Showing posts with label hostages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hostages. Show all posts

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Afghan War News Snippets

Flying the Flag. Troops overseas are counseled about flying the U.S. flag in combat zones. Typically, the directives state that the flag should only be flown alongside partner nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, NATO countries, etc.). However, sometimes units operating at small fire bases or on patrols have trouble containing their patriotism. During a recent battle in Helmand province a Special Forces detachment took time out to briefly fly the American flag on top of a building. The SF team had suffered one death and two wounded during an intense firefight engagement with the Taliban. Read more on this topic in "This patriotic photo of Green Berets in Afghanistan is circulating after this week's deadly attack", by Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post, January 8, 2016.

Canadian Hostage Released by Taliban? A Canadian has been freed from captivity in Afghanistan after being taken hostage by the Taliban five years ago. Read more in "Canadian freed five years after Taliban kidnapping", Yahoo! News, January 11, 2016.

SACEUR Visit to Kabul. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) recently visited Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul and met with senior RS officers. See "SACEUR visits HQ RS", January 11, 2016.

Russia and TAPI. The gas pipeline that will (hopefully) run from Turkmenistan to India (crossing Afghanistan) is proceeding in its construction. The completion of TAPI is certainly not in Russia's interests and it is proposing several alternatives. Read "Russia and the TAPI Pipeline", The Jamestown Foundation, December 18, 2015.

Russia Supplying Wpns to Afg? More and more news reports say that Russia will possibly start providing weapons to Afghanistan. Russia is concerned about the increasing instability of Afghanistan and the possibility that jihadist groups will turn their eyes northward from Afghanistan towards the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Read more in "Russia to Supply Small Arms to Afghanistan", Associated Press, January 13, 2016.

MoH Recipient Interview. Captain (Ret) Flo Groberg received the Medal of Honor for his actions in saving fellow servicemen during an attack in February 2012. Read an interview by Mike Kelvington posted on The Havoc Journal, January 15, 2016.

Doctors Absent from Rural Areas. Medical centres tend to be concentrated in urban areas, leaving villagers little access to care. Read more in "More Doctors Needed in Afghan Districts", Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), January 2016.

New Book - "The Lovers". Rod Nordland, an author and correspondent for The New York Times, has wrote a book about a young Afghan couple who risked everything for love. Read more about the book at Harper Collins Publishers.

RS HQs Video. This 1-minute long video posted by Resolute Support HQs provides a brief explanation of the "Train, Advise, and Assist" mission of NATO in Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Security News

ANASF prepare for wpns training
Attack on Spanish Embassy Guesthouse. Some more fidelity on the attack on Friday, December 11th. The guesthouse, belonging occupied by Spanish Embassy personnel in the Sher Pur part of Kabul was attacked with a car bomb against the gate and the gunmen rushed inside. The event took place for many hours until the last gunman was killed.

India - Pak - Afg Meeting. Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah met with the Pakistan COAS Raheel Sharif in Kabul on Sunday, December 27th. This follows a flurry of meetings involving the head of the India government who first visted Kabul and then Islamabad. Are peace talks in the air? Maybe. But I doubt much will come of it. Read more on the recent meetings and prospects for peace in "The Observer view on India's role in bringing peace to Afghanistan", The Guardian, December 27, 2015.

French Restaurant Bombed. On January 1st a restaurant / guest house (Le Jardin) in Kabul's Qalai Fatullah area (Taimani PD4) was attacked; two people killed including a 10 year old child killed - about 15 others wounded It is in the vicinity of many foreign embassies and government buildings.

Bombers Experience a Premature Explosion. Three (maybe four) bombers had a bad day when their truck bomb blew up ahead of schedule in the Zer-e-Koh area of Herat on Saturday, January 2nd. (Khaama Press, Jan 2, 2016).

Child Suicide Bombers. "Terrorists in Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries are training children to blow themselves up in suicide bomb attacks. Minors are kidnapped or sold and then taken to terrorist training camps". Read more in "Children used as suicide bombers in Central Asia", Deutsche Welle, December 30, 2015.

Prisoners Freed by ANDSF. Afghan Special Forces freed dozens of prisoners (as many as 59) from a Taliban jail in Nahr-e-Saraj district, Helmand province the evening of January 1st. The freed were 37 soldiers, seven policemen, and the remainder were civilians. (Radio Free Europe, Jan 2, 2016).

