Showing posts with label Kunduz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kunduz. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Special Forces Soldiers KIA in Afghanistan Nov 3, 2016

Two Special Forces Soldiers KIA in Kunduz Battle. Two members of the 10th Special Forces Group died of wounds received during an engagement with the Taliban near the northern city of Kunduz, Afghanistan on November 3, 2016. CPT Andrew Byers and SFC Ryan Gloyer were based at Fort Carson, Colorado - the home base of the 10th SFGA.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fighting for Kunduz . . . Still

Fight for Kunduz. The U.S. has come to the aid of the Afghan security forces trying to re-establish security in the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. "Enablers" such as air support, air transport, ISR, and SOF advisors on the ground are making a difference in the fight against the insurgents.

The fighting has gone on for several days. Over 24,000 residents have fled the city. Water and food are seriously short. Medical assistance is scarce; with many medical personnel having been pulled out of the city. Electricity in on and off; mostly off.

Who to believe? The Afghan national government spokesmen says the situation is under control and only remnants of the Taliban were in the city. However, media reports and local government officials paint a different picture. Nearly a week after Resolute Support stated that remnants of the Taliban in Kunduz were being dispatched with the New York Times (Oct 9, 2016) says that central Kunduz is still in turmoil with Taliban fighters firmly entrenched.

Taliban Objective. The insurgents know that they will be unable to capture a provincial capital and hold it. The Taliban's intent was to make the Afghan government look bad during the Brussels Conference held last week. It worked. During the initial assaults many of the government security forces retreated - some to the airport to the southeast. Once the Afghan special operations forces arrived (with U.S. SOF advisors) the government forces went on the offensive to dislodge the Taliban from the city center and other neighborhoods.

Read more:
"US airstrikes aid Afghan forces pushing Taliban out of Kunduz"Stars and Stripes, October 9, 2016.
"Majlis Podcast: What is Happening In Kunduz, and Why Again", Radio Free Europe, October 8, 2016.
"Sleeping in Graveyards: Embattled Afghan City of Kunduz Facing Humanitarian Crisis", Radio Free Europe, October 7, 2016.
"Anger as fighting in Afghan city Kunduz forces people to flee", Reuters, October 8, 2016.
Conflict analysis: Kunduz city, Kunduz province, Cooperation for Peace and Unity, March 2009.
"Why Kunduz Fell", Small Wars Journal, October 10, 2016.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Kunduz City Attacked by Taliban in October 2016

The Taliban have once again attacked Kunduz City in Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan. The attack was launched on Monday, October 3, 2016. Reports indicated it was a coordinated assault - taking place a little more than a year after they had seized the provincial capital and held it for almost two weeks. Some reports indicate that civilian houses are being used by the Taliban as bases to fire upon Afghan government forces. The Taliban attack appears to be coming from all sides of the city. The Afghan government forces are being supported by U.S. aircraft conducting airstrikes (helicopter support and maybe some fixed wing) on Taliban positions. (Military Times, Oct 5, 2016).

Spin, spin, and more spin. As usual, the Resolute Support HQs provided its optimistic view of the situation. At first denying that Kunduz was under attack; and then shortly after saying that the ANDSF had full control of the city. This at a time when half the city was under the control of the Taliban. Read more in a report by The Long War Journal (Oct 4, 2016).

Read more on the Taliban attack on Kunduz city:
October 3, 2016, "Taliban Fighters Launch Assault on Afghan City", by Jessica Donati and Ehsanullah Amiri, The Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kunduz - Still a Fragile Situation

Map of Kunduz Province
A year ago the Taliban took control of the capital of Kunduz province. Even though the Taliban were outnumbered by the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and various militia groups around Kunduz City the government forces quickly fled to the safety of the Kunduz Airport. Although U.S. and Afghan government spokesmen said that the Taliban were removed from the city within days the truth is that it took two weeks to dislodge the insurgents. The recapture of Kunduz City took place only after the government rushed its special operations forces to the area and the U.S. provided vital air support and the assistance of Special Forces teams on the ground. The security situation has not improved significantly in the Kunduz province. Read more in "Afghan government's control over Kunduz remains fragile", Deutsche Welle, September 21, 2016.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Gen Campbell on NATO's Commitment and Performance of ANDSF. COMRS or Commander Resolute Support has provided us with his perspective (think positive) on the situation in Afghanistan. He acknowledges that over the past year the persistence of the Taliban, growth of ISIS, continuing presence of al-Qaida, and insurgents pushed by a Pakistan-offensive into Afghanistan have presented challenges to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Yet he points to ability of the ANDSF to roll back Taliban gains (I guess he is ignoring places like Helmand, Bakdakshan, Nuristan, and other provinces), the formation of a new government (yes, he means the dysfunctional National Unit Government known as "NUG"), and the initiatives of the Afghan government and security forces to address corruption (Ummm, SMH), promote human rights and gender equality (which ISAF and now RS says about the Afghans each and every year). All in all this end of year pep talk includes all the important phrases such as "continuing improvement", "remain optimistic", "the insurgents cannot win militarily", etc. This assessment was issued just a week or so prior to six U.S. personnel being killed within the outskirts of the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan. Read "Commitment to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is Working", Defense News, by General John Campbell, December 13, 2015.

