Talking Proud - The American withdrawal from Afghanistan 2013

President Obama has set out his plan for our withdrawal from Afghanistan, one with which his military chain of command is not pleased. I intend to start tracking this withdrawal in a serial article updated as I get new information. I began my effort on June 24, 2011.

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2013 Report


Karzai making NATO withdrawal difficult

Afghan President Karzai’s persistent attacks against the US and NATO will make NATO’s withdrawal, and especially that of the US, much more difficult. His attacks are making the Taliban and other enemies more bold, and their attacks are becoming more daring and sophisticated. I continue to worry that the US will have to fight its way out. Karzai’s remarks simply underscore that fear. (012914)

NATO says 62 percent decline in NATO fatalities in 2013

ISAF said NATO lost 132 KIAs in Afghanistan in 2013, a 62 percent decline. Of those, 82 KIAs were American. Fourteen NATO troops were killed by green-on-blue. However, the website icasualties.org which tracks casualties reported 160 NATO KIAs in 2013, of which 127 were American, 24 British. This website includes those who died while being treated abroad for wounds incurred in Afghanistan. (010214)

NIE predicts Afghan in chaos if no BSA

The Telegraph of Britain says officials who have seen the latest US Naitonal Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan say the NIE pedants Afghan will fall into chaos if the country fails to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US. The paper quoted one official saying the report was too pessimistic, and instead he suggested, "I think what we're going to see is a recalibration of political power, territory and that kind of thing. It's not going to be an inevitable rise of the Taliban." (122913)

Withdrawing from southern Afghan will not be easy

WallSirPeter
British General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of General Staff, British Army said recently that it will be dicey getting out of southern Afghan, and there is great risk the Taliban will take over lands for which British and Allied forces spilled a lot of blood. The British have about 6,000 forces still there, and they will face a tough time getting out. This has long been a worry of ours, that as our forces withdraw, those remaining might have to fight their way out. Logistics planning has been working to be sure these remaining troops have what they need to defend themselves. Right now, since Karzai refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, logistics planning has become far more difficult. Allied forces remain on combat duty and they are taking casualties. The Taliban attacked the US embassy on December 25 and three NATO troopers we’re killed by an explosives packed car in Kabul on December 27. We lost a couple troops in a helicopter crash a few days back as well. (122713)

Guam Guard forces leave Afghanistan

Forces assigned to the Guam Army National Guard’s HQ Company, 1-294 Infantry, prepared to leave Afghanistan on December 25, 2013. On that date they were loading up Chinooks on Camp Phoenix, Kabul. Assume they will go to Bagram for flights out. Most of the Guam Guard force had already left. The unit once had 600 troopers in Afghan. (122713)

There are options under the “zero option”

Missy Ryan, writing for Reuters on December 23, 2013, has suggested that US planners have some precedence for planning other options under the “zero option” in Afghanistan. The zero option is a “total” US military withdrawal by the end of 2014, instead of maintaining a larger force post-2014. Ryan wrote that the US has over the past decade has worked away from counter-insurgency toward a more low profile support package, consisting of things like targeted missions involving small groups of special forces, insertion of some special forces under CIA authority, and the use of drones for surveillance and targeted attack, though basing would be a problem. (122613)

Canada out by March 2014

Canada currently has 375 troops in Afghanistan, mostly for training. They will reduce to 100 by December’s end, and then be totally out by March 2014. (122513)

Mixed signals on BSA

The US has been saying it must have the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Afghan signed by year’s end in order to stay beyond 2014. Now President Obama is reportedly saying he is willing to extend that deadline into 2014. However, SecDef Hagel is saying it needs to be signed promptly. So which is it? Given that it is Deceber 20, with only 11 days left in 2013, perhaps Hagel means January 2014, or what? Karzai says after the April elections. Is that prompt enough? Perhaps military planners are going on the assumption it will be signed, but knowing military planners, there is at least a cell that is planning the zero option anyway. (122013)

Pakistan protests may force airlift of US equipment out of Afghan

Pakistani protesters have been gathering and blocking land routes through Pakistan out of Afghanistan for US equipment. Apparently Pakistan has taken little to no action to clear the routes. Shipments are backing up. The US has stopped using the Torkham border crossing in the north and shipments to the Karachi port. The US may have to start flying the stuff out. (121913)

Afghans turn over security checkpoints to Taliban? Can this be true? It looks like “Yes”

The New York Times reported this story on December 18, 2013 and it does look to be true. Apparently at least one Afghan Army company commander ceded two checkpoints to the Taliban, and even arranged for Taliban to be driven into Sangin and introduced to the people. Afghan command is investigating but has said that there can be no such deal, the Afghan Army will take back the checkpoints, and no further deals like this will be made. However, look for such deals to spread as US forces withdraw, a local means of trying to keep the peace. (121913)

A Marine Corps spokesman in Helmand Province has said he has nothing to verify the report below but the Marines and Afghans are checking it out. (121813)

The Khaarma Press reported on December 16, 2013 that an unnamed member of the Helmand provincial council has asserted that Afghan Army forces have turned over several checkpoints to the Taliban in the Sangin District. During the height of violence in this district, it was known as the “No go valley” as the result of ferocious fighting there borne by British and US forces, both of whom shed considerable blood there. Government officials deny the report. We will try to follow up. (121613)

USAF security forces complete base security role in Afghan

ReapersFinalPatrol

On or about December 16, 2013, the USAF’s 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, also known as the Reapers, conducted their last patrol outside the fence at Bagram Airfield. The unit will deactivate. The Airman Magazine says these are the last USAF Security forces to conduct ground combat operations in Afghanistan. The photo shows airmen returning from their mission, which focused on preventing indirect fire attacks against the base. (121713)

Australia finished with combat role in Afghan

TarinKot

The numbers are a little hard to nail down, but it appears all Australia combat forces have departed their base at Tarin Kot in Uruzgan Province and that Australia has finished its combat role in the country. We knew a major withdrawal was coming, down from 1,550 to about 1,000. However, it looks like the Aussies will leave only 400 there to conduct training. That is less than we had originally expected in our December 11, 2013 report. During their 12 year mission, they lost 40 KA and suffered 261 WIA. (121613)

US backs away from BSA signing deadline demands --- US wishy-washy policy changes a joke

The US no longer insists the BSA be signed by December 31, 2013. White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on December 11, 2013, “(The agreement) should be signed by the end of this year in order for us to start going through the important planning process. Now, if you’re asking me, does that mean that if they sign it on January 10th that’s going to be a huge problem? Probably not. What will be a significant problem is if there is not quick action taken to get this signed.” General Dempsey, CJCS, said last week, “We wouldn’t be at a level where it would begin to affect the options until probably early summer.” James F. Dobbins, the State Department’s top Afghanistan official, said on December 4, “We haven’t at this point set a date beyond which we’re no longer prepared to wait.” This is all a far cry from what National Security Advisor Susan Rice is purported to have said to Karzai during her recent visit, where we thought she set a December 31, 2013 deadline. Keeping up with what the US is going to do about Afghanistan is getting to be a joke. The administration is like a daily changing call sign. (121213)

Post 2014 mission just keeps changing

One of the most important problems with US participation in Afghan has been the changing mission concepts and doctrine. I mentioned in mid-November that General Martin Dempsey, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), seems to have added a new twist to the post-2014 US military mission in Afghanistan:"If security deteriorates to a point where the $6 billion in annual aid promised to Afghanistan dries up, then they can’t survive ... After 2014, Afghanistan can live without a ubiquitous presence of US military forces in the country but they can't live without any." Now, on December 11, 2013, he has said without a US presence Afghan could become an "ungoverned space producing havens for terrorism." He then said, "Stability in the region is in our national interest. It should matter to the American people, because long-term stability in South Asia that includes a functioning Afghan government that has a security force that can maintain its security and prevents a re-emergence of al Qaeda and affiliates is in our interest." I read this to mean US forces will continue fighting in Afghan after 2014, to protect our investments, and maintain security. (121213)

Australia pulling out

Australia has withdrawn its members of the Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team and plans to have two thirds of its 1,550 troops out by December 31, 2013, meaning at least 1,000 will be gone by year’s end. (121113)

Dempsey says BSA negotiations are done --- no renegotiations

General Martin Dempsey, CJCS, told reporters in Bagram, Afghan on December 10, 2013, the US is finished negotiating the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Afghanistan, and there will be no re-negotiating. He said there is as yet no plan to withdraw everyone under the zero option but such planning could begin if the BSA is no signed. Dempsey wants it signed by December 31, although SecDef Hagel has said the US can wait until February, a disconnect. Dempsey said, “"What was very clear is that over the course of an exhausting, really, negotiation over many months there was a text that was agreed upon. And that text was considered to be closed, at some point, and presented to the Loya Jirga. It's not our intention to reopen the text and to renegotiate that which had been already discussed." Afghan President Karzai has accused the US of acting like a colonial power. Karzai said on December 10, 2013, “"The threats they are making, 'We won't pay salaries, we'll drive you into a civil war.' These are threats.” Dempsey responded by saying, “It's not a threat. I just simply think that in any negotiation you reach a point when you've made the requirements known. And militarily, by the way, those requirements are actually quite clear."

