan to target Pakistani Taliban. The "Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan" operates on both sides of the border (Afghanistan and Pakistan) but is postured to attack Pakistan government forces. So these recent strikes by the U.S. are certainly welcomed by Pakistan. Now if we can only get the Pakistanis to bomb the Haqqani Network.

Reuters reports (Dec 3, 2014) that there are over 760,000 Afghan refugees that risk deportation from Iran. Many Afghans work in Iran (legally and illegally) to provide an income for their families.

A news report, penned by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, entitled "How Afghans Feel About the Direction of Their Country" is posted on the Defense One website (Dec 2, 2104).

The David Webb Show interviews LTC Michael Waltz (a Special Forces officer) about Afghanistan. Waltz is the author of Warrior Diplomat. Waltz is worried about the current administration's policy, ability of the ANSF to hold off the Taliban, and ability of President Ghani to move the country ahead. Waltz is high on Ghani but has concerns on ethnic tensions and warlords with the withdrawal of the U.S. and the resulting diminishing influence and leverage. (An audio sound bite, Dec 3, 2014).

Vanquish Worldwide has announced that it received a $145 million trucking contract to assist in the retrograde operations of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Read a news release (Dec 2, 2014).

The 59th Forward Engineer Support Team - Advanced (FEST-A) is completing their Afghan tour. The unit performed a variety of missions in support of RCs South, Southwest, and West. Read more in "59th Forward Engineer Support Team prepares for return to Tulsa", DVIDS, December 2, 2014.

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