Adm Stavridis on Afghanistan. The retired Admiral - now working at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy as "Dean", tells us that all is not lost in Afghanistan and he recommends 5 steps we should take to improve the situation. I think he is overly optimistic and somewhat influenced by the holiday spirit. (The World Post, Dec 23, 2015).

"Losing the War at Every Level". Anthony Cordesman injects some reality into the assessment of the Afghan conflict in his report entitled "Afghanistan a Year After Transition: Losing the War at Every Level", Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 22, 2015.

The Aftermath of Kunduz. Residents of Kunduz now live in constant fear that the Taliban will come back, retaking the city (if only for just days), and wreaking havoc once again. Read more in "Afghanistan: After Kunduz", by Patricia Gossman, The Diplomat, December 16, 2015.

Afghanistan - Another 30 Years War? Mark Thompson, writing for (Dec 22, 2015) says we might be in for another 15 years of conflict in Afghanistan. Read "Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan Echoes the 30 Years War".

An Assessment & Recommendations. Michael O'Hanlon gives us his take on the current situation and proscribes the way forward (what he would do if King) in "Why Americans Are Still Dying in Afghanistan", Politico Magazine, December 22, 2015. (Caution: Cheerleader at work!). Read an article by O'Hanlon entitled "Afghanistan - the case for staying", USA Today, December 28, 2015. (More of the same). O'Hanlon does, however, point out that we should maintain TAAC's at each of the six ANA corps as well as some selected brigades. Good insight to pick up on that and spot on. Why we pulled our brigade level Security Force Assistance (SFA) teams off is a mystery. And to pull the corps level advisory platforms off of the 203rd and 215th ANA corps is simply bewildering!

Essay on Ground Combat. The U.S. has an effective military that can fight extremely well in conflicts such as Desert Storm and the initial weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It has not done so well in conflicts that are essentially irregular, hybrid, or insurgent in nature (as in Afghanistan). David E. Johnson, a historian with RAND Corporation, provides us with his thoughts in "Ground Combat", The Cipher Brief, December 20, 2015.

Rule of Law Culture. A 320-page publication and practical guide by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) entitled Towards a Rule of Law Culture explores effective responses to justice and security challenges. (USIP, Washington, DC, December 2015).

What of the Taliban? Chayankika Saxena, a research associate at the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi, provides her assessment of the current state of the Taliban - to include aspects including peace talks, ISIS, Pakistan, Helmand province, public support, and more. Read more in "What has become of Taliban in Afghanistan?", South Asia Monitor, December 29, 2015.

What is BPC? The U.S. has military members spread across the globe in an attempt to increase the security and counterterrorism capabilities of our allies. This type of mission has been called many different names to include Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Counterinsurgency (COIN), Security Cooperation (SC), Security Force Assistance (SFA), and many more. Each has its own niche to fill although the terms could really be interchangeable. One such term in 'Building Partner Capacity' or BPC. Read an explanation of BPC in What is "Building Partner Capacity?": Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, December 18, 2015. This 64-page report is posted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Pages 20-23 specifically address BPC in Afghanistan from 2001-2015.

UW - Can the U.S. Government and Military Accept It? Dave Maxwell, a retired SF officer and now Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University, is one of the Special Force's community's foremost experts on Unconventional Warfare. In this article he talks about the recent passage of the NDAA of 2016 and verbiage in it that proscribes a more robust involvement of the govt and military in UW and counter-UW activities. Read "Congress has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and the Rest of the US Government?", Small Wars Journal, December 29, 2015.

India-Pakistan Detente - Good for Afghanistan? Colin Cookman has penned an article entitled "How India and Pakistan Detente Could Carry Over into Afghanistan", World Politics Review, December 21, 2015. He examines the possibilities - but let's not hold our breath.

Afghanistan's Various Challenges. "Security in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2015, while the national government struggles to promote national unity and economic development". New Europe provides an analysis in this Dec 23, 2015 article.

