Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Afghan News Snippets (Apr 1, 2015)

Haqqani Network to Return to Home Base in Pakistan. Nearly 1 million civilians were forced from their homes in northwestern Pakistan as the result of a Pakistan military offensive over the past several months. These civilians are now able to return to their homes. Among those returning civilians will be thousands of Haqqani Network fighters who also fled their sanctuaries to avoid the fighting. Observers are contemplating how the return of the Haqqani Network to their home base will affect the recent thaw in Pakistan - Afghan relations. Read more in "Dangerous Afghan Taliban Network Prepares Return to Pakistan Sanctuary", Gandhara Blog, March 31, 2015.

Citizens Say Sar-e-Pul Districts Controlled by Taliban. Residents and local officials say that several districts of Sar-e-Pul province are on the verge of falling to the Taliban and other groups that oppose the central government. Reports indicated that some police in these districts have not been paid for four months. Read "Concerns Raised as Sar-e-Pul Districts on Verge of Collapse", Tolo News, March 30, 2015.

Afghans Demand Elected Mayors. Although the Afghan constitution has a provision requiring mayors to be elected in local elections - most of the mayors are appointed by the Ministry of Interior (MoI). Those appointments are generally made as a result of corruption, nepotism, or personal connections - less frequently are appointments based on qualifications or merit. Read more in an article entitled "Afghans Demand Elected Mayors", Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), March 31, 2015.

"Rare Moment of Hope". Jonah Blank, a senior political scientist at RAND Corporation and former U.S. official who handled Afghan issues, gives us his reasons for optimism when it comes to the future of Afghanistan under President Ghani's watch. Read "Give Ghani a Chance: Why this time is different", The RAND Blog, March 31, 2015.

Women in Peacekeeping. As peacekeeping has evolved to encompass a broader humanitarian approach, women have become increasingly part of the peacekeeping family. Women are now deployed in all areas of peacekeeping as members of police, military, and civilian entities. They are key in supporting the role of women in building peace and protecting women's rights. Learn more about women in peacekeeping from this online article by the United Nations.

DoDIG Report on GIRoA Controls over Contract Management. This Department of Defense Inspector General report found that the government of Afghanistan's Ministries of Defense and Interior did not have effective controls over the contract management process for U.S. direct assistance funding provided to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  The Ministry of Finance (MoF) was also found to be at fault. The report also found that ". . . CSTC-A did not hold the ministries accountable for not instituting the necessary controls over the contract management process and did not enforce the requirements within the commitment letters". The report recommends that CSTC-A use the ministerial advisory contract to place subject matter experts within the ministries to develop and increase the capacity of MoI and MoD to manage contracts appropriately.  Read the report, DODIG-2015-082 dated February 26, 2015.

ProPublica. An independent, non-profit newsroom that does investigative journalism in the public interest is looking for input on fraud and abuse of U.S. dollars in Afghanistan. ProPublica wants YOU to get involved. Read more at "Help ProPublica Investigate".

USASOC Video on "ARSOF Next". The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presents a 30-minute long video on what the future of Army Special Operations looks like. Key concepts include adaptability, autonomy, empathy, and expertise. Attributes of the Special Forces Soldier are discussed. Video posted on on March 31, 2015.

AWG to Stay. The Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) will be staying on but at a reduced level. It will become part of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). AWG brings back lessons learned from around the globe and they had a big role in Afghanistan in advising in the field and providing lessons learned as well. Currently AWG is studying new threats and devising immediate materiel and doctrinal answers. (Defense News, March 31, 2015).

Afghan Women Mountain Climbers. Afghanistan has lots of high mountains. Anyone who has had the opportunity to fly over or drive through the Hindu Kush knows this for sure. As a former mountain climber / rock climber I was struck by the many climbing locations and often wondering if anyone had climbed this particular mountain or that rock face - ever. Mountain climbing in Afghanistan is not a very well developed sport and it certainly is not one where Afghan women participate. Yet there is a budding group of Afghan women who aim high. Ascend is an organization that helps Afghan women to become mountain climbers. Read more on this topic in "The Ascent of Afghan Women", by Sandra Caligaro for National Public Radio (NPR), March 31, 2015.

ATP 3-35. The U.S. Army has updated its deployment and redeployment doctrine. Check out Army Deployment and Redeployment (March 2015).

Bergdahl Desertion. An article by Kate Brannen in The Cable Blog of Foreign Policy (March 30, 2015) says that "Bergdahl's Biggest Worry is Rare Misbehavior Before the Enemy Charge". This charge is far more serious than the desertion charge and carries a maximum punishment of life behind bars, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank, and lost of thousands of dollars of pay and benefits that Bergdahl earned after joining the military. The charge isn't necessarily related to his time in captivity but rather from the time he walked off his remote outpost to when he was captured by the Taliban. He left his unit and his actions exposed men to danger who went searching for him over a period of months in very hostile areas of eastern Afghanistan.

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