Assistant SecDef Nichael Dumont told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 11, 2013 that US troop levels will drop to 34,000 from 46,000 by February, remain that way until the April elections, and then begin a steady drawdown through December 31 at which time the NATO mission will have concluded. The big problem for US military planners is to plan for providing security to remaining US forces through 2014 without a BSA. (121113)


BSA and military logistics planning now all up in the air

SecDef Hagel said while in Kabul on December 7, 2013 that the US can wait until February 2014 for the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be signed. Karzai wants to wait until after the elections in April, and there are some in the Obama administration saying President Obama can wait and sign the agreement with the new president in April. That of course assumes the new president will want to do that as a first order of business. Hagel has said he has been assured the agreement will b signed soon. This has to be yet another migraine for military withdrawal planners. The suits in Washington seem to believe the BSA will be signed. The trouble is they are not sure, and military planners like some semblance of certainty. They have to withdraw while troops are still fighting and they have to plan for either a full withdrawal by the end of 2014 or the retention of an unknown number of troops beyond 2014. In Iraq this was a bit easier, since we could just drive everything to and from Kuwait and figure it out from there. But Afghanistan is landlocked and Pakistan can set up roadblocks anytime it wishes and the Taliban can attack anytime it wishes. This is getting messy. (121013)

No BSA, total US withdrawal a “real possibility,” Hagel

SecDef Hagel told a US State Department correspondent on or about December 9, 2013, “It’s (total US withdrawal from Afghan) a very real possibility because if we don’t have a bilateral security agreement, which I have noted, that means we can’t protect our forces which would be here after 2014 ... No international partners will come. Afghanistan essentially will be alone. But we have no other option.”

No BSA with the US, NATO is out

The Langley Intelligence Group Network (LIGNET) reported on December 4, 2013, “NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Dec. 2 that the alliance would remove its troops and effectively end the ISAF mission in Afghanistan if President Hamid Karzai refuses to sign a security arrangement (Bilateral Security Agreement - BSA) with the United States.” (120413)

US stops shipments out of Afghan through Pakistan

The US has stopped shipping stuff out of Afghanistan through Pakistan. Pakistani thugs have been forcibly searching trucks for NATO supplies. Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said, "We have voluntarily halted US shipments of retrograde cargo through the Pakistan Ground Line of Communication (GLOCC) from Torkham Gate through Karachi.” (120413)

Canada out by March

Canadian forces now number only about 600 inKabul, there for training. Canada has said it will pull them out by March 2014, with about 200 of the 600 out by the end of this year. This, combined with Karzai’s refusal to sign the BSA, is clouding the future of NATO as a whole and in this kind of operation in the future. (120113)

US finished negotiating BSA

As a followup to the next report, US National Security Adviser Rice is said to have told Afghan President Karzai during her recent visit not only there might not be any US forces left in Afghan after 2014 if he falls to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) soon (NLT end of the year), but she told him that the US is finished negotiating the BSA. Karzai presented her with a list of new items he wanted in the agreement, but she held firm, the negotiations are finished. He must either sign or we are out. Karzai is said to believe the US is bluffing. Only time will tell. Certainly from a logistics standpoint, the military needs to know yesterday, not next year. (113013)

US threatens “zero option,” total withdrawal by 2014

RiceSusan
US National Security Adviser Rice is said to have told Afghan President Karzai during her recent visit, "Without a prompt signature (to the Bilateral Security Agreement-BSA), the U.S. would have no choice but to initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.” This is known as the “zero option.” Karzai wants to wait until 2014’s election is over. For Rice, that is too late. The US says it will wait only until the end of 2013 for a BSA. The US faces tremendous logistics issues if it should have to wait any longer. There appears to be an impasse here. Karzai is reported to be firm, and so is Rice. (111713)

Loya Jirga approves Security Agreement, Karzai rejects its approval, says no

The Loya Jirga convened by Afghan President Karzai to review the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US for the post-2014 period as the voice of the Afghan people has approved the BSA and urged it be sealed right away, but President Karzai has rejected the Jirga’s advice, which he can do legally. Some Jirga leaders and allies of Karzai are very angry at him, and at least one has threatened to leave the country if Karzai’s decision stands. Others ar worried about the US reaction and the possibility the US will withdraw completely. Next step --- no one knows. (112413)

Marines leave Musa Qala

The Marines from I/3-7 Marines left the base at Musa Qala on November 9, 2013 in the heretofore very violent Sangin District of Afghan’s Helmand Province in the south. The British came here in 2006 and endured heavy fighting. Then in 2008 the 2-7 Marines came in to seize the town. The Marines continued to rotate in and out. Reports are the area is relatively calm and peaceful now. The Afghan Security Forces have taken over. To get an idea of what the Sangin District was like, read our story, “Afghanistan’s hell, the Sangin Valley: Why Sangin?” (112213)

Karzai wants to defer Bilateral Security Agreement

KarzaiLoyaJirga

Afghan President Karzai is always filled with surprises, no doubt calculated that way. The Wall Street Journal reported today that he has told the Loya Jirga to defer the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US until after the 2014 residential election. The Loya Jirga is meeting now to review the BSA. He told the assembly, "The agreement should be signed when the election is conducted, properly and with dignity. There is mistrust between me and America. I don't trust them, and they don't trust me." Karzai has said further that he will not sign the deal. (112113)

US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement may keep US forces there for a very long time

Richard Engel, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, has reported, "While many Americans have been led to believe the war in Afghanistan will soon be over, a draft of a key U.S.-Afghan security deal (Bilateral Security Agreement - BSA) obtained by NBC News shows the United States is prepared to maintain military outposts in Afghanistan for many years to come, and pay to support hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces. The wide-ranging document, still unsigned by the United States and Afghanistan, has the potential to commit thousands of American troops to Afghanistan and spend billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Engel reported the draft says, “The Parties acknowledge that continued U.S. military operations to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate and agree to continue their close cooperation and coordination toward that end.”

JirgaBSAMettingBuilding

It is important to note here, however, that a diverse group of Afghan leaders, politicians, lawyers, businessmen and others will meet in this building in Kabul on November 21-24, 2013 in what is known as a Loya Jirga to decide the fate of the BSA. The Jirga’s decision is non-binding, but the agreement must be ratified by the parliament which will listen to the Jirga’s recommendations. Dr Ghairat Baheer, an influential Afghan political figure and a senior leader of the Islamist group Hezbi Islami, has said the continuing presence of US forces after 2014 will simply prolong the war. (112013)

Dempsey adds a twist to post-2014 mission in Afghanistan

General Martin Dempsey, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), seems to have added a new twist to the post-2014 US military mission in Afghanistan. It seems their job will be to secure the international aid and financial commitments made to Afghanistan for that period. He told a CEO’s forum in Washington on November 18, 2013, "If security deteriorates to a point where the $6 billion in annual aid promised to Afghanistan dries up, then they can’t survive ... After 2014, Afghanistan can live without a ubiquitous presence of US military forces in the country but they can't live without any." (111913)

Add the threat of high tech global drug gangs to the terrorist threat


The Langley Intelligence Group (LIGNET) has raised the possibility that “Narcotics traffickers and authorities worldwide are locked in a technological ‘arms race’ that appears to be intensifying to the early advantage of the criminal gangs. The threat posed by transnational criminal enterprises is greater than the drug trade alone, as the funds being raised may be used to finance terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, violence in the Americas and more daring global cyber attacks.” The NATO and US withdrawal from Afghanistan adds to the problem. LIGNET contends that the character of the international cartel drug trade is changing rapidly to become a global threat. LIGNET’s article is informative. (111813)

UN says Allies have killed, wounded or captured 12,000 enemy in Afghan

A UN report said at least 12,000 Afghan Taliban fighters have been killed, wounded, or captured during mil itary operations in Afghanistan this year. One would hunk such losses to be unsustainable for the Taliban, but Taliban violence is on the up-tick not seen since 2010, even though they have lost public support and have made no major gains. It is curious how they can keep going. (111813)

US scrapping millions of dollars in equipment

Kathy Gannon, reporting for AP on November 6, 2013, wrote, “The withdrawing U.S. military is destroying most of the equipment it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 13 years of war, selling the scrap for millions of dollars to those willing to buy it ... In the last year, the U.S. has turned equipment and vehicles into 387 million pounds (176 million kilograms) of scrap that it sold to Afghans for $46.5 million.” In addition the US has given the Afghan military over $71 million in equipment. (110713)

US ambassador says no security agreement, then no aid

James Cunningham, US ambassador to Afghanistan, has reportedly said (Khaama Press) that if there is no bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan, then there will be no aid. (103113)