CVE and Gender Inequality. Julia Santucci, she works women's issues at the State Department, has penned an article entitled "Countering Violent Extremism Means Countering Gender Inequality", War on the Rocks, December 16, 2015. Not so sure there really is a connection; but she seems intent on spreading the message.

Don't Abandon Afghanistan. Amb. Ron Neumann, Vanda Felbab-Brown, and David Sedney collaborate on a piece in Foreign Policy (Dec 22, 2015) encouraging the U.S. to stay the course. Read "Now is not the time to abandon Afghanistan".

Army War College. Adam Davidson recently spent time in a classroom at the United States Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Read his observations in "Rebuilding the Middle Class the Army Way", The New York Times Magazine, December 15, 2015.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

SOF News

Gen Votel to CENTCOM?. The Internet continues to spread the word that the current USSOCOM commander is on the short list to succeed General Austin at Central Command. The move would be unusual as Votel only recently assumed command at USSOCOM in mid-2014. He would be an excellent choice, however. The U.S. is not engaged in a conventional fight in the region - Iran is busy with Iraq and Syria; so it is less inclined to confront the U.S. in naval disputes (let's hope), and SOF seems to be the flavor of the day for the Obama administration in resolving disputes and conflicts in the Middle East. Read more in "Socom's Votel would be good choice to lead Centcom", Tampa Bay Online, December 7, 2015.

Special Forces for Iraq/Syria - PR Ploy or Meaningful Deployment? A defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman, comments on the deployment of SOF to the Middle East in light of the lack of a credible U.S. strategy and plans to create effective Iraqi and Syrian forces. He worries the SF Soldiers will be a political tool rather than an effective force in a political game on the part of the Obama administration. Read "More Special Forces for Iraq and Syria: Tactical Asset or Strategic Tokenism", by Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), December 3, 2015.

DoD "Quiet" on Commando Force for Iraq. The 'specialized expeditionary targeting force' that will take the fight to ISIS in Iraq and Syria will be positioned to gather intelligence, conduct raids, free hostages in Iraq when partnered with Iraqi forces. In addition, it will conduct unilateral hit-and-run raids into Syria. Beyond that, the Defense Department is not saying much more. Some observers believe the small force of 100-200 commandos can make a difference while others say it smacks of the usual Obama strategic incrementalism. The special operations force, although small in number, will probably enjoy significant close air support, drone coverage, and intelligence reach-back to CENTCOM, USSOCOM and JSOC. (think of the operations profiled in the book Relentless Strike). Read more in "US keeps wraps on new commando force for Iraq", The Sacramento Bee, December 10, 2015.

DoDIG Fails to Protect War Hero. LTC Amerine, a war hero and Green Beret, was unjustly victimized by the FBI and the U.S. Army. He was denied his retirement and threatened with a court martial for relaying to a member of Congress how badly the U.S. hostage recovery effort is managed. One aspect of the criticism that LTC Amerine offers is that the Bergdahl prisoner swap undercut ongoing efforts that would have released Bergdahl and other American hostages. The Good News? The DoD IG is resigning!  Read more in "How the System Went After a War Hero: Jason Amerine Goes to Washington"War on the Rocks, December 10, 2015.

AC-130 Air Attack on Hospital - Conflicting Accounts. A recent news report says that the U.S. Special Forces who called in the air strike on the hospital in Kunduz city believed the Taliban were using it as a command center. To some observers there continues to be a gap in what is being reported and what really happened. Perhaps we will really never know. (Military Times, Dec 8, 2015).

France Sending 300 SF to Congo. France (a country that seems to have a far more active and robust counterterrorism policy than the United States) is sending 300 of its Special Forces to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to provide training to the Congolese Army to hunt down and neutralize the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces in the eastern part of the DRC.

News Snippets - Afghan War Blog

NATO Medal Authorized for RS. The NATO Medal has been approved for acceptance and wear by Soldiers and other U.S. military members who have participated in Operation Resolute Support. (Army Times, Dec 7, 2015).

China's 'Af-Pak' Dilemma. China's involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan has increased over the past few years. China wishes to bring stability to Afghanistan to ensure success for its "One Belt, One Road" strategy. But that means it must pressure Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Read more in "China's Emerging Af-Pak Dilemma", by Michael Clarke of the Jamestown Foundation, December 7, 2015. (Posted on

Resolute Support Video Update #8 (Dec 7, 2015). This 3 minute long video provides content on human rights, rule of law, and Train, Advise, Assist Command - West in Herat, Afghanistan.