Al-Qaeda Re-emerges. Al-Qaeda camps seem to be sprouting up in Afghanistan and there are worries that they will become breeding grounds for more attacks against the U.S. Read "As U.S. Focuses on ISIS and the Taliban, Al Qaeda Re-emerges", The New York Times, December 29, 2015. Read a history of U.S. action against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan over the years in "ISAF raids against al Qaeda and allies in Afghanistan 2007-2014", by Bill Roggio and Patrick Megahan, The Long War Journal, May 30, 2014.

Bagram Long-Term US Base? Some reports say that the Pentagon is looking to keep Bagram Air Field as a US base beyond 2017. This huge US base located 40 klics north of Kabul has been one of the principle transit hubs, logistical centers, and airfields (for air support) since 2002. The US Special Operations forces continue to operate from this base as well. Drones will likely be launched from here when Kandahar and Jalalabad shut down. (Tolo News, Dec 29, 2015).

Campbell: Delay Withdrawal. General Campbell, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, would like to delay the US troop withdrawal for as long as possible. (The Hill Blog, Dec 30, 2015).

Canadian General (Rtd) Speaks Out. A retired Canadian general says the Taliban's recent victories in Afghanistan could reverse progress made by western armies during more than a decade of fighting. "We're all holding our breath". (Edmonton Sun, Dec 28, 2015).

ANA Cadets Graduate from Indian Military Academy. 31 Afghan Army cadets graduated from the Indian Military Academy in December. Training the Afghan Army cadets is part of India's rehabilitation support towards the Afghan security forces. (Khaama Press, Dec 13, 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.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Intelligence News

Khost Protection Force & the CIA - Part 1. A regional counterterrorism pursuit team set up in Khost province by the CIA has been problematic due to human rights concerns and a lack of accountability. The CIA transferred the CPT to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) a few years back but still has some involvement. Western security officials maintain that the Khost pursuit team is one of the most effective elements fighting insurgents and terrorists in Afghanistan. David Jolly tells us more in "Civilian Deaths Raise Questions About C.I.A.-Trained Forces in Afghanistan", The New York Times, December 3, 2015.

Khost Protection Force & the CIA - Part II. More info on the CIA-run and supported (still?) Khost Protection Force. See "CIA runs shadow war with Afghan militia implicated in civilian killings", The Washington Post, December 3, 2015.

John Brennan Presentation. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recently (Nov 16) spoke at the Global Security Forum 2015 held by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Topics include ISIS and global security. You can listen to his 48-minute address (video or audio) or download his transcript.

Movie - "Central Intelligence". A new comedy about a U.S. intelligence agent is to be released in 2016 starring "The Rock". Watch the movie trailer (USA Today, Nov 20, 2015).

More Spies Against ISIS? It appears that the Defense Department is ready to beef up the intelligence gathering against the Islamic State. Read "U.S. Spies May be Back in Action Against ISIS", Newsweek, December 1, 2015.

CENTCOM's Intel Credibility. The changing of intelligence analysts reports at the highest level to satisfy political beliefs is still a problem even though the story has all but disappeared from the headlines. Read "Obama's Intel Scandal", The Weekly Standard, December 7, 2015.

Taliban Holding Secret U.S. Hostage? A news report suggests that the Taliban are holding an American in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. See "Secret U.S. Hostage Held by Taliban Allies", The Daily Beast, December 1, 2015.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

SOF News

Green Beret Officer Retires After Cleared of Wrongdoing. A decorated Special Forces officer who was investigated by the Army for whistleblowing to Congress about the government's broke hostage-recovery process has retired from the U.S. Army. His retirement was held up by the Army while an ill-advised months-long investigation ensued. The investigation, a warrant-less and inane act of bureaucracy, finally cleared LTC Jason Armerine of wrongdoing. Armerine and his 12-man Special Forces team linked up with Hamid Karzai in the fall of 2001, defeated a number of Taliban formations in the field, and entered Kandahar as liberators. Three members of the operational detachment were killed during this timeframe. Karzai later became President of Afghanistan. Read more in "Green Beret investigated for whistleblowing retires", Army Times, November 2015.

