Showing posts with label troop-levels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label troop-levels. Show all posts

Sunday, July 2, 2017

NATO Troop Increase for Afghanistan

NATO to Up Troop Levels. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated during a recent news conference that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will increase its troop levels for the 'train, advise, and assist' mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has completed a trip to Europe where he consulted with NATO allies on the requirement for more advisors in Afghanistan. Naturally, the Europeans will be dong the "Train, Advise, and Assist" mission and will not be involved in any combat role. Although . . . it is quite possible some of its special operations forces (SOF) units could get a little close to the frontlines. Read "NATO agrees on Afghanistan troop increase", Stars & Stripes, June 29, 2017. See also "European allies and Washington tiptoe around new troops for 'Resolute Support'", Jane's 360, June 30, 2017.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Troop Level Increase in Afghanistan

President Trump provided the authority to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to determine the troop levels for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Over the past few months we have seen press reports and testimony before Congress indicating that the military chain of command (Resolute Support, CENTCOM, etc.) had recommended an increase of 3-5 thousand U.S. troops. It appears that SECDEF Mattis will honor that request and he is expected to announce troop movements at some point next week. Along with this U.S. troop increase there is an expectation that NATO and other partner coalition nations will increase their level of troop deployments as well. Many countries (United Kingdom, Germany, etc.) have already announced their intention to increase their troop levels.

What Will These Troops Do? The U.S. has two missions in Afghanistan. One is the counterterrorism (CT) mission and the other is the "Train, Advise, and Assist" (TAA) mission. A smaller portion of the 4K increase will very likely enhance the CT mission in Afghanistan. The greater portion of the 4K increase will go to the TAA mission. The planners at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul very likely have plans already in place for the increased level of troops. A reading of DoD statements and open source media could lead one to conclude that some advisors will be employed at the ministry and institutional level in the Kabul area while others will go out to the Train, Advise and Assist Commands (TAACs)  to work with the ANA Corps and regional Police Zone HQs.

Advisors at Tactical Level? Some advisors are already working at the tactical level - in most cases U.S. SOF and aviation advisors. In addition, there are some advisors who deploy to ANA brigade level on a periodic basis as part of an Expeditionary Advisory Package (EAP).

General Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support Mission, has indicated that many of the soon-to-arrive advisors will find themselves working at the tactical level - at brigade and possibly kandak (battalion) level as well. The advisor platform at Task Force Southwest and Task Force Southeast are understaffed and will likely be augmented. It is important to note that not all newly assigned personnel will be advisors - think of the tooth to tail ratio. Each additional advisor needs logistical, medical, intelligence, transportation, force protection, and life support. So a good proportion of the 4K that go to the TAA mission will be supporting the advisors.

Lack of a Strategic Plan? There are numerous reports in the media from critics and observers that cast doubt on the utility of more troops if a strategic plan is not developed and implemented for Afghanistan. SECDEF Mattis has said that this is in the works and we should learn more in mid-July. The strategic plan very likely will see more advisors serving at the tactical level assisting with planning and coordinating operations as well as providing U.S. enablers (ISR, air support, fire support, etc.). Hopefully this strategic plan will take into account the regional actors bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan's support of some insurgent groups and the sanctuaries within Pakistan, corruption in the Afghan government and security forces, the dysfunction of the National Unity Government (NUG), and the inept, ineffective, and corrupt leadership at all levels within the MoI, MoD, and ANDSF.

4-Year ANDSF Roadmap. The Afghan government does have a strategic plan in place and the U.S. is very likely going to support this plan as best it can. The Afghans have rolled out their 4-year ANDSF Roadmap which lays out their plan for professionalizing the Afghan military and police. This includes doubling the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF), increasing the capability of the Afghan Air Force (AAF), reducing corruption, improving leadership, and improving training. The goal is to have the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) achieve the ability - at the end of the four years- to improve the security situation in Afghanistan with the end result of a political solution to the conflict with the insurgents. Time will tell.

News Reports, Editorials, Analysis, and Commentary on Troop Increase.

June 16, 2017. "Gen. Keane: 10,000 to 20,000 additional troops needed in Afghanistan", Fox News. General Keane says 4,000 troop increase is not enough; probably need 10-20K to have a decisive difference.

June 16, 2017. "For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan", New York Times.

June 16,2017. "Mr. Trump, Afghanistan Is Your War Now", New York Times editorial.

June 15, 2017. "The New, Old War in Afghanistan", by Paul McLeary, Foreign Policy.

June 15, 2017. "Mattis's Afghanistan War Plan: Be Patient, Convince Everyone", by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Afghan Surge

With every new U.S. presidential administration comes a review of all aspects of foreign policy. The administration of President Trump is in the process of conducting a review of the Afghan conflict - now (at least for the U.S, NATO, and partner nations) in its 16th year. By now, General Nicholson (Resolute Support Commander), General Votel (CENTCOM Commander), and Secretary of Defense Mattis (DoD) have all voiced their concerns and recommendations. Word in the D.C. beltway is that a plan for increasing troop levels by 3,000 to 5,000 is in the works - some are calling this a 'mini-surge". Naturally, there are those that oppose the increase (both within the White House and Congress). Trump (we assume) will make the final decision.