Australia pulling out by year’s end

Australia has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan and its defense minister announced he is withdrawing them by year’s end. Several hundred will be left behind for training. This has been the country’s longest war. (103113)

Army says on track to get everything out by end of 2014

The Army News Service reported on October 28, 2013, “About 40,000 containers and 30,000 vehicles have been shipped back from Afghanistan over the past year, but the system ‘has not yet been taxed’ to its fullest potential.” Lt. Colonel Richard Clifton, Army Central Command G4 (logistics) told the news service it is feasible to get back the 80,000 remaining containers and 20,000 vehicles by December 2014. It would be useful to see these figures synchronized with troop withdrawals. For example, what about the troops who have to stay until end of 2014? They need equipment. And what happens if we withdraw completely as has been suggested --- what will that do to the withdrawal plan? (102913)

Romania will allow US use of air base during withdrawal

Mihail-KogalniceanuAB


Romania has agreed to allow the US to use its Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base to replace use of the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan does not wish to renew the contract which terminates in July 2014. Incredibly, Russia viewed the presence of American forces at Manas as a threat. There was no such threat. Romania is a NATO ally. The base is located near the Black Sea, perfect for offloading form aircraft and uploading on ships to transit out. US forces have already begun moving out of Manas. (102013)

Rackin n’ stackin’ at Kandahar

ContainersKandahar

Soldiers at Kandahar are stacking containers for shipment out at Kandahar on October 8, 2013. Members here are from the South Dakota and Maryland national Guard. (101813)

Taliban conducts rocket attack against Bagram Field

ISAF has confirmed “a rocket attack by enemy forces at Bagram Airfield in Parwan, Afghanistan today (Late October 13 into early 14th). The enemy’s efforts were ineffective and there were no ISAF casualties or infrastructure damage as a result of this attack.” Unofficial sources say the enemy launched 12 “missiles” against the base from nearby mountains and the Taliban says it inflicted heavy casualties. ISAF retaliated launching attack aircraft and conducted precision strikes killing one enemy. (101413)

An idea for the magnitude of the logistics of withdrawal

EquipmentAfgantoShip

This photo taken on October 2, 2013 gives you an idea of the magnitude of the logistics involved in withdrawing from Afghanistan. It shows rows of heavy vehicles parked in a retrograde yard before shipment from Camp Warrior, located at Bagram Field outside Kabul.

TieDownEquipmentAfghanAir

This photo shows a USAF NCO tying down a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle on a C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft at Bagram Field on October 2, 2013. The C-17 is our largest transport. While the military is reluctant to use expensive air, it is also reluctant to move out its very best equipment by truck. My instinct from this shot is we are moving out all those large vehicles you saw in the first photo by air. Uploading and securing these babies is no easy job. The aircraft has to have a very balanced load that will not shift around in turbulence, or one risks losing the aircraft, its load and crew. (101413)

Obama reported to have threatened Karzai with total withdrawal

Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londoño, reporting for the October 11, 2013 edition of The Washington Post, said, “During a testy video conference in June, President Obama drew a line in the sand for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. If there was no agreement by Oct. 31 on the terms for keeping a residual U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, Obama warned him, the United States would withdraw all of its troops at the end of 2014.” They reported a senior White House official saying, “October 31st is our goal … The president has been clear. There can be no reason for failure other than the fact that the Afghans don’t want what we’re offering.” (101313)

Karzai says Afghan gained nothing from NATO operation --- wanted absolute security

Afghan President Karzai complained to BBC that Afghan has gained nothing from the NATO operation in his country. He said, “On security front, entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering and a lot of loss of life and no gains because the country is not secure. I am not happy to say there is partial security because that is not what we’re seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear cut war against terrorism.” (101113)

17 US troops killed or injured in Kandahar attack?

The Khaama Press of Afghan reported on October 10, 2013 that enemy forces attacked a US Ranger regiment unit in Panjawi district of southern Kandahar earlier this week, killing at least four, wounding 13, many of whom are in critical condition. The troops were on a mission to capture a senior militant leader according to the report. The report goes on to say the attack was conducted by a female suicide bomber. I have not yet seen this in US media. (101013)

Russia opposes 2014 NATO withdrawal

SergeiLavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said on or about October 9, 2013 that Russia opposes the planned NATO withdrawal from Afghan. he said, “The closer the date of withdrawal is, the more evidence we have that Afghan security forces are not going to be ready.” Of course, he is worried Afghan will explode in tumult that will extend into the “Stans” of the former USSR and then extend into Russia itself. (100913)


Two C-130s arrive for Afghan Air Force

C130Afghan


In September I reported that the USAF will send the first of four C-130H Hercules transports to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) early in October 2013. The AAF will receive two during October. The first two have arrived, on October 9, 2013. The AAF will get the other two next year. This is a huge step forward for the AAF. They are replacing 16 smaller Italian-made transports that spent most of their time as “hangar queens” undergoing maintenance. (100913)

US-Afghan at negotiating impasse --- headed for total withdrawal?

Matthew Rosenberg reported for The New York Times on October 4, 2013, “The United States and Afghanistan have reached an impasse in their talks over the role that American forces will play here beyond next year, officials from both countries say, raising the distinct possibility of a total withdrawal — an outcome that the Pentagon’s top military commanders dismissed just months ago.” Rosenberg quoted an administration official saying, “The time to conclude for us is now … this fall, we are going to have to make plans for the future accordingly.” While a withdrawal under such circumstances might sound attractive to some, it will ramp up the danger for those withdrawing as the enemy is likely to take advantage of the situation and attack the forces as they leave. This has historical precedence in Afghanistan. During one withdrawal, the British lost more forces withdrawing than they did invading and occupying. Americans should not discount a force buildup during the withdrawal in 2014 to provide force protection. (100813)

Karzai not ready to sign security agreement

Karzai
President Karzai on October 6, 2013 ruled out signing a security agreement with the US until disagreements are overcome, most of which center on his interpretation of sovereignty. He said, "The United States and NATO have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us and that is why we are taking issue of the BSA strenuously in the negotiations right now.” He added, "They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes … Therefore the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) has become an instrument for us to gain respect for our sovereignty, to gain the protection of the lives of our people. So the BSA is where we will determine this. The United States and its allies, NATO, continue to demand even after signing the BSA they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages. The Afghan people will never allow it.” It would be interesting to know whether Americans care about this BSA. We are entering our 13th year there. Karzai has had long enough to get ready for our departure. (100713)

“Cautiously optimistic” on withdrawal

MasonRaymond
Lt. General Raymond. V. Mason, deputy chief of staff, Army G4 (Logistics) told the House Armed Services Committee on October 2, 1013 he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Army will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Cautious because “one incident at a border could cause us challenges.” Non-enduring equipment is to by out by October 2014. Then bases will start closing in rapid fashion and the total withdrawal will hasten as well. The Pakistan ground lines of communication, which is referred to as the PAKGLOC by military commanders, and to a lesser extent the northern distribution network, or NDN are the main exits. Both of these land routes are less expensive then multi-modal and direct air transportation. The problem is they are not always open and they are vulnerable to enemy operations. About 50 percent of the Army’s equipment is moving out by the PAKGLOC. Critical items are king out by air, either directly to the US or to the Gulf States to be sent back by ship. (100713)

An idea about how to protect a truck convoy

MRAPMineRoller


The Marines have been leading truck convoys laden with military hardware and supplies out of Afghanistan on some treacherous and dangerous roads. They are using a specially configured Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) to lead the way and clear mines and IEDs ahead. It has a mine roller installed on the front. A photo of one is shown here, attached to the Combat Logistics Regiment 2 (CLR-2), RC-SW. The crew of this particular MRAP consisted of Cpls. Andrew Salabarria, Lee Walls and Adam Stanek. They used it recently, on September 16, 2013 to lead a convoy of some 30 vehicles through Helmand Province, in this case to deliver supplies to various outposts. Stanek said his worst fear is not seeing an explosion in front of him, but hearing one behind him, which means he missed one of the explosive devices. He said driving this in front of a convoy for 12 hours is equivalent to driving a truck for 48 hours --- very stressful. (100713)

US experts say security agreement must be finalized by November

As a follow-on to the article below, the negotiations for a bilateral security agreement post-2014 between the US and Afghanistan are going badly. Some military experts in the US say it must be finalized by November if the Afghans want a long term US presence. For the US, this is a logistics problem. For Afghan, it is a political issue. Radio Free Europe reported on October 2, 2013, “A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Aimal Faizi said on October 1 that two issues could potentially threaten the planned U.S.-Afghan security pact. He said those were a U.S. wish to run unilateral counterterrorism operations after 2014 and a U.S. refusal to commit to a wide-ranging promise to protect Afghanistan from foreign aggression.” (100413)