50 SF Soldiers Heading to Syria as Advisors - but "It's not Combat"! Some U.S. special operations troops are going to be coordinating local fighter movements with U.S.-led coalition efforts against Islamic State militants. They will assist local Syrian forces (Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen fighters) in tactics, operational planning, and logistics. They probably will assist in controlling air support as well. But this is not "combat". Hmmm. Red more in "White House: No Combat Missions for US Troops in Syria", Voice of America, November 2, 2015.

Drones Continue Advisory Mission in Syria. US officials remain adamant that the increase of operations and air support in Syria do not indicate a change in US policy. White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest was emphatic when he said our ". . . drones are serving in a non-combat role". Read more in "Drones in Syria 'Serving Strictly in an Advisory Role'", Duffel Blog, November 2, 2015.

Failed SF Training Program for Syrian Moderates Cost $2 Million per Trainee. While the price tag may be an exaggeration certainly the program was not a success. Read more in "Pentagon's failed Syria program cost $2 million per trainee", USA Today,  November 5, 2015.

Retired SF LTC Comments on Syria Mission. In a guest commentary to The Denver Post, Mitch Utterback tells us the difference that 50 Green Berets on the ground in Syria can make. Read "Don't underestimate the power of U.S. special operations", November 2, 2015.

SF Working "Coffee Breath Close". An example of "advise and assist" going right can be found in the effort by SOCAfrica to reduce the threat from African warlord Joseph Kony. His force of 3,000 has been whittled down to about 200 hardcore fighters. Read more in "What the Syrian Train-and-Equip Effort Could Learn from US Ops in Africa"Defense One, November 2, 2015.

9th Commando Kandak Facility Under Construction. Versar, Inc. has received a $17 million construction contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support construction projects in Afghanistan. (UPI, Nov 3, 2015).

7th SFGA Memorial Wall. On Friday, Nov 6th 7th SFGA had a groundbreaking for the 7th SFGA Memorial Wall. (Stars & Stripes, Nov 6, 2015).

General Votel Interview. The commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa, Florida is interviewed. (, Nov 1, 2015.

JSOU Reading Lists. The Joint Special Operations University Library has posted their "Professional Military Reading Lists" for 2016; including the USSOCOM Cdr's favorites. Also, see AWN's reading lists for Afghanistan.

SOCOM Looks to Techno Future. The US Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida is always exploring new high tech ways of conducting special operations. Read more in "Socoms 'hackatohon' opens process of creating high-tech commando gear", The Tampa Tribune, November 4, 2015.

Cash Bonus for SOF NCOs. Special Forces Senior NCOs with a high DLPT score are now eligible for bonuses (CSRB) of up to $150K if they re-enlist from 24 to 73 months. Check out the pay graph with details at Military Times.

MSF Report on Hospital Attack. When SOF operators, supporting ANA SOF in the fight to retake Kunduz city, called in air support from an AC-130 on a hospital in Kunduz over 33 people were killed including many members of the medical staff of "Doctors Without Borders". MSF has published its Initial MSF Internal Review about the attack on the MSF Kunduz Trauma Center. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast has published an article on the incident - "Pentagon MIA on Afghan Doctors Without Borders Hospital Attack", November 3, 2015. Read also "U.S. Airstrikes in Kunduz destroyed more than a hospital", The Washington Post, November 4, 2015.

Book Review - The Lion of Sabray. An illiterate former Mujahedeen leader helped a survivor of a four-man SEAL reconnaissance element chased down by the Taliban. Lone Survivor is a book about Marcus Luttrell - a SEAL assisted by an Afghan villager. The Lion of Sabray is the story of the villager that helped Luttrell. Read a review of the book in a news story posted on Hampton, November 1, 2015.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drone Strike Kills al Qaeda Hostages

Two western captives, one American and one Italian held in Pakistan by al Qaeda, were killed in a drone strike by the United States in January 2015. Warren Weinstein was an American development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto an Italian aid worker.  The American and the Italian were both held for three years or more. Some will use this event to support their argument that drone warfare is bad and immoral and ineffective. Others will point to the lack of boots on the ground, declining ability to interrogate captured prisoners, and a diminished human intelligence (HUMINT) capability as a limitation of drone warfare.