The NATO and other partner nations are quietly being asked to raise their level of commitment as well. The Germans and British have already indicated that they will increase their numbers. It is expected that the European and other nations will increase troop levels collectively in excess of 1,000.

Most of the increased numbers will go towards the advisory effort - known as the 'train, advise, and assist' mission. This doesn't mean that 4,000 to 5,000 new advisors will show up - as many of these additional troops will be supporting the additional advisors (staff, intelligence, force protection, life support, transport, logistics, etc.). Although some of the additional advisors will be spread out among the national security ministries and institutions - it is anticipated that most will go out to the regional ANA corps and ANP police zone headquarters. Some may find themselves advising tactical units below corps level or as members of Expeditionary Advising Platforms (EAPs).

The current strength of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan is about 8,400. A significant increase may bring the troop level back up to the 10,000 mark or higher. Additional readings and info on this topic can be found below:

June 1, 2017. "Can a New US Surge Stabilize Afghanistan?", The Diplomat.

May 30, 2017. "A political surge is what's needed in Afghanistan", The Hill.

June 5,2017. "Why More Troops Won't Help Afghanistan", The New Yorker. Barnett Rubin provides his perspective on the current situation in Afghanistan.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Troop Levels to Remain the Same

The Obama administration is finally catching on to the fact that the security situation Afghanistan is not getting any better - that instead the security (as well political, governance, and economic) situation is declining. Despite the constant proclamations by ISAF and now Resolute Support spokesmen that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are improving daily in their capabilities there are still some significant problems. As in the ANDSF are getting swacked by the Taliban and that the Taliban's grip on some rural and remote areas are as strong as ever. The recent attack and occupation of Kunduz City (a provincial capital) points out how bad the ANDSF are performing. To this end the U.S. is going to be postponing its withdrawal of forces from the 9,800 level down to 5,500. Instead of withdrawing to a Bagram / Kabul centric advisory and CT force it will remain at certain hub locations like Jalalabad (and TB Gamberi) and Kandahar - while some European forces will continue to occupy places like Mazar-e Sharif (and perhaps Herat). So for most of 2016 there will be roughly 10K U.S. troops in Afghanistan continuing with the current Train, Advise & Assist (TAA) & Counterterrorism (CT) mission. The 2015 fighting season has made it apparent that ISAF and now Resolute Support was probably 2-3 years too early in pulling the SFAATs off the ANA brigades and two of the six ANA Corps.

Read some news stories on this development:

Oct 17, 2015. "Karzai Criticizes Ongoing US Military Presence", Tolo News. Of course, would you expect anything different?

Oct 16, 2015. "Obama troop plan just enough to prop up Afghan army: experts", Yahoo! News. More of the same; just for two more years, that's all.

Oct 16, 2015. "9,800 U.S. Troops Won't Fix Afghanistan. Here's What They Can Do.", by Michael Kugelman, The Wall Street Journal.

Oct 16, 2015. "Obama's Two-Year Plan for Afghanistan is Doomed", or so says Ioannis Koskinas at Defense One.

Oct 15, 2015. "Closure is Hard to Find". The Angry Staff Officer Blog. Just when you thought the war was over and we won . . . .

Oct 15, 2015. "5 Reasons Obama's Afghan Withdrawal Delay is Necessary But Not Sufficient", by Mike Waltz, Defense One. Mike says this is like putting a band aid on a sucking chest wound.

Oct 15, 2015. "Should We Stay or Should We Go? Experts Praise Afghanistan Troop Reversal", NBC News. (video and text report).

Oct 15, 2015. "Obama's Decision to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan is Long Overdue", The Daily Signal.

Oct 15, 2015. Statement from the Embassy of Afghanistan (D.C.). Of course GIRoA is happy; more money to skim from the coffers.

Oct 15, 2015. "Afghanistan and "Failed State Wars": The Need for a Realistic Transition", By Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ghani Suggest Troop Timetable Change

President Ghani of Afghanistan believes the end of 2016 may be too soon for the complete withdrawal of international troops. 2014 was the deadliest year for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and some critics are voicing concern about the ANSF ability to go it alone once the international forces depart. Read more in "Afghanistan president suggests US 'reexamine' troop withdrawal timetable", Fox Politics, January 5, 2015.

