Thursday, March 26, 2015

Afghan News Snippets (Mar 26, 2015)

Bergdahl Charged with Desertion. U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg has said the former POW, SGT Bowe Bergdahl, has been charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with desertion. This complicates things for the Obama administration on two fronts: one is that Bergdahl was exchanged for five high-level Taliban commanders and the other is that the family members of the Americans beheaded by ISIS will want to know why the U.S. wouldn't negotiate for their release. An Article 32 hearing will determine if there is sufficient evidence for a court martial. If convicted he faces confinement, reduction to private, and forfeiture of pay. I am not sure how Susan Rice feels after saying Bergdahl served  'honor and distinction." ( Read why the Army is charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion (The Atlantic, March 25, 2015).

Ghani Addresses U.S. Congress. President Ghani addressed the United States Congress on Wednesday morning (March 25th). It is reported that many democrats showed up for this head-of-state address and took part in the standing ovation. Sometimes they don't show. The speech was a little more than one hour. You view the address on

Video about Ghani's Visit & Situation in Afghanistan. Two experts chat on a panel discussion about President Ghani's visit to D.C. and the slowing down of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Tony Shaffer  (senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research) and Michael Kugelman (senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia from the Wilson Center) are featured. Both made some good points towards understanding the situation in Afghanistan. Shaffer says that we need to stick with the counterterrorism mission to ensure we don't end up with a failed state with ungoverned territories where terrorists can operate. Kugelman pointed out that we need to manage our expectations on what 9,800 U.S. troops can achieve given what 100,000 troops couldn't get done a few years back. Other topics include Ghani, Karzai, economy, comparison and contrast with Iraq, cabinet not formed, and more. (CCTV America, March 24, 2015, 7 minutes).

Ghani Speaking at USIP. President Ghani spoke on Wednesday, March 25th at the United States Institute of Peace (ISIP). One interesting comment by Ghani was the problem with peace is not with the Taliban in Afghanistan, but between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said that Afghanistan has been in a state of undeclared hostilities with Pakistan for 13 years. It was webcast and you can view it at the link below.

Troop Withdrawal Slowdown Helps CT Effort. The pause in withdrawing U.S. troops will ensure that the U.S. can maintain a counterterrorist capability. The slowdown will allow Resolute Support HQs to keep the corps level advisory teams at Gamberi and Kandahar. In addition, CT forces of the Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be able to remain at Kandahar and Jalalabad.

Obama Critics Pounce. While some are applauding President Obama's decision to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan others are saying "I told you so". Read "Obama Halts Afghanistan Withdrawal and His Critics Still Pounce", The D Brief, March 24, 2015.

Sen. Cotton on Obama and Afghanistan. A junior U.S. Senator, Tom Cotton, has penned an op ed piece posted on (March 25, 2015) saying that "President Obama Must Stand With Afghanistan".

Corruption in the ANA. A writer, Matthew Gault, provides us his perspective of corruption within the Afghan National Army (ANA). Read "The Pentagon Will Fund an Army That Steals Food, Hates Women and Can't Pay Its Soldiers", War is Boring, March 24, 2014.

Suicide Bombing in Kabul. A suicide bombing attack killed at least seven people in Kabul on Wednesday, March 25th. There are also reports of in excess of 30 wounded. It appears to have been conducted near the Ministry of Finance.

U.S. Drone Strike. Reuters reports that a drone strike killed nine Pakistani militants in Nangarhar province early Tuesday. (March 24, 2015).

Man Beheaded in Helmand. Unknown gunmen decapitated a man and sliced his two daughters' necks in southern Helmand province on late Tuesday night. (Tolo News, Mar 25, 2015).

UN Info Campaign on Women's Rights. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is conducting a number of information campaigns to raise awareness about women's rights in Afghanistan. News report by UNAMA (March 25, 2015).

U.S. Presence Important for Afg. James West, a guest blogger for the Defense in Depth Blog on the Council of Foreign Relations website has penned a post entitled "Afghanistan's Riddle: For Lasting Stability, U.S. Presence Is One Important Step Among Many" (March 25, 2015).

ATVs for USSOCOM. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is buying 2,000 All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) from Polaris Industries. The contract is for 1,750 of the four-seat MRZR-4 and 300 of the two-seta MRZR-2. The ATVs are easily transported in the V-22 Osprey, MH-47, and MH-53 - and can also be dropped by parachute as well. Special Forces teams used ATVs extensively to patrol remote areas and conduct infiltration during missions. The ATVs are also used to get around FOBs and COPs as a utility vehicle. (Defense News, Mar 24, 2015).

F-35: All Our Eggs in One Basket. On a more expensive defense acquisition note, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is causing lots of angst in the defense community. The Air Force's most recent folly would seem to be the very expensive and underachieving F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. One observer believes the U.S. Air Force may be putting 'all our eggs in one basket'. The F-35 will replace the F-16, A-10, F-18, and AV-8. It may well replace the F-15 and F-22. Dan Ward asks what happens when the F-35 has a fleet wide grounding because of a safety issue? What do we do for an Air Force during that time? Read "The F-35 Nightmare Could Get Even Worse". (Read Clear Defense, March 24, 2015).

Video - Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR). The Afghan Ministry for Rehabilitation and Rural Development (MRRD) has posted a video about the JFPR on (March 25, 2015). The video presents information about irrigation canal projects in Afghanistan that assists the agricultural sector of Afghanistan.

Battle for the Soul of Jihad. Daniel L. Byman and Jennifer R. Williams wrote an article posted on (March 24, 2015) about how al Qaeda and the Islamic State are battling for the leadership of the worldwide jihad.

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