One year old security agreement negotiations remain at impasse

Kevin Sieff, reporting for the Washington Post on October 3, 2013, said the one year long US-Afghan negotiations on a bilateral security agreement remain at an impasse. The Afghans mistrust the Americans. They are worried about the US taking unilateral actions after 2014, especially if trying to stop the flow of insurgent forces from Pakistan. The Afghans also do not like night raids. At the moment, immunity for US forces has not risen to the level it did in Iraq. Having said all this, President Karzai does want the US to protect Afghanistan from foreign “interlopers,” such as Pakistanis coming across the border. The US is not keen on providing that service. President Karzai remains unruffled, and he is in no hurry to conclude this agreement, willing to let his successor finalize it. It is arguable whether the US can wait that long, especially from a logistics standpoint. (100313)

Russian forces to remain on Tajik-Afghan border through 2042

RussianForcestajikistan


Tajikistan has recently inked an agreement with Russia to leave the 4,000 Russian troops there now through 2042. The Tajiks are worried about what might happen after NATO withdraws from Afghan in 2014. Russia has deployed around 4,000 troops in Tajikistan, which are mainly based in three regions including the capital Dushanbe and southern cities of Kulyab and Kurgan Tube, each circled in red on the map. (100213)

ISAF commander presents summer 2013 assessment

Dunford
General Joseph Dunford, Jr., USMC, commander ISAF, has provided his summer 2013 assessment. These are his top level points:
  • Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) took lead responsibility for security on June 18, 2013.
  • ANSF capabilities not yet sustainable.
  • Primary challenges facing ANSF and international community are psychological and political; too much uncertainty regarding post-2014 environment.
  • We need to get the bilateral security agreement signed.
  • Taliban making limited progress, but cannot take and hold ground from ANSF; also have not impeded ISAF mission.
  • Taliban does have limited influence in some districts of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktika and Paktiya provinces.
  • ISAF continues to neutralize al-Qaeda.
  • Insider threat mitigated (less serious).
  • Anticipate continued ANSF success during current fighting season.
(093013)

Four US military members murdered by Afghan insider in one week

Afghans wearing African Security Forces uniforms have murdered four US military members in one week. The latest occurred on September 26, 2013 in eastern Paktia province, close to the Pakstani border. On September 21, another attack killed three US military members in Gardez, the capital of Paktia. Sixty-two US military members were killed by such attacks last year, compared to 11 foreign soldiers being killed this year. (092613)

US stressing airlift for retrograde

C17


The cheapest way to withdraw (retrograde) equipment from Afghanistan is by truck through the Karachi, Pakistan port. That said, the USAF is increasing the cargo it is removing from Afghanistan by flying the stuff to Gulf region ports, and offloading it there for ships to take back to the US, instead of flying it back to the US directly. The flights from Afghanistan to the Gulf ports takes only four hours, so instead of one airlift the USAF can now do four per day. And logistics planners have arranged it such that the airlift brings in supplies from those Gulf ports for those remaining and then carries out what is ready to return to the US. Furthermore, the airlift aircraft can land at many of the bases to pick up the equipment, saving the time and costs of moving the equipment from those bases to a staging base. The US plans to remove 24,000 vehicles and 20,000 shipping containers out by the end of 2014, at a cost of from $5-$7 billion. The USAF is employing about 12 C-17 Globemaster IIIs (one shown here) and commercial cargo aircraft. Dumping the stuff at Gulf ports has saved the USAF about $400,000 million so far this year. The US has chosen to increase what it airlifts out because of rising Afghan customs fees for containers. (092413)

Russia threatening to close off transit right for US troops leaving Afghanistan

NorthernDistributionNetwork

AlexeyPlushkov

Alexey Plushkov, chairman of the Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee has threatened to shut down transit routes through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) for American forces and their equipment if the US should attack Syria. Not only that, he warned such a US attack cold start WWIII. The Duma is the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The NDN first goes through Tajikistan, Kyrgyztan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and then through Russia to the Baltic Sea. At present, the US is using it but is also using the preferred routes through Pakistan, which could close off at any given irritation in Pakistan. (092313)

USAF building up in Afghan while troops withdrawing --- there through 2017 at least

AfghanAirForceTraining

Brigadier General John E. Michel, USAF, commands NATO’ Air Training Command Afghanistan. While in the US to attend a USAF conference, he spoke to American Forces Press Service about his mission, which is to train the Afghan Air Force. Of note, he said, “It’s very easy to lose this in translation, because most people don’t realize [air trainers are] staying [in Afghanistan] until ’17. The mindset is, ‘We’re done in ’14,’ and I got that, but the biggest challenge is just where we are in time and space. The story has shifted to another direction. Everyone else is leaving, and we’re growing. We’re building an 8,000-person force that can do what they need for Afghanistan -- humanitarian [missions], basic intelligence, troop insertion, resupply [and] casualty evacuation.” The Afghan air force is divided into three wings, located respectively in Kabul, Kandahar and Shindand. The command center is in Kabul, and the Shindand Air Base in Herat province is the main training area. The Afghan air force’s fleet eventually will include 58 Mi-17 transport helicopters, six Mi-35 attack helicopters, 20 C-208 turboprop airliners, four C-130 transport aircraft and 20 A-29 light attack aircraft. Three Mi-17s are in the process of arriving at Kabul now from Russia. The issue the USAF faces is it has a few pilots who have learned to fly the Soviet-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters, but not enough to train the Afghans and the USAF has no maintenance capability for them. (092313)


Major phase of US withdrawal now underway --- US forces in tricky situation

EquipmentAfghanAWaitingwithdrawal


US efforts in Afghan include reducing from 62,000 troops there now to 32,000 by mid-February 2014, and the movement of equipment out of country has accelerated. The number of vehicles has already reduced from 50,000 back in 2012 to 25,000 now. The main logistics planning problem centers on what the US position will be in-country come the end of 2014. President Karzai said he is not in a hurry to make a decision on a security agreement, but US logistics planners are. And planners must keep this in mind all the while --- Afghanistan has entered the deadliest fighting season since the war began and remaining US forces have to be well equipped to protect themselves and assist the Afghan Army. US planners say they still have a great deal of logistics movement capacity so they can move out faster if they have to. But they are still left with providing for those forces who remain. (092213)

Afghan now in deadliest war fighting season since war began 12 years ago

Fox News reported on September 21, 2013, “Afghan troops are in the midst of their deadliest fighting season since the war here began 12 years ago. That is because, as U.S.-led forces withdraw, the Afghans are fighting a different war. The Taliban are growing more aggressive. Coalition forces, taking with them their superior training and equipment, are leaving Afghan troops less able to fight and less able to save the lives of their critically wounded.” Fox said Afghan forces are losing 100 per week, three times what the Coalition experienced in 2010 and 2011. Some US commanders are saying the Afghans cannot sustain this level of loss. The Afghan Army is losing nearly 35 percent of its manpower through KIAs, desertion, injury discharge, and end of tour. In what might be related, an Afghan wearing an Afghan Security Forces Uniform shot and killed three US Special Forces soldiers in eastern Afghanistan on September 21. The last insider attack occurred on July 9, killing one and wounding three. (092113)

US building new medical hub for post-Afghan

ContingencyMedicalFacilitySWA


The US is building a new contingency medical hub somewhere in Southwest Asia in preparation for leaving Afghanistan in 2014. It will be referred to as a Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, and will replace a similar facility at Bagram which is due to be closed. The USAF’s 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron is constructing the new facility. (091913)

USAF to give Afghans four C-130Hs


The USAF will send the first of four C-130H Hercules transports to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) early in October 2013. The AAF will receive two during October. This means the AAF will have a first class transport aircraft to carry much larger loads farther and more safely than the current Russian helicopter fleet upon which it has relied. It was using Italian made C-27A fixed wing aircraft but the US scrapped it because the Italians could not maintain them. (091813)

Karzai says no rush for US security agreement --- wrong again Karzai

KarzaiHamid
President Karzai repeated on September 17, 2013 that he is in no rush to sign a security agreement with the US. The Khaama Press of Kabul reported it this way: “President Karzai said that the security pact between Kabul and Washington should guarantee the security of Afghanistan, provide financial support to Afghanistan and should respect the sovereignty and culture of the country.” No one can guarantee the security of Afghanistan, he probably will get financial aid, but the devil is in the details when it comes to respecting the sovereignty and culture of the country. Precisely what does he mean? For US military planners, this all is a huge problem, made even more difficult by the fact that President Obama does not seem in a hurry to announce residual troop strength beyond 2014. So military planners will have to guess at a residual number for the time being, but have a contingency plan ready to have everyone and everything out by the end of 2014, leaving Afghanistan to fend for itself. The logistics of moving out and protecting troops left behind is monumental. This is no Iraq where our forces just drive down the road to Kuwait and figure things out when they get there. The materiel and troops have to go out by aircraft, through the northern route into the former “Stans” of the Soviet Union, and through Pakistan, and then they need to get everything and everyone either to the US or to friendly countries that will take the loads until the US can decided exactly where and how everything goes beyond that point. (091713)

Afghan-Russia talking about Russian military support

The Khaama Press of Kabul reported on September 14, 2013 that President Karzai met with President Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organizations summit and that Karzai asked the Russians for military support. President Putin reportedly agreed to provide military equipment and weapons, and training to the Afghan national armed forces. (091713)

US plans to provide close air support and perhaps more after 2014

WilsbachKenneth
Major General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, USAF, deputy commander for U.S. and coalition air operations in Afghanistan, said recently in a phone interview, "Our plan right now is to have those (air) forces in country, for sure, and we'll be able to support the coalition forces with close air support … I think that it would be the appropriate thing to do … But obviously, that's not my decision to make. We're still awaiting guidance." (091013)

No plan to leave Afghan by end of 2014 --- whatsis?