And . . .  drum roll . . . after hearing about Ghani's thoughts on a re-examination of the troop withdrawal timeline the White House issued a statement saying that President Obama has been "really clear" about the U.S. strategy. Read more in "White House: Obama 'clear' about Afghanistan withdrawal", The Hill, January 5, 2015.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

U.S. Troop Levels in 2015

According to recent news reports the troop levels originally planned for Afghanistan will be exceeded. Plans had been for the United States to be at or below 9,800 total troops by January 1, 2015. However a few developments have transpired to change that number. It now appears that the troop number ceiling of 9,800 will be exceeded by about 1,000 for at least several months. One reason is that the Europeans (for whatever reason) have not yet made the necessary coordination to deploy the troops they were on the hook for in a timely manner. While the Europeans are certainly going to continue their commitment to Afghanistan, it will be in reduced numbers. Another factor is that the Obama administration is reeling from its mistakes with Syria and Iraq and is now worried about the same thing happening in Afghanistan post-2014. Still further is the extension of the fighting season by the Taliban, the current spate of high-profile attacks in Kabul, the resilience of the Taliban in rural areas, and the heavy losses suffered by the ANSF during this past fighting season.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Resolute Support and Troop Withdrawal Timeline

Jonathan Foreman provides us with a very comprehensive description of the Resolute Support mission and the problems associated with the stated "Obama timeline" for withdrawal of U.S. troops through 2015 and 2016. He says it is not too late for the president to rethink his arbitrary end date for the Afghan mission. U.S. troop levels will drop to 9,800 beginning in January 2015. In January 2016 the troop levels will be about 5,000. By the end of 2016 all troops (advisors really) should be out except for the military who will be working at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Read more in "The Afghan Handover", The Weekly Standard, November 2014.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gen. Campbell - Slower Withdrawal Possible

General John Campbell, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (COMISAF), says that he will reserve the right to recommend a slower withdrawal from Afghanistan if he thinks it is necessary. Current plans have troop levels down to 9,800 U.S. by the end of the year (2014). By the end of 2015 there will be about 5,000 troops left. By the end of 2017 almost all U.S. troops will have left except for a few at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He says that as time goes on he will make assessments and measure the risk to the force and the risk to the mission. Read more on this topic in "Gen. Campbell Will Recommend a Slower Drawdown in Afghanistan, if needed", Defense One, October 2, 2014.

Monday, October 6, 2014

More than 10K Troops Needed for Afghanistan

Now that the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is signed between Afghanistan and the United States (as well as the NATO Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA) observers are assessing the current security situation. The conclusion that some draw is that 9,800 U.S. troops is not enough to conduct the "train, advise, and assist" or SFA mission. While ISAF thinks it can cover down on 4 of the 6 ANA corps and the security ministries and agencies (MoD, MoI, and NDS) it is not really going to be able to conduct the "assist" part of the mission very well. A good chunk of the "assist" mission should be to provide air support in the form of close air support, aerial surveillance, air transport, and medical evacuation - something the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is just not ready to do on a big enough scale. But ISAF would need about 5,000 more troops to be able to do that. Read more in "Don't let history repeat itself", The Economist, October 4, 2014.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gen Allen: Comments on Afghan Troop Pullout Timeline

General Allen, the former commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, recently commented on the proposed troop levels during the Resolute Support mission and the timeline for the troop pullouts. He believes that more flexibility is needed in the timeline to ensure that a proper level of security is established and that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) receive the continued training, advise, and assistance that will be provided under the Security Force Assistance mission post December 2014. Read more in "Retired Marine Gen. Allen: Timeline for Afghanistan pullout "too short"", Navy Times, September 12, 2014 at this link.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

3,000 Troop Option in Afghanistan

The White House is considering several options for a continued US military presence in Afghanistan. One option (sometimes referred to as the Biden option) would leave 3,000 US troops in Afghanistan. The specific locations would be the sprawling Bagram Air Field north of Kabul and Kabul itself. Read more in "U.S. examines Afghanistan option that would leave behind 3,000 troops", The Washington Post, February 23, 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Troop Levels: White House and Pentagon Differ on Numbers

The Pentagon (and presumably General Dunford) is pushing for the 10,000 troop level for a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan. The Resolute Support mission would only happen if Karzai (or his successor) signs the Bilateral Security Agreement. There are those in the White House (principally Vice President Joe Biden) that say a reduced number is needed. There are two missions that will be conducted in a post-2014 environment. One is the Security Force Assistance (SFA) mission that will advise the Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the ministries. The other will be the counter-terrorist mission that highly-trained special operations forces will conduct against al-Qaeda and certain High Value Targets (HVTs) within the insurgency. The Pentagon says that 10K is the needed troop level number to do both the SFA and counter-terrorism missions and to provide the tactical infrastructure, intelligence assets, MEDEVAC support, force protection, and base operations support. Read more in "Pentagon, White House Are at Odds Over Afghanistan", NPR, January 22, 2014.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Afghan Force Package for 2013

In a recent interview (Friday, March 23, 2012) with Public Broadcast System's Charlie Rose program - General Allen, the ISAF Commander, provided insight for how troop levels in 2013 and 2014 will be determined. He said that a number of factors and considerations will provide input into his recommendation to President Obama.

Some of these factors include the state of the insurgency, the operational environment, level of partner nation troop levels in 2013 (could be around 40,000), the status of the partnership with the Afghan government,

Read more about Gen Allen's statements during the interview about Afghan force levels in 2013 in "Allen to Examine Afghanistan Force Package", American Forces Press Service, March 24, 2012.

View the hour-long interview on the PBS Charlie Rose website. Other topics in the interview include observations on Karzai, corruption, Koran burnings, Panjwai massacre, and night raids.

General John R. Allen bio on ISAF website.