Petraeus - "No Further Punishment". The U.S. Army has decided not to pursue any further punishment for retired General Petraeus - former COMISAF and CIA Director. (The Washington Post,  Dec 7, 2015).

Germany is Staying. The German defense minister recently visited Mazar-i-Shari - when the European nations are encamped at TAAC-North headquarters. The end result of the visit is an acknowledgement that mistakes were made and a commitment to increase the German troop presence. See "What'a going wrong in Afghanistan?", Deutsche Welle, December 12, 2015.

Gen Dunford Visits Afghanistan. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Afghanistan on Dec 8th to meet with General Campbell and other senior military representatives. Dunford was the ISAF commander prior to Campbell. He made several comments on the current situation in Afghanistan. (Stars and Stripes, Dec 8, 2015).

Quarterly Parameters Autumn 2015. The US Army War College Quarterly Parameters is now posted.

Korengal Valley - And Limits of Power. A Soldier writes of his time in the Korengal Valley in Kunar province and about how power projection has its constraints. (Best Defense - Foreign Policy, Dec 11, 2015). The Korengal Valley, an offshoot of the Pech River Valley was a hard-fought battle spanning a few years.

Photos from Khost. Sudarsan Raghaven provides us with a photographic view of Khost in eastern Afghanistan in "This is what the real Afghanistan looks like", The Washington Post, December 4, 2015.

Probe on Civilian Deaths at Mosque. A mortar attack by government troops on Friday, Dec 4th resulted in a number of civilian deaths near a mosque. The incident took place in Sayedabad - a district in central Maidan Wardak province. The Taliban issued a statement condemning the attack. (VOA,  Dec 5, 2015).

UNAMA Report on Toll from Kunduz City. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan stated that the preliminary findings put the civilian casualty toll from the Kunduz city crisis two months (late September to mid-October) ago at 848 - 289 dead and 559 injured. You can read the UNAMA Special Report on Kunduz Province dated December 12, 2015.

Video - MG Buchanan visits TAAC-West. Italian forces have taken over responsibility for Train, Advise, Assist Command - West in Herat from the Spanish contingent. MG Jeff Buchanan comments on his recent visit to Herat in this short (2 min) video posted by Resolute Support HQs on DVIDSHUB on December 9, 2015.

Video - IED Training in TAAC-West. Resolute Support personnel provide counter IED training to members of the ANDSF in Herat. (2 mins, DVIDS, Dec 9, 2015).

German Defence Minister visits MeS. The Defence Minister of Germany recently paid a visit to Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The visit on Sunday, Dec 6th comes after a recent decision to enlarge the German contingent in Afghanistan. The message is "We're staying". (Tolo News, Dec 8, 2015).

Germany Contributes AFN 5 Billion. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund has received a pledge from Germany for a large contribution. (Khaama Press, Dec 10, 2015).

WTO Membership & Afghan Economy. Afghanistan 'imports' international aid and 'exports' opium but the international community is trying to change all of that. One step in that direction is providing membership to Afghanistan in the World Trade Organization. Read more in "Afghanistan Hopes W.T.O. Membership Can Reboot Its Battered Economy", The New York Times, December 9, 2015.

Heart of Asia Conference. Pakistan hosted the Heart of Asia conference which aimed to strengthen the peace process in Afghanistan and also improve economic and political cooperation in Afghanistan and among its neighbors. Twenty-seven countries participated. No word yet on whether Pakistan will pledge to stop supporting the Taliban with intelligence, training, support, money and sanctuaries. Read a news report on the conference by Deutsche Welle, December 9, 2015. The results of the conference were less than encouraging; with Afghan and Pakistan diplomats holding firm to previous positions. (Gandhara Blog, Dec 9, 2015).

EU, Afghan, and US Meeting. Representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, European Union, and United States met in a side meeting during the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad to discuss preparations for future conferences (of course) and regional security and economic developments. See a press release by the European Union External Action dated Dec 9, 2015. See also a press statement by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, December 10, 2015.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More on the AC-130 Attack on Kunduz Hospital

Fatal Guesswork and Human Error. The international press continues to carry stories and analysis on the U.S. Air Force's AC-130 attack on the Doctors Without Borders medical trauma center in Kunduz City. One recent news report compares the MSF tragedy with two other incidents of U.S. attacks that went badly. One was the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988 by a U.S. Navy vessel that killed 290 innocent civilians over the Persian Gulf. A second was the destruction of two U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters over northern Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort that killed 26 people. Read more in "Fatal Guesswork: Why the U.S. Military Attacked that Afghan Hospital", by Mark Thompson,, November 29, 2015. To understand how the AC-130 gunship works (or doesn't) read "How tech fails led to Air Force strike on MSF's Kunduz hospital", by Sean Gallagher, ars, November 30, 2015.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