MilleyMark
Lt. General Mark Milley, USA, the No. 2 commander for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, says the US is not withdrawing from Afghanistan by the close of 2014, despite all the White House pronouncements voiced earlier. He said on September 2, 2013, “We have no indication whatsoever of a withdrawal completely from Afghanistan. We are going to change our mission, and we are going to reduce in size and scope … The current NATO mandate ends on 31 December 2014, but there’s another mission that follows that’s called Resolute Support which is currently in planning … We haven’t been told to plan for that (US troop levels dropping to zero) … We’re only pulling out of areas where we think the Afghan security forces are capable of standing up and fighting on their own. But even when they, ‘fight on their own,’ we are still going to provide limited [intelligence and reconnaissance] and close-air support, because those capabilities won’t be ready for several years.” Right now, General Dunford, USMC, the ISAF commander, is looking at 2019 at a minimum. Dunford has acknowledged Afghan forces are suffering unsustainable casualties. Britain’s The Telegraph has said all together these comments reflect a rift between Washington politicians and military commanders on the ground. (090313)

Brits not quite finished with combat --- special forces hitting Taliban in Sangin

The Telegraph reported on August 13, 2013, “An elite unit of paratroopers and Royal Marines has been carrying out secret raids on Taliban fighters and supply lines months after ministers and generals announced that British troops had stopped offensive operations in Afghanistan.” These troops apparently have been working against the Taliban in the Sangin area, which at one time was the most dangerous place in Afghanistan. The British apparently conducted “relentless raids” employing a strike group of about 150 working with Afghan special forces. US V-22 Osprey and CH-53 helicopters supported them. The operations have been kept secret; one raid was known to occur in May 2013. One officer reportedly told an Army magazine, “(close-up killing is) exactly what we all joined up to do.” (081913)

Russians move troops into Central Asia, fearing NATO Afghan withdrawal too quick

AnatolyAntonov
The Russians, who when part of the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan, and then withdrew hastily, are worried NATO is leaving too rapidly. AS a result, they have deployed 7,000 troops to three bases in Tajikistan, known as the 201st military base. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said, “ (ISAF) has been too hasty about making the final decision to pull out in 2014…(Afghan) domestic security forces capable of countering radical elements have not yet been created.” The Russians are worried that Islamic terrorism will spread into Central Asia and then into Russia itself, and are also worried about how much it will cost them to prevent that from happening. (081513)

Commander expects upsurge in violence in eastern Afghan

Maj. Gen. James McConville, commander, RC-East expects violence to surge in his area of responsibility over the next 60 days. he included Kabul as a major enemy target. (081413)

Withdrawal must take Afghan 2014 presidential election into account

There are more important issues surrounding the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 than you can shake a stick at. Add to the list the impact of a post-Karzai world over there. His second term expires in 2014 and there will be an election in early 2014. It is not clear who might succeed him. The Taliban has already said the elections are a waste of time. The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group has opined, “The Taliban want the winner of next year's election to lead a provisional authority, one that will schedule another round of elections shortly after the full withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. The Taliban's key demand -- one they will not budge on -- is that no residual force remain on Afghan soil after 2014.” Indeed, the Taliban politically is incapable at present of participating in an election as it is beset by so many different factions. That said, the Taliban want to share in power, so there is a disconnect here. (080713)

Germany starts withdrawing equipment

Germany has begun its withdrawal from Afghan. The Germans are faced with a monumental logistics challenge, probably because the Germans lack the ground equipment and strategic lift. They plan to be out before winter. (073113)

US military planners will be caught short if “zero option” a”go”

Reuters reported on or about July 30, 2013 that US military planners are planning to retain forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and are not planning for the “zero option,” which suggests a total withdrawal during 2014. General Dunford, USMC, commander, ISAF, has said he will have a detailed operations plan for the post-2014 mission in Afghan by late this year. One problem is that the military sees the Taliban as “resilient” and “adaptive,” to wit, still a threat. The New York Times reported on July 29 that the Afghans might be leading the fight, but they need US help now and will need it after 2014, working behind the scenes for at least another 3-4 years. Interestingly, Dunford’s staff says al Qaeda is a shell of itself, with only about 75 members in Afghanistan all on the run. You will recall that deposing the Taliban government and beating up on al Qaeda were the two original missions, both accomplished within about a year. So staying this long, and longer deserves to be questioned. Why are we still there, and why are we to stay longer?

The answers seem to still revolve around building an Afghan military that can handle the Taliban, rebuilding the country, and spreading democracy. ISAF says its mission is: “In support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ISAF conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the capability and will of the insurgency, support the growth in capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population.” That’s a far cry from the original mission.

A new Pentagon report says, “(corruption within ANSF itself ) poses a major threat to the success of the ISAF mission and the viability of the Afghan state. Ethnically and politically-based patronage can be found throughout the Afghan National Army. Commonplace illicit ANA activities include theft of fuel and expendable supplies/commodities, pay-for-position scams, and localized collusion with both insurgent entities and narcotics traffickers.” It would appear the US concept of democracy is knot working too well. (073113)


Aussies withdrawing all combat forces by end 2013

The Australians plan to withdraw all combat forces by the end of 2013. They have been stationed mainly in Oruzgan Province. The newly elected prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, visited the forces with his wife and told the troops, "It is about time we brought you home." However, Rudd reportedly also said Australia was committed to continuing to help the Afghan government after the planned withdrawal of its troops by the end of 2014. So as yet it is unclear what the Aussies are going to do. (073013)

General Dunford urges against “zero option”

Dunford
General Joseph Dunford, USMC, commander, ISAF, has urged against the so-called “zero option” that would have all US forces out of Afghan by mid-2014. He said, "Anyone who reinforces this idea of December 2014 as being Y2K or a cliff that the Afghan people are going to fall off is actually being unhelpful. An option to me is something you plan against. And we are not planning against the zero option." He commented that even the idea of a complete US withdrawal was adversely affecting morale in Afghan. He added, "By the late fall, you've got to know what the size of the force is going to be in the fall of 2014 when you deploy the force in the summer of 2014.”

Afghan to impose exit taxes on withdrawing US forces and equipment

The Washington Times reported on July 18, 2013 that Afghanistan is going to tax US contractors supporting the American financed rebuilding efforts and will impose levies, customs fees and fines on all military equipment and food for the troops. US officials say they have not been able to dissuade the Karzai government from doing this. One effect has already been to slow the movement of military equipment and supplies across the Afghan border and move it out by air. INdeed, in some cases the Afghans have cloud the borders. (071913)

Karzai says Taliban must lay down arms or no negotiations

TalibanEmbassyQatar


President Karzai has said the Taliban must lay down its arms or there will be no negotiations. The likelihood is high that the negotiations will not proceed as a result. As an aside, look at this photo by Ben Farmer posted in The Telegraph of London showing the Taliban “embassy” in Qatar. Those are some “digs” for such a ruthless, heartless enemy.(071613)

Brits to withdraw 5200 troops by end 2013

British defense officials announced on July 10, 2013 that they will withdraw 5,200 troops before the end of 2013, leaving about 600 left in the autumn. This will leave all of Helmand to the US. (071313)

Disagreements over level of US commitment to Afghan

RobertMenendez
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has chided the Obama administration for failing to make firm decisions on the US force structure in Afghan post-2014 and mission definition for that force. He said on July 21, 2013, "The lack of clarity on this point has led to too much hedging in the region.” Karen DeYoung reported for the Washington Post on July 12, 2013, “James Dobbins, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the committee Thursday (July 11, 2013) that Obama was ‘still reviewing his options on the force. ‘Of course, without an agreement on our presence in Afghanistan, we would not remain. But we do not believe that that's the likely outcome of these negotiations,’ Dobbins said. Unlike Iraq, where similar negotiations over a U.S. follow-on force failed, ‘the Afghans actually need us to stay,’ he said. ‘Most Afghans want us to stay. And we have promised to stay.’ ” DeYoung also reported, however, that most of the security agreement is done with the exception of the section on the “US commitment to Afghanistan’s internal security.” For the moment, it appears the US is ready to train and fight al Qaeda, but not fight the Taliban, leaving that to the Afghans. There has been speculation that the Obama administration feels it can live with a Taliban government if necessary --- hard to believe. (071213)

