Friday, March 6, 2015

Daily News Snippets Afghanistan

Foreign Policy - The Cable Blog - reports on the recent disclosure by Resolute Support headquarters about the personnel strength of the Afghan army. The information was classified last fall (it previously had been unclassified) but due to public pressure RS HQs has declassified the data. And . . . it isn't good news. It is very clear that the Afghan army is much weaker than we had been led to believe. It seems there were some 'accounting errors' in how ISAF maintained the strength numbers as well  - contributing to the gloomy news. The number of troops in the ANA has declined by over 15,000 (the figures differ depending on how you interpret the data) or by 8.5 percent since February of last year. Read more in "Watchdog: Afghan Army Far Weaker Than Initially Believed", March 3, 2015.

Retrograde has been one of the prime missions of U.S. forces in Afghanistan since 2012. Getting troops and equipment out of Afghanistan has been a huge undertaking. One of the organizations providing this retrograde support has been the CENTCOM Material Recovery Element or CMRE. Read more about the CMRE in "Responsible retrograde in Afghanistan",, March 4, 2015.

Troops from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment have returned to Fort Hood after a deployment to Afghanistan. They were away on an eight month long tour. Read more in "Brave Rifles return to Fort Hood", DVIDS, March 4, 2015.

There is a lot of pressure on the Afghan government to ensure that women are present at the negotiating table for any peace talks with the Taliban. Concerned observers and activists want to ensure that Afghan women are not sold out to the Taliban. Read more in "A Step Forward for Afghan Women", Foreign Policy,  March 3, 2015.

Catherine Powell, writing for the Development Channel Blog of the Council of Foreign Relations has penned an article entitled "Female Police Face Danger in Afghanistan" (March 4, 2015).

Nasir A. Andisha, a visiting fellow at the School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and also a senior career Afghan diplomat, has provided us his thoughts on Afghanistan's neutrality as an initial step toward diplomatic solutions for conflict in Afghanistan. Read "Neutrality in Afghanistan's Foreign Policy", posted on the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), March 4, 2015.

 A recent study on humanitarian aid has yielded some surprising results and it makes for some uncomfortable reading for aid agencies. It appears that recipients of the aid find "Aid agencies are partial, unaccountable and potentially corrupt, and they fail to meet refugees' most pressing needs". Read more in "What refugees really think of aid agencies", IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, March 5, 2015.

China is slowing and 'silently' making inroads into Afghansitan - filling the gap left behind by the international community. The author explores the change in China's policy towards Afghanistan, the ramifications of the "Trilateral Strategic Dialogue" between China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and the challenges these developments present to India.  Read more in "China Silently Making Its Way to Afghanistan - Analysis", by Anuradha Rai in Eurasia Review, March 5, 2015.

A female Afghan pilot of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) has been selected for a International Women of Courage Award 2015. Eight women from around the world were selected for this award in 2015. The U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, will present the award. Read more in Khaama Press, March 5, 2015.

Seven Afghan policemen were poisoned at their post and shot dead in the Greskh district of Helmand province on March 4, 2015.

A regional conference called "Issues of Peace and Stability in Central Asia and Afghanistan" was recently held in early March 2015 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The two-day event was attended by diplomats and ambassadors from around the region along with representatives from the UN, OSCE, EU, and others. (Silk Road Reporters, March 4, 2015).

Kabul is experiencing some electrical power shortages due to an avalanche in late February that damaged three transmission towers and a short distance of 220 kilo-Volt transmission lines. See a Facebook posting by USAID on this topic and how a USAID-funded Diesel Power Plant is helping to supply some backup electricity. (USAID, March 5, 2015).

A report published by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs of Princeton University entitled Lessons for US Doctrine: Challenges in Stabilization Operations, February 2015 provides us with an understanding of the experiences of the experiences of government and non-government organizations in stabilization operations in Afghanistan as well as other parts of the world.

Former leaders of the Afghan mujahideen that participated in the jihad against the Soviet Union and later the communist regime of Afghanistan are flexing their muscles. Some feel excluded from the political process (Ismail Khan, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayef, etc.). Others, however, are now part of the political process (Dostum, Abdullah, etc.). Some observers feel that the continuing role of mujahideen leaders in Afghan politics puts the country's future at risk. Read more in "Afghanistan's Mujahideen and a Fragile Peace", by Ali Reza Sarwar - The Diplomat, March 4, 2015.

The Kabul Medical University and USAID announced a new engineering degree program that is designed to train technicians on how to repair critical medical equipment. Read a press release by USAID dated March 5, 2015.

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa, Florida has awarded a $405 million contract for " . . . theoretical analyses, exploratory studies, and/or experiments in various fields of science and technology . . .".  I wonder if they need a blogger? This will be my last blog post of the day as I am editing my resume . . .  to send to the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory!

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