U.S. Report on Kunduz Trauma Center Attack

Special Operations AC-130 Gunship
A report by the U.S. military on the aerial attack by a Special Operations AC-130 gunship on a Doctors Without Borders medical facility in Kunduz City is due out soon. The report was vetted by General John Campbell (Commander of U.S. and Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan) as well as Pentagon officials to ensure classified information was not released. Read more in a news report by Reuters, November 20, 2015. Some initial observations about the report are contained in this news story - "Multiple Errors Cited in U.S. Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital"The New York Times, November 24, 2015. Medecins Sans Frontierres published an online memoriam on the 14 members of the medical staff killed during the attack. General Campbell presented a press statement about the investigation on November 25th (watch 15 mins video posted by DVIDS).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall of Kundez: The Aftermath

Taliban Announce Withdrawal from Kunduz City. After many days of fighting the Taliban announced that it was ceasing the fight in the city proper to avoid unnecessary deaths among its ranks in with the civilian population. During their brief occupation of Kunduz the managed to free inmates from two prisons, destroy government offices and facilities, and hunting government employees. In addition, they embarrassed the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Read more in "Taliban Withdraw From Kunduz After Days of Fighting", The New York Times, October 13, 2015.

Government Employees and Others Rounded Up? The Taliban did a lot of damage for the few days they occupied the city. Part of their operations involved the rounding up of government employees and others supporting the fight against the Taliban. Read more in "Screams From Northern Afghanistan Have Been Silenced", by Jade Wu, Small Wars Journal, October 12, 2015.

More on Airstrike on Hospital. It appears that US analysts knew that the DWB location was a hospital. According to some sources the facility was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity within Kunduz. The hospital was suspected of being a Taliban command and control center harboring heavy weapons. The Pakistani, believed to have been working for the Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, is assessed as being killed in the airstrike. Read more in "US Analysts knew Afghan site was Hospital", Associated Press, October 15, 2015.

Central Asian States Nervous. The Taliban capture of a provincial capital for the first time since 2001 has shaken the the Afghan security forces and Afghan government. Other folks are concerned as well - including the Central Asian countries to the north of Afghanistan (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). Russia, seemingly engaged everywhere nowadays, is offering their security assistance. Read more in "After Fall of Kunduz, Russia Tries to Shore Up Defenses in Central Asia", EurasiaNet, October 10, 2015. See also "Russian troops could be deployed to Afghanistan's borders as the US leaves", Business Insider, October 15, 2015.

New Governors for Northern Afghanistan. President Ghani has appointed four new governors for northern Afghan provinces. This is in response to the security situation in northern Afghanistan that has steadily deteriorated since 2009. The leadership changes are taking place in Takhar, Faryab, Baghlan, and Sar-i-Pul provinces. Read more in "Can new governors turn the Taliban tide in northern Afghanistan?", IRIN, Octobere 8, 2015.

15 Days of Fighting. It took fifteen days of fierce fighting for Afghan government forces and their US allies to push the Taleban back out of Kunduz City. Read how it happened in "The fall and recapture of Kunduz", by Obaid Ali, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), October 16, 2015.

Aftermath. A Kabul-based Afghan journalist is embedded with the Afghan special forces in Kunduz. He is interviewed about the state of the Kunduz siege in "Kunduz Frontline Report: 10 Days After the Taliban Siege", The Diplomat, October 10, 2015. The U.S. is reportedly making condolence payments for those injured in the air attack on the Kunduz hospital. See a news release on this topic by the DoD on October 10, 2015.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fight for Kunduz

The fight for Kunduz City is continuing. Despite proclamations by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman every 24 hours stating that "Afghan security forces secured the city overnight" the fight rages on in some parts of Kunduz City. In the rest of the province the fight has probably been lost to the Taliban. Some correspondents are reporting that Resolute Support is very visible within the city supporting (advising?) the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF). This would, of course, include SOF advisors with the ANA Special Operations Kandak(s) that are within or around the city. It would also include SOF advisors with the special mission units of the MoI. It is quite possible that a platoon (or company) of the Resolute Support Theater Response Force (at the moment, probably members of 2-14 Infantry) are providing security at the Kunduz airport (speculation on my part). Read a summary on Kunduz and how it relates to the 'big picture' in a report by Vanda Felbab-Brown entitled "A dispatch from Afghanistan: What the Taliban offensive in Kunduz reveals",, October 8, 2015.