British General Lorimer takes over as deputy ISAF commander

lorimer-john
Major-General John G. Lorimer, DSO MBE MA (CANTAB), British Army, has taken over as deputy commander, ISAF. He has commanded British focus in Basra, Iraq and Helmand Province, Afghan during two tours. As a brigadier, he commanded the 12 Mechanised Bde in June 2005, taking over the Brigade in Basra in South East Iraq on Op TELIC 6. In 2007 he commanded 12 Mech Bde in Helmand Province, Southern Afghanistan on Op HERRICK VI, when British forces were in charge of that province. (071113)
Obama review Afghan options

Defense Dept. spokesman George Little said the president is reviewing Afghan options provided by his national security team. Little said, “Any potential U.S. military presence beyond 2014 will focus on two basic missions: targeting al-Qaida and its affiliates and training and equipping the Afghan security forces and partners.” Interesting statement; what about the Taliban? Apparently the US will leave that to the Afghan National Security Force. Little indicated the “zero option” is on the table. You will recall the original mission was to depose the Taliban government and beat up al Qaeda for a while, both achieved in less than a year, but other missions were added on bringing our forces to where they have been and are today. (071113)

Confusion over “Zero Option”

Reports are there is confusion over whether the US will implement a zero option for Afghanistan and pull out all US forces by mid summer 2014. Politico reported on July 10, 2013, “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee says the White House has assured him it's not seriously considering any scenario in which no U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan after next year … McKeon said the White House is planning for an enduring U.S. presence in Afghanistan.” However, Politico also reported, “Responding to questions about The New York Times report, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the president ‘had made it clear that the zero option is on the table.’ And White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday the zero-troop option ‘has always been available’ and that a decision isn't imminent.” On the surface, this all appears to have to do with US frustration with and anger at President Karzai, his remarks, and his positions. Whether Obama is bluffing or not only time will tell --- I believe he is. (071013)

Everyone out by mid-2014? The “zero option”

The New York Times has reported that President Obama is seriously considering withdrawing all US forces from Afghanistan by mid-2014, which would be a major strategy change, major withdrawal scheduling change, and a major logistics nightmare. As an aside, Obama and Karzai don’t get along, Karzai appears persistently displeased with US effort, and the Taliban have closed their Qatar office. (070913)

4th ID relieves 3rd ID of Afghan Southern Command

The 4th Infantry Division (ID), Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, USA in command, relieved the 3rd ID of command of Regional Command South in Afghanistan at Kandahar Airfield on JUly 8, 2013. The 3rd ID held command for 12 months. (070813)

Airlifting equipment out is proving very dangerous work

B747CrashBagram


You will recall the April 2013 crash of a Boeing 747 during takeoff from Bagram AB. The accident has been blamed in shifting military vehicles inside. A video can be seen on CBS News of the crash,. The photo above is a video grab. The aircraft took off, got to about 500 ft., veered right, then left and then turned over and dove into the fields, exploding. All seven souls aboard were lost. Loadmasters understand well how tricky it is to fill a transport of any size with its load. All cargo has to be balanced and properly secured. A problem the USAF loadmasters are experiencing in the Afghan withdrawal is they are unfamiliar with what they are loading up. Furthermore, the volume of what they must take is mind-boggling. Each month, hundreds of tons of cargo are being flown out of the Afghanistan, including helicopters, armored vehicles, equipment, parts and sustainment supplies no longer needed by redeploying units. Compounding the problem is the contractors are leaving, which means the soldiers and airmen have to handle all the work by themselves, not all the time trained as well as the contractors. A lot of stuff is being shipped to Karachi for shipping out by sea. Many of the transport aircraft are simply flying to Jordan, Dubai and Oman, offloading, and then the cargos are sent to port for sealift. In the midst of all this, transport aircraft are still coming in with loads to supply the forces who remain. The USAF, amidst all kinds of budget cuts, is using just about every transport aircraft it has, and as many as it can contract. (070213)

Army preparing to leave FOB Joyce

FOBJoyce2010


The Army is packing up and preparing to leave Forward Operating Base (FOB) Joyce in eastern Kunar Province. At present, the base’s population has doubled from 300 to 600 soldiers as other outposts get closed and those troops come over. However, many of these troops will start leaving this month, July 2013, heading to larger bases on their way home to the US. The Army will hand over the base to the Afghans later in July. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters are working around the clock to carry out equipment and containers.

FOBJoycePacking


Convoys are being loaded up with stuff too heavy for the CH-47s. At the same time, the Army there has to fulfill its operational obligations and pack at the same time, a scenario occurring throughout Afghan. Contractors are leaving, and soldiers have to take over their duties, which includes cooking. MREs have replaced hot lunches. The summer is placing heavy demands on the generators and they are in need of constant repair. The base continues to handle more troops than it was built for, and troops often stand in long lines to get something to eat. (070213)


Logistics in Afghan a huge challenge, perhaps bigger than thought

MRAP


General John F, Campbell, USA, vice CSA, said recently, “We are experiencing turbulent times as we work through major force structure and stationing changes, with potentially more to follow, while deploying and redeploying units into combat." Brigadier General John G. Ferrari, USA, director, joint and futures, Army G-8, has highlighted the serious issues the Army is confronting in getting equipment out of Afghanistan. Briefly, he said, "The challenge today is that there is equipment in the wrong places.” Originally, prior to 9-11, individual units had their own equipment. When the war started, the equipment was pooled. Units then received their equipment based on their deployment schedule. But now the units are leaving and not deploying to theater, but their equipment has remained behind. One result is many units returning to the US do not have their equipment. Budget cuts are now driving logistics decisions in Afghan. The Army cannot pay for retrograding and repairing some pretty important equipment, like the mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), such as the one shown in the photo. As a result, the Army will have to destroy many of those vehicles and leave it all as scrap in Afghan. While all these decisions are being made, Army units are being moved around within Afghan and many are being withdrawn. Assuring the remaining troops have the right equipment is a huge challenge. (070213)

No going too well in Afghan these days

Afghan’s killing fields are active, and one is forced to question the optimistic reports received from US authorities. The enemy killed almost 300 Afghan local and national police in just June 2013. As many as 180 civilians were killed during late May to late June 2013. British military leaders have said they do not believe the Afghan military is ready or will be ready by 2014. In addition, the enemy attacked the presidential palace in Kabul on June 25, 2013. Fighting lasted about an hour. One attacker detonated a suicide vest, and three other attackers of the four were shit to death. Nonetheless, this was a bold and brazen attack in the heart of Kabul. About all we hear from the NATO commander, General Dunford, USMC, is that the “deck and the con” now belong to the Afghans, and NATO is in the background in a supporting role when needed. In short, let the cards fall where they fall. (070213)

US bargaining position seems all screwed up

DOBBINSJAMES
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on June 27, 2013 that during a visit to India, James Dobbins, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaking about upcoming negotiations with the Taliban, said, "We have made clear, Secretary Kerry made clear, when he was here, that any agreement would need to include a cessation of hostilities, a respect for the Afghan Constitution, and severing of all ties with Al-Qaeda and some more terrorist organizations.” However, The Telegraph repaired also on June 27, 2013 indicated that requiring the Taliban to give up violence was non-negotiable, but is rather an outcome of dialog. He said, “In an agreement, they need to improve on cessation of hostilities, respectfully attend the Constitution and go about severing of all ties with al Qaida and similar terrorist organisations.” What? (062813)

Secretary of the Army says fighting remains dangerous and difficult

McHughJohn
U.S. Secretary of the Army John McHugh said on June 20, 2013:

"The first challenge is to complete the mission. The fighting remains very dangerous and difficult. The other part of the mission is to physically remove ourselves. We had a big, big job getting ourselves out of Iraq. This is bigger still. Afghanistan provides additional challenges based on geography, weather, and occasional disruptions in land routes."

It would be interesting to hear his definition of the “mission” our forces are to complete --- I think it is to get out. (062813)


Taliban will continue fighting even if talking

The Taliban has said plainly it intends to keep fighting even while it is negotiating a possible end to the Afghan war. The New York Times reported, “One Taliban representative explained the apparent contradiction by saying, ‘We don't need to send commanders [to Doha]: we are not fighting in Qatar. We are fighting in Afghanistan.’ Another representative stated the group is pursuing both political and military options because ‘there is no cease-fire... they are attacking us, and we are attacking them.’” Afghan President Karzai is furious the US intended to meet with the Taliban before the Afghans would be invited. The Taliban is furious it was foxed to remove its flag and nameplate from its office. Thus far these talks in Doha are going nowhere. (062713)

Pace of logistics withdrawals ramping up fast

Scott Anderson is CENTCOM’s deputy director for logistics and engineering. He held an interview on the Afghan withdrawal on June 21, 2013. Logistics authorities are planning to move significant amounts of equipment out of Afghan between now and February 2014, using every means and route available. The US one had 600 bases, now has about 100. The force will decrease from the presents 66,000 to 34,000 by February. Since most US forces are in astern Afghan, Karachi remains the preferred outbound port. The Northern Distribution Network is being used but does not lend itself well to where US forces are located. Materiel is being flown to other countries and then transported by other means. Planners must maintain a careful balance between what has to go out and what has to be retained to support remaining forces who are still in combat roles.(0623.13)

Taliban negotiations wobbly at best --- close Doha office?