See Max  Boot's article in Commentary Magazine April 23, 2015 for more on the limits of using drones. Read a statement by the President on the deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, White House, April 23, 2015. Another news story details a plan that was to recover several western hostages held in Pakistan - The Washington Post, April 23, 2015.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

LTG Sacolick & Hostage Policy Review

The Obama administration has faced some harsh questioning on its hostage policy. For years the United States position has been that it won't negotiate with terrorists - and for the most part the country doesn't. However recent events have put that policy into the spotlight - the trade of five Taliban commanders (long-term residents of the Guantanamo detention center) for SGT Bowe Bergdahl, failed rescue attempts in Yemen and elsewhere, and the beheading of U.S. citizens in Syria. In addition, some hostage family members feel that they are not kept informed by the U.S. government of attempts to release or recover hostages. The Department of Defense has a Personnel Recovery (PR) program (see Joint Personnel Recovery Agency or JPRA) that educates its service members on avoiding capture, surviving captivity, and coordination personnel recovery. However, while this PR program and structure is robust in war zones (like Iraq and Afghanistan), it isn't as mature or developed in other trouble areas of the world and usually does not extend beyond the military. American citizens who are in the news media, humanitarian organizations, business, or in the wrong place at the wrong time are subject to capture - but many feel there is not a coordinated effort among all U.S. agencies for their recovery. LTG Bennet Sacolick, a long-time Special Forces officer, is tasked with a review of the hostage recovery program. Read more in "Meet the General Shaking Up America's Yemen, ISIS, and Hostage Rescue Plans", The Daily Beast, April 15, 2015.

Friday, November 7, 2014

444 Days: Story of CIA Officers held Captive During the Iranian Hostage Crisis

This blog post has nothing to do with Afghanistan but everything to do with how vulnerable members of the U.S. military and other governmental agencies can find themselves in a quickly developing hostage situation. In November 1979, 35 years ago, six Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers stationed at the US Embassy in Iran suddenly found themselves as hostages. They, along with other embassy employees, were held by radical Islamist students in the American Embassy for 444 days. The CIA has posted (on their website) the story of their days in captivity. See "444 Days in Tehran: The Story of CIA Officers Held Captive During the Iranian Hostage Crisis", Central Intelligence Agency News & Information Blog, November 4, 2014.

Over the years there have been more than a few CIA officers held in captivity. Some of these officers died in captivity. One CIA officer, William Buckley, was captured while serving as the CIA Station Chief during an extremely dangerous time in Lebanon. He died after days of horrific torture by his Islamic Jihad captors. Buckley was also an Army veteran of the Korean and Vietnam War as well as a Special Forces officer. See "CIA Remembers Agency Hero William Buckley", Central Intelligence Agency Press Release, March 14, 2014 and a dedication to LTC William Buckley by the Special Forces Association.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kidnapped German Aid Worker Freed

A German aid worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan more than two years ago has been freed in Afghanistan. The details are slim but you can read them in "Kidnapped German Aid Worker Freed in Afghanistan", ABC News, October 10, 2014.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

US Forces Hunting for Kidnappers of Linda Norgrove

US Special Forces are actively pursuing the group that kidnapped the British aid worker - Linda Norgrove.  Read more in "US forces hunting down kidnap group", The Telegraph, October 13, 2010.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Attempted Rescue of Linda Norgrove Raises Questions on Tactics and Necessity

The botched attempt to rescue the British aid worker, Linda Norgrove, has dominated the British press the last few days.  The death of the NGO worker as a result of a U.S. grenade (it seems) does not sit well with the Brits.  The outcome of the raid has prompted a high-level military investigation of the operation.  Compounding this story is the fact that it was initially reported that she was killed by a Taliban captor wearing a suicide vest, that U.S. special operations force members were using fragmentation grenades instead of "flash-bangs" or "stun" grenades, and that there was a group of Afghan elders nearby attempting to negotiate for her release.  In addition, there is the aspect of NGO and military relationships; many NGOs would rather work through Afghan counterparts to negotiate the release of their workers.  Read more on this story in "We were ready to negotiate for Linda Norgrove when rescue bid began", The Guardian UK, October 12, 2010.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rescue Attempt for British Aid Worker Held Hostage in Afghanistan Goes Badly

A rescue attempt by U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan to save a British aid worker from captivity has gone off badly.  The rescue force apparently killed the aid worker in the process of trying to rescue her.  Read more in "Linda Norgrove: Family of British aid worker killed by U.S special forces in Afghanistan", Daily Mail, October 11, 2010.