Saturday, March 21, 2015

Daily Afghan News Snippets (Mar 21, 2015)

Troops Staying? Matthew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti provide us with a news article entitled "More U.S. Troops Seen Staying in Afghanistan", The New York Times, March 19, 2015. This article lays out the background for delaying the troop withdrawal, explores the political aspects of Obama's decision, and discusses President Ghani's upcoming trip to the U.S. which should provide us with more news.

Report - A Resurgent Taliban. Lauren McNally and Paul Bucala have penned a report entitled The Taliban Resurgent: Threats to Afghanistan's Security, Institute for the Study of War, March 2015. This 39-page report examines in detail the Taliban movement, its strengths, its weaknesses, tactics, and operations.

Ghani's Power Increases? With his government handicapped by lack of a full cabinet many see President Ghani winning out in a different way. Seems he and his staff are making ministerial level decisions which ultimately increases his power. Read more in "Afghan Leader Said to be Centralizing Power as Unity Government Plan Stalls", The New York Times, March 20, 2015.

Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK). The security situation in Afghanistan recently grew a little more complicated with the Islamic State's formal declaration of its "Khorasan" chapter in January 2015. There are indications that this is a ". . . fairly loosely configured, but noteworthy, network of groups and individuals who are trying to alter the direction of South and Central Asia's multiple jihads.". Read more in "Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan", by Dan Rassler, Combating Terrorism Center, West Point, March 19, 2015.

America's Warlords in Afghanistan. "To fight the Taliban, the United States created a new generation of abusive strongmen that are now running rampant." In this article Kelley Vlahos discusses the abuses of warlords, the Afghan Local Police, and Gen (ret) Petraeus, (The American Conservative, March 20, 2015)

LRAAC. the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, LA has introduced a new one-week long training curriculum to help commanders prepare their leaders for Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) missions around the world. The Leader's Regional Advise and Assist Course (LRAAC) is an immersive training event designed to provide leaders at company and battalion level the cognitive foundation necessary for the successful execution of security cooperation missions. Read more about the LRAAC in an article in Military Review, March 2015.

Nowruz. It appears that Nowruz, the Persian New Year, will be the occasion of some celebrations on Saturday, March 21. Some celebrations and public gatherings will be taking place. Kabul Security lists some of the locations in a Facebook posting. UNAMA is extending "Warm Regards" to Afghans on Norruz.

Mongolians in Afghanistan. The Mongolians have been in Afghanistan for a few years now. Is this their third time here in the course of history? They had quite a force protection contingent at Mazar-e Sharif and now it appears that they are also manning the gates of the New Kabul Compound (NKC) in Kabul. (US Forces Afghanistan Facebook, Mar 20, 2015).

Air Power in Afghanistan. This 32-page paper, dated December 2014, by Robert Perkins is published by the Action on Armed Violence (UK). It discusses how NATO changed the rules for air power during 2008-2014. It examines several civilian casualty incidents (NATO bombings gone wrong) and the resulting policy changes by the respective ISAF commanders and President Karzai's proclamations.

Book Review. The book "No Good men Among the Living" - a book about Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban - is reviewed in by Louis Proyect.

Photo Essay of ANA. Deni Bechard provides us with a photo essay (there is text as well) on the Afghan National Army (ANA). The essay (text part) discusses the challenges of ethnicity in the ANA and in particular, at the Officer Training Course in Qargha district (west of Kabul). Read (view) "Portrait of the Nation as a Young Army", Foreign Policy, March 19, 2015.

TAAC West Change of Command. Italian BG Maurizio Scardino and his Garibaldi Brigade have been in western Afghanistan the past seven months. Their mission is complete and a new sheriff is in town. The new TAAC West commander, Italian BG Michele Risa and his Julia Brigade will pick up the TAAC West mission. BG Risa and members of his staff recently completed training at the Joint Force Training Center (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland in January and February of this year to prepare for their Train, Advise, and Assist mission.

Podcast on Life & Art in Afghanistan. John Little of Covert Contact interviews Francesca Recchia in a podcast (21 mins) about life in Kabul. Francesca is working hard to develop cultural programs and she explains how local artists view and approach their work.

Michael Vickers Leaving DoD. Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, is leaving his job. He spent four years in this position; a long tenure. SecDef Ashton Carter is making some personnel changes and Vickers is out. Vickers started his career as an enlisted man in Special Forces, then got a commission, and later became a CIA operations officer. He was a chief strategist behind the covert program to arm the Mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. His role was depicted in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War". Read more of this story in "Pentagon Intel Chief Steps Aside, Game of Musical Chairs Begins", The Cable Blog on Foreign Policy, by Kate Brannen, March 19, 2015. See also "The Pentagon's Top Intelligence Chief is Out", by Ben Watson in Defense One, March 19, 2015.

"American Idol" in Afghanistan. A popular television show - "Afghan Star" - is a rare instance where men and women appear on stage. A writer provides us with some info about the arts and culture of Afghanistan. (CNN News, Mar 19, 2015).

Turkmenistan and the Taliban. Turkmen authorities are increasingly worried about the growth of the Taliban in an northern district of Afghanistan that borders on Turkmenistan. Read more in a news report by Silk Road Reporters (March 19, 2015).

AAF Still needs U.S. and NATO. The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently briefed Congress that the Afghan Air Force will continue to need assistance from the U.S. and NATO. (Air Force Times, March 19, 2015).

U.S. Air Power in Afg Diminished. The U.S. use of air power in Afghanistan in the first two months of 2015 was its lowest in five years. This is not unexpected news - the 2015 fighting season is not yet underway and the U.S. has redeployed much of its close air support aircraft. (Reuters, Mar 20, 2015).

CAS and A-10. The Air Force, wanting to get rid of the A-10 aircraft, says the F-35 can do the mission. Maybe not. Read "Throwing off the CAS Yoke, Part I: Shifting Rhetoric", John Q. Public, March 20, 2015.

Guide to Anti-Corruption Programming. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has produced a publication entitled Practitioner's Guide for Anticorruption Programming, January 2015. "This Guide offers practical programming and implementation advice for USAID field missions to support their development of effective anticorruption programs. The advice is based on lessons learned from past anticorruption programming by USAID, other donors and host governments." Could be useful for the Resolute Support advisors working in the Essential Function 2 - Transparency, Accountability, and Oversight office who are trying to decrease the corruption in the Afghan ministries.

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