Last week, the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar on June 18, 2013 and stand the Afghan peace negotiations that were to go with it have been in doubt ever since. The first problem was the US intended to start bilateral negotiations without the Karzai government present. Karzai’s group was to join a bit later. Karzai was furious over that and told the US of his anger point blank. He suspended posy-2014 security negotiations with the US in retaliation. Then there was a lot of bickering over what the office would be named, and whether a plaque on the office should stand. The Taliban mission in Doha displayed a flag and a plaque with the words "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," the name they gave their government before it was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban removed both the flag and the plaque. Karzai wants negotiations to be in Afghanistan, but have, according to US officials, set up numerous obstacles to talks. Now SecState Kerry has threatened to ask Qatar to close the Taliban office if the Taliban fails to get off the dime and start talks. Interestingly, the U has dropped its demand for the Taliban to renounce al-Qaeda. Few give these talks a chance of success. (062313)

Karzai suspends security agreement negotiations with US

President Karzai has suspended security agreement negotiations with the US to protest the US holding bilateral talks with the Taliban without Afghan representation. He said on June 18, 2013, “In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently underway in Kabul between Afghan and U.S. delegations on the bilateral security agreement.” In the mean time, as the US was to begin talks very soon, the enemy fired rockets into Bagram AB killing four Americans. On the surface, it appears we may be headed toward a Korean-war style Panmunjom endless negotiation while fighting continues. There is no indication anyone wants a cease-fire. (061913)

Germany leave strategic outpost

ObersvationPostNorthGerman


German forces have left a strategic outpost in northern Afghanistan’a Baghlan Province, known as Observation Post North. They turned the post over to the Afghans on June 15, 2013. The Germans had about 200 soldiers there. These troops are being moved to Germany’s main base at Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghans now have total security responsibilities --- planning underway for “Resolute Support”

Effective June 18, 2013, the Government of Afghanistan, and its Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have taken full security responsibility for all Afghanistan. General Dunford, USMC, ISAF commander, has said “we are entering the final phase of the security transition.” He also said, “Two weeks ago, the NATO defense ministers approved the concept for a new mission in Afghanistan beginning in 2015. The details of this new mission, called Resolute Support, will be developed in the coming months.” (061813)

US to begin bilateral talks with Taliban soon

France24 International News reported on June 18, 2014 that senior US officials said on that date that the US will enter peace talks, direct, bilateral, with the Taliban at the latter’s offices in Doha, Qatar, soon, within a matter of days. According to the report, the Karzai government will be brought in later, perhaps within days after the bilateral talks begin. The Taliban has before it would not meet with the Karzai team. This report has been confirmed by AP. The Taliban are scheduled to open their new office in Doha on June 18, 2013, and a Qatari official has said that the office indeed did open. (061813)

Brits are leaving Helmand

As planned, British forces, who sacrificed so much in Afghan’s Helmand province, are in the final stages of withdrawing. They have already moved their brigade headquarters from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion to finish packing. Thus far, they have lost 444 KIA. In 2011, they had 137 names in Helmand, now only 11. By years end, that is to be down to four. If I am reading the reports correctly, they have chosen to ship out most of heir stuff by air, filling up a 747 just about every day. (061613)

Georgia closes two bases after suffering too many KIAs

Georgia’s defense minister aid his country would close two bases after losing 10 KIAs in enemy attacks recently. Georgia now has 1,545 troops in Afghan and the minister said that number would not go down in the immediate future. Seven Georgia soldiers were killed in Helmand on June 6, 2013, with nine others wounded. One of the bases to be closed is in Helmand. This corresponds with increasing worries on the part of Afghan provincial leaders that the enemy is ready to surge in Helmand again, specifically in the Sangin District. (061413)

Afghans say they are ready to take over security for whole country

The Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD) on June 12, 2013 said that the fifth and the last phase of security transition will be announced next week and the Afghan security forces are ready to take charge of security across Afghanistan. The Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said that once the announcement is made, Afghan security forces will take charge of all security responsibilities. (061413)

Brits continue pulling out

Merlin_HC3_Helicopter


British forces and equipment continue leaving Afghanistan. Britain’s Merlin HC3 helicopters (one shown here) have finished flying and are heading home. More than 2,000 British troops have already left. The British now man only 11 bases and checkpoints as opposed to 137. The British, however, are sticking to the end of 2014 before terminating all combat operations. The plan, as I understand it, is to reduce from 9,000 troops in 2012 to 5,200 by the end of 2013, but there are hopes in Britain to proceed faster than that. Have not seen nothing firm on this however. The UK has lost over 400 troops since the war’s inception. (061313)

Kabul endures two major enemy attacks thus far this week

KabulAirportAttack


Enemy forces have drawn a great deal of Afghan blood with two major attacks in Kabul this week. On June 10 the enemy attack the Kabul International Airport with suicide bombers, rocket propelled grenades, and small arms fire. The battle lasted four hours. On June 11, the enemy exploded a car bomb outside Kabul’s Supreme Court and close to the US embassy, killing 17 and injuring 39. With regard to the airport attack, ISAF has issued a statement commending the Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) for a job well done in handling this attack. The statement read in part, “In the Kabul attack, seven insurgents occupied two buildings and attempted to attack the airport. The ANP responded in a rapid and deliberate manner by cordoning off the area, evacuating civilians and methodically defeating the attackers. The Afghan Air Force also participated in countering the threat, supporting the response with two Mi-17 helicopters. Within hours, all seven attackers were dead and the airport, which was only slightly damaged, resumed operations. Five of the attackers were killed by the ANP and two took their own lives by detonating suicide vests.” The photo, by Omar Sobbani, Reuters, shows ANSF taking their positions at the site of the Kabul Airport attack. (061113)

SecDef outlines US post-2014 approach

SecDef Hagel talked about the US post-2014 approach in broad terms during a news conference following a day of NATO meetings on Afghan in Brussels on June 5, 2013. He said the US will be the main contributor of forces; the US will operate as the overall framework nation with geographic responsibility for the east and the south, the areas of greatest enemy resistance. He sees Germany and Italy as handling the north and west as before, and Turkey handling Kabul. He said U.S. support will include “new, expert, professional assistance to the [Afghan] army in the area of contracting and fuel support, not just soldiers … We intend to be there for the long haul, and I made that commitment very clear today.” This war for the US is a long way from being over, that’s for sure. (060613)

Post-2014 force might be larger than anticipated

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on June 3, 2013 the US is thinking about leaving a much larger force than 8,000 in Afghan after 2014, and keeping it there for at least three years, to serve as a “bridging force.” These added forces, says AFP, would provide air power, medical evacuations and other support. The idea was original floated by retired General John Allen, USMC, the former ISAF commander, and Michael Flournoy, a former defense official. No one knows yet what the final outcome will be. Obama is said to be reluctant, but the pressure is coming from many corners to leave a larger, more capable force behind as the Afghan Army does not look like it will be ready to carry the load alone. In addition, NATO nations are awaiting a US decision before they make a move. Several have already said they will not stay. I must comment here that I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US would leave a significant air power force in Iraq after the ground force withdrawal, since Iraq would not be able to handle air sovereignty. My feeling was if a nation cannot protect its air sovereignty, it cannot be a truly sovereign nation. Well, the Iraqis proved me wrong in that they would not agree to the US conditions regarding the US maintaining legal jurisdiction over all its forces, and the US did not leave hardly anything behind. The same could hold true for Afghan, though President Karzai has already made public that he is ready to allow the US to use nine bases and US military leaders say that is about what they need post-2014. (060513)

Afghan military forces incurring heavy losses

DunfordJoseph
Afghan military forces have suffered heavy losses in recent weeks, losing 104 troopers in on week of intense fighting with the Taliban. Whoever might say the Taliban has been defeated is smoking bad dope. General Joseph Dunford, USMC, ISAF commander, said on June 6, 2013, “The Taliban came out, and they are doing exactly what they said they would do … High-profile attacks, insider attacks against the Afghans and fear and intimidation.” Dunford, understanding what the future might hold, also said, “First and foremost, the most important thing is to get clarity on what it is that NATO is going to do in 2015.” This indicates he is aware the US has no strategy for beyond 2014.