More on Airstrike on MSF Hospital in Kunduz

Reports indicate that Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has moved its personnel from Kunduz City - closing down its medical facility. An unfortunate development as it is one of the few medical centers in that very large city. The MSF medical center was hit by a U.S. airstrike during the fight for Kunduz City last week (early October). The death toll is reported to be more than twenty medical staff and patients. MSF is calling the airstrike a war crime; others are regarding the incident as a tragic error in the fog of war. The White House called the MSF hospital airstrike a 'profound tragedy'. (Tolo News, Oct 6, 2015).

AC-130 Gunship (Photo AF Defense Media)
AC-130 Gunship. Although not confirmed by the Pentagon many observers are speculating that an Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship conducted the airstrike. Some Pentagon reports say that the Afghan military called in the airstrike; that it was not conducted in support of U.S. troops in contact. The air attack lasted about one hour. A gunship does not always use or require a map coordinate to engage its target - it sometimes will be guided onto the target with a compass heading (direction) and distance provided by friendly force on the ground. The AC-130 almost always flies at night because of its slow speed, large size, and lower operating altitude. The U.S. military is having a difficult time explaining how it bombed the MSF hospital. (The Washington Post, Oct 5, 2015).

How Did it Happen? It seems that an Afghan army unit asked for air support because it was taking fire from the garden areas surrounding the hospital. A U.S. special operations element with the Afghan unit had some responsibility for the approving or execution of the air support mission. It is unknown if the AC-130 crew knew they were targeting a hospital. Some reports are saying that the SOF unit on the ground may not have followed proper procedure during the call for fire mission. One aspect coming to light is that the SOF unit may not have had "eyes on the target" - which may impede the ability to determine if the airstrike was hitting a legitimate target. Read more in "General Is Said to Think Afghan Hospital Airstrike Broke U.S. Rules", The New York Times, October 6, 2015. One of the more detailed examinations of the airstrike has been conducted by Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN). Read her report dated October 7, 2015 entitled "Airstrike on a Hospital in Kunduz: Claims of a war crime".

Screwup or War Crime? Under the Geneva Conventions (as if the Taliban observe that agreement) hospitals can't legally be deliberately targeted for a military attack except in cases where the enemy is using hospitals as cover. A big question is if the U.S. knew the building was a hospital and if it was intentionally targeted - one would hope no in both cases. However, the MSF is pressing the case for calling the attack a war crime. Read more in "Did the US bombing of an Afghan Hospital Cross the Line Between Screwup and War Crime?", Mother Jones, October 7, 2015. Of course, the Human Rights Watch is jumping all over this drastic event. (Human Rights Watch, October 6, 2015).

Who is to Blame? With the international attention generated by this tragedy it will be hard for the U.S. military to sweep this incident under the rug. Read more in "Will Heads Roll at the Pentagon for the MSF Hospital 'Mistake'?", Foreign Policy, October 8, 2015. One observer feels that too much attention to this one tragedy will set the stage for country-wide risk. Read Anthony H. Cordesman's thoughts in The Tragedy in Kunduz, the Real Threat to Afghan Civilians, and the Need for Changes in U.S. Strategy, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), October 9, 2015.

Apologies. An incident this serious requires acknowledgement of mistakes and a thorough investigation. Fraser Seitel tells us what "A Proper Apology" entails (, Oct 9, 2015).

History of CIVCAS and "Unplanned Airstrikes". According to one observer there is a big difference in the incidents of civilian casualties when comparing "planned" and "unplanned" airstrikes. The incidents of civilian casualties in planned airstrikes are very small when compared to CIVCAS during unplanned airstrikes. Read "A Brief History of Unplanned Air Strikes in Afghanistan", by Matthew Gault, War is Boring, October 6, 2015.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Kunduz Falls to Taliban for Several Days

After a series of attacks for the past several months and a month-long siege the northern provincial capital of Kunduz fell to Taliban fighters on during the last days of September. Kunduz is the fifth largest city in Afghanistan. Many government officials and employees fled to the city's airport to seek safety. The Afghan security forces fell back to the airport as well as other locations. Early reports indicated that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) abandoned their posts leaving police stations, the governor's mansion, city prison, and other installations for occupation by the Taliban.

Map of Kunduz Province (Creative Commons)

Trojan Horse Tactics. The Taliban took Kunduz using guerrilla tactics (surprise, surprise). They infiltrated the city as individuals or small groups and then massed to attack government, military, and police facilities around the city.

Prisoners Released. The Taliban liberated more than 600 prisoners - among them an estimated 100 to 150 Taliban fighters.

Areas held by Taliban. By Monday (Sep 28th) most of Kunduz fell to the Taliban to include the National Directorate of Security (NDS) office, UNAMA, city prison, and most government offices. The airport and part of a police hqs remained in government hands.

Airport. Government forces retained control of the Kunduz airport during the first few days of the fight despite Taliban efforts to take the airport. The airport was key for the arrival of government reinforcements, supplies, ammunition, and medical evacuations. It was also a go-to location for fleeing government employees and other high-risk individuals.

U.S. Airstrikes. Reports are muddled about how many U.S. airstrikes have taken place. Statements from RS HQs indicated that the airstrikes are in support of U.S. troops (SOF) on the ground. At least three if not more airstrikes were conducted.

NATO SOF. Some news reports say that U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) along with British and German SOF are involved in the fight at the airport. Most likely they are advisors attached to the 5th Special Operations Kandak (SOK) based in northern Afghanistan. Perhaps some are attached as advisors to one of the Kabul-based Afghan special mission units of the MoI.

Roads. Most roads leading into Kunduz are controlled by the Taliban and/or are mined. In a seemingly coordinated effort Taliban elements in Baghlan province were preventing convoys of Afghan security forces from reaching Kunduz from ANDSF installations near Kabul.

Counterattack. By Thursday (Oct 1) the government was claiming that Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) had retaken the city center and clearing operations were being conducted throughout the city. In the aftermath of the battle President Ghani said he was sending a delegation to Kunduz to conduct an investigation into the four-day occupation of the provincial capital by the Taliban.

Resolute Support Re-Examines Strategy? Many critics of the Obama administration's time-phased withdrawal (as opposed to event-driven withdrawal) point out the fall of a provincial capital to the Taliban as evidence the current strategy is flawed. Perhaps they are right! The pulling off of advisors (SFAATs) from ANA brigade and kandak units was certainly too soon. ISAF (later RS HQs) proclamations that the ANDSF 'know how to fight' but need continued advise and assistance in "sustainment" in some essential functions at the ministry level are starting to sound very hollow.

Learn More about the Fight for Kunduz:

Kunduz, Afghanistan. Learn more about the fight for Kunduz.

Past Afghan War News Blog Posts on Kunduz

Airstrike Hits MSF Hospital in Kunduz (Apparently)

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz was apparently bombed by the U.S. Air Force on Friday causing extensive damage to the hospital, killing medical staff and patients, and setting back the Information Operations campaign of Resolute Support. The U.S. has confirmed that it carried out airstrike(s) in the vicinity of the hospital and that collateral damage may have occurred. The MSF staff says the bombing attack occurred with "devastating precision". MSF also states that they provided the geographic coordinates of their hospital to NATO and U.S. personnel on September 29th - days before the deadly bombing attack. An investigation is currently ongoing. The death toll appears to be in the teens - probably around 19 dead with many more wounded. After the attack some of the more critically injured were transported to a hospital in Puli Khumri - a two hour drive away. Read more about the attack in a press report by MSF. The U.S. Secretary of Defense issued a statement on Saturday, October 3rd.

Bacha Bazi, the ANDSF, and U.S. Advisors

SFC Martland Speaks Out. SFC Charles Martland is being involuntarily separated from the Army for beating up an Afghan Local Police (ALP) commander who was raping a young Afghan boy repeatedly. Unless SecDef gets involved and reverses the decision Martland is out of the Army come November 1st. This is an issue that is not going away. Read more in "Green Beret discharged for beating alleged child rapist speaks out"CNN,  September 28, 2015.

Letter of Reprimand. The then commanding general of Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) - which is now designated as SOTF-A - wrote a letter of reprimand accusing Martland and his team leader (CPT Quinn) of "flagrant departure from the integrity, professionalism and even-tempered leadership" expected of Special Forces soldiers. No double a letter artfully crafted by the CFSOCC-A lawyer(s). See "U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies", by Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times, September 20, 2015.

Kunduz - A Problem Area for ALP. The province of Kunduz has seen its share of problems from militias - whether those supported by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), local warlords, or the U.S. sponsored and advised Afghan Local Police or ALP. Part of the current security problems of Kunduz city and the province are attributed to these militia groups and ALP that have been above the law and victimizing the local population - thus providing more support to the insurgents. The 1st Special Forces Group was providing assistance to the Afghan Local Police in Kunduz (as part of their wider Village Stability Operations program). Attempts by SFC Martland and his SF team leader to rein in the ALP backfired on them and they were kicked out of the country. Read more in "One of the best" Defenders show support for ousted Green Beret", Army Times, September 30, 2015.

Due Process? Matthew Weybrecht provides his viewpoint on the legality of two U.S. Soldiers beating up a commander of the Afghan Local Police (ALP). He seems to believe that the Soldiers received due process and got off lightly with a reprimand and not a court marital for their alleged assault. Oh Matthew . . . really? I know you got combat time and served in the Rangers (read your bio); but based on your opinion piece it is readily apparent you will make a good lawyer. Good luck with your studies at Harvard Law School! Read the article in "The U.S. Military and Due Process in Afghanistan", Lawfare, September 29, 2015.

Gen Campbell Speaks Out. The current Resolute Support (RS) mission commander, General John Campbell, has come out strongly against allegations that U.S. forces ignore (or ignored) reports of sexual abuse of young Afghan boys by Afghan police or military members. Read his response in "Gen. Campbell: Any abuse is reprehensible", USA Today, September 28, 2015. Hmmm. While there was 'no such theater policy' there was certainly widespread knowledge of "Man Love Thursday" activities among the Afghan security forces. In addition, there were varying degrees of intervention by U.S. forces from turning a blind eye to trying to fire the offending ANDSF members. However, the leverage that U.S. commanders had at the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense in regards to firing bad Afghan commanders was dismal. So, there's that . . .

Taliban Offensive in Northern Afghanistan

The Taliban have launched a major offensive in the past few weeks to make significant gains in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban has seized nine districts in five provinces in northern Afghanistan in the span of five days. While the world's eyes and ears are focused on the fall of Kunduz, Russians bombing the CIA's allies in Syria, Syria refugees in Europe, and elsewhere the insurgents have scored success after success in rural Afghanistan - especially in the north. Read more in "Taliban overruns another district in Afghan north", Threat Matrix, October 2, 2015.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Kunduz Battle Update

The Afghan military's push in the country's north region comes after insurgents close in on a provincial capital. Read "Afghan Forces Press Counter-Offensive to Defend New Front Line Against Taliban"The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2015. (requires subscription login). Another report says that the Taliban has taken some significant losses - see "Kunduz Battle Leaves 154 Taliban Insurgents Dead", Tolo News, April 29, 2015.

The northern part of Afghanistan was for many years the bright spot on the horizon for the overall effort in Afghanistan. The areas reconstruction and development was progressing well. Many of the cities to include Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz were shining examples of economic growth and the establishment of sub-national governance. While there were many European countries committed to norther Afghanistan Germany took a special interest in Kunduz province. "The northern Afghan city of Kunduz is a symbol for Germany. It was meant to be a showcase project of German development policy. But the early signs of success weren't enough to prevent the West's failure in the region". Read more in "How the 'Kunduz spa resort' turned into a Taliban den", Deutsche Welle, April 29, 2015.

In a somewhat related news story we hear that a German court has upheld a decision not to pay any compensation to the families of 100 killed in a Kunduz airstrike by German aircraft. This incident caused major problems for the German government at the time.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kunduz Fight Update

The fighting in Kunduz province is continuing although the threat seems to have been diminished now that the ANA battalion under siege has been reinforced. The Afghan ground force commander and deputy interior minister were in Kunduz monitoring operations. The MoI says the United States conducted some air strikes to assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) on Wednesday; some news reports say no munitions were dropped. An ANA operation to relieve Imam Sahib district has been ongoing. Helicopters of the Afghan Air Force flew numerous resupply missions in support of the beleaguered ANA kandak. The Afghan MoI and MoD held a joint press conference to reassure the Afghan public on the Kunduz situation - a high-ranking American officer was conspicuously present - not sure what the intent there was nor how productive it is in convincing us the Afghans can handle security on their own.

"Afghan Troops Rush to Kunduz Amid Taliban Assault", The New York Times, April 28, 2015.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Armed Militias Threaten Stability of North Afghanistan

Armed militias have threatened the stability and peace of northern Afghanistan.  The turmoil of the militias preying on the population and the lack of a central government presence (if present it is corrupt or inept) have opened the door to the re-emergence of Taliban influence in the area.  Read more in "Taliban Extend Reach to North, Where Armed Groups Reign", The New York Times, December 15, 2010.

Life in Kunduz Province for Villages Caught in the Middle

A recent article by Alissa J. Rubin in the At War blog of the New York Times describes how the ordinary Afghan is caught in the middle between the Taliban, coalition forces, corrupt Afghan officials, and illegal militias.  Read more in "The Americans Are in Our House. What Will the Taliban Think?", At War, December 15, 2010.