Afghan military forces to take over responsibility for all military operations within 20 days.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said Afghan security forces will take over responsibility for all military operations in 20 days. They already lead about 90 percent of them. The turn over is expected in June. (060413)

Obama said to be reluctant to commit to post-2014 numbers

Michael Hirsh, reporting for the National Journal, says President Obama is reluctant to commit to a post-2014 US forces structure in Afghanistan. He remains steadfast on this point despite growing pressure from within the US and even from various circles in Afghan that he commit. Karzai said the US would have nine bases, apparently trying to get something out of Obama. Lt. General Nick Carter, a British officer and deputy commander, ISAF, has kind of confirmed Karzai’s number, saying NATO wants to support and supply six Afghan corps, provide a headquarters, an air support mission, and a training facility. That would need about nine bases. The other NATO countries are waiting for a US number, which is thought at the moment to be in the neighborhood of 8,000, with NATO providing 4,000 more. But France and Canada have said they are out. Only Germany and Sweden have thus far said they are in. When the Soviets left in 1989, the country broke out into civil war, and same concerns holds true now. (060413)

Former US commander wants post-2014 numbers now

John Allen, General, USMC (Ret.), the former US and ISAF commander in Afghanistan, has urged the White House to announce post-2014 troop force structure in Afghanistan now. He argued that the Afghans need to know, in part so they can decide with whom to side, and if the structure is impressive, to force the Taliban to call it quits. Al the moment, other experts feel the Taliban does not fear the Afghan Army, but does fear the Americans. He co-authored a report with former U.S. defense official Michele Flournoy and The Brookings Institution's defense expert Michael O'Hanlon. Allen commented on May 31, 2014, "I'd like to see it (the announcement) soon. What the president has said to the Afghans is we will not abandon you … What is missing right now...are the specifics associated with that." The White House said it is still studying the problem. The plan, as it is understood in the public domain at present, is for US forces to drop 15,000 by the end of the year, about a quarter of the current force of 66,000. Some 20 Green Beret special force units in eastern Afghan will be cut. (060113)

Afghan’s Highway 1 a major route for withdrawal

AfghanHwy1


Afghanistan’s Highway 1, previously known as the Ring Road, is a 2,200 km two-lane road that circulates inside Afghanistan. It connects Afghan’s largest and most populous cities. It connects Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar, Farah, Herat, and Mazar, largely to the south and west of Kabul. It has extensions that also connect Jalalabad, Delaram, Islam Qala, and several other cities. Th 300 mile section between Kandahar and Kabul is very important.

Wardakprovince


At the moment, the B/3-5 Infantry, and its parent, the 3-5 Infantry, are focused on this highway through Wardak province as its way out during the withdrawal. It is also the main link for the unit to receive supplies. the highway through this area, and others for that matter, have been a scenes of continuous hostile fire. It is known as the “Southern Gate to Kabul.” The road itself is in poor shape. And there are a lot of non-Taliban bad guys, gangs, mafia-like clans who seize and harass trucking through the area. So the B/3-5 has its hands full working with the Afghans to keep this baby open and secure. US forces are positioning themselves in overwatch positions as Afghan patrols go out, the Americans prepared to jump in to support the Afghans as needed. It is also worth noting that there is a great deal of activity by US forces to connect and work with Afghan and Pakistani partners at the various outlets through Pakistan. There have been political posturing, violent raids and smuggling at each of these crossings and the US forces have to work to defuse these and plan for worst case scenarios should they flare up as US forces and equipment go rolling through.

LogarProvince


Logar province is adjacent to Wardak’s eastern border, at the underbelly of Kabul. Reportedly one of NATO’s main objectives for this summer is to secure these two province to prevent attacks against Kabul from the south. It is amazing this has not been done after all these years. (053113)


Army preparing for withdrawals by becoming more dispersed, more mobile, more connected

TacticalCommsNetwork

TacticalCommsNetworkA


As US military forces wind down, of course, the number of US forces left in Afghanistan declines. AS a result, the Army is planning for the day, to come soon, when its forces will be more dispersed, smaller, and more on the move. It ail be providing its remaining soldiers with a vastly improved tactical communications network, known as the Warfighter Information Network Tactical. It will be employed to keep the widely dispersed and more mobile US forces joined with Afghan forces better informed of the ground situation over greater distances. Indeed, many soldiers will no longer be so tied to fixed installations and their glue will be this network as the soldiers are no longer tied to more static locations. These scaled back forces will not be alone, but by their communications networking will get a greater insight to the ground situation and have an improved chance of getting support where and when needed. In any event, that’s the idea. This reflects the growing need to protect our remaining forces during the withdrawal. (053113)

Big issues yet to be faced in final withdrawals

Conn Hallinan, writing for Foreign Policy on May 28, 2013, has highlighted major issues confronting the US and NATO as they prepare to withdraw next year. The top problem is there are no peace negotiations underway with the enemy, and none on the horizon. This could mean open warfare until the bitter end. Enemy attacks are up 47 percent over last year. Afghan security force desertions are about 30 percent, and Afghan security force casualties are up 40 percent, largely due to their increased combat role. Hallinan reported, “It is not exactly clear what will happen in 2014. While American combat units are supposed to be withdrawn, in accordance with a treaty between NATO and the government of President Harmid Karzai, several thousand U.S. Special Forces, military trainers, CIA personnel, and aircraft will remain on nine bases until 2024.” I do not believe that agreement is in stone yet either. (053013)

Afghan security force casualties way up

This year marks the first where Afghan security forces are fighting the enemy largely on their own, and their casualties are skyrocketing as a result. AP has reported that as of May 15, 2013, the Afghans have lost 441 security forces thus far this year, more than twice what they lost last year. The Afghans are responsible for security for about 90 percent of their country. (052813)

US forces’ living conditions drifting toward expeditionary style

Most of our forces in Afghanistan have not been living in the lap of luxury, but now, with the withdrawal underway, living conditions will get a more sparse. The trick is to be sure the last man out of the gate has eaten, has had access to sanitary facilities, and is equipped with what he needs. Thus far, about 450 Coalition bases of 800 have been turned over to the Afghans. Most of the rest will be closed by February 2014. Then, we need a decision on how many troops will remain after 2014 and what they are to do in order to decide which of the remaining bases will stay open. All together, the Coalition has about 100,000 troops left, with about 66,000 being US. As we get closer to departure time, the bases to be left to the Afghans become larger and larger, and increasingly complex to run. I will add, that in addition to all this will be a host of security issues to assure we get the last of our forces and their equipment out of there safely. (052813)

Karzai’s mouth flapping again

KarzaiHamid
Afghan President Karzai’s mouth is flapping again about those bad guys from the US and NATO. While visiting India, he said on May 22, 2013, “Withdrawing of their (NATO) forces from Afghanistan will be good for us. We believe there will be more peace in Afghanistan when they leave. We believe those attacking Afghanistan will find it hard to attack.” He linked intense corruption to the US and its contractors, saying, “The problem is very faulty, very superficially awarded contracts by the West, especially the United States, which has brought lots of corruption, massive corruption. If it were Denmark criticizing Afghanistan, I would say it was valid, or if it were Norway. But if the United States does it, I would simply laugh at it.” he again accused US troops, specially special forces, of targeting Afghan villagers in night raids. (052513)

Marines nearly finished closing Camp Payne

CloseFobPayne


The 2-8 Marines are in the process of finishing up their closure of FOB Payne in southwestern Afghanistan. All that remains are remnants of building and a protective outer berm. The photo shows the Marines clearing remnants of a building, May 11, 2013. (052013)

Do not fall victim to 2014 being just around the corner

Editorial comment: Do not get yourself too wrapped around the axle over the approaching 2014 withdrawal date from Afghan and all this talk about how the Afghans are taking over the fighting. Our sons and daughters are still fighting, the fighting season is on them, many of their "Afghan allies" are worthless fighters, and some are even killing our own forces. The enemy remains strong; don't let anyone convince you otherwise. My position remains, either take all means available to destroy our enemies there, or withdraw by the fastest means available and leave the bastards to do what they do. Also, I am reminded not to use the phrase “fighting season.” The enemy fights when it feels like fighting, no matter whether winter or summer. (051813)

Marines vacating Camp Dwyer

FillingISOcontanersDwyer


Camp Dwyer was once a huge base in the Garmser district of Helmand Province, but the Marines have been packing up and moving out and it is closing in on empty. An outfit called Marine Redeployment and Retrograde in Support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group (R4OG) has had the job of making the move, Marines from all three expeditionary forces are involved in this, a provisional unit. Most of the Marines are new to this pack up mission. Here you see Lance Cpl. Samantha Florke, a sorter, checking through empty ISO containers to verify they are ready to be filled with sorted equipment at the R4OG lot at Camp Dwyer. At one time, Camp Dwyer was one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. In addition, the Marines are closing FOB Payne in southwestern Afghanistan. (051713)
US moving to leave special forces as main force next year?

McRavenWilliam
Foreign Policy suggested on May 15, 2013, “U.S. Special Operations forces are expected to make up almost one-third of the American troop presence in Afghanistan by next February, while the specially trained Afghan commandos will be heavily relied upon to fill the gap left by outgoing NATO troops.” The magazine claims that Afghan and US Special forces are already involved in most of the fighting. This is the strategy employed when we began this war in 2001. It had mixed results. First, conventional air in all forms was mandatory to support them, in part because they lacked the numbers and firepower. Then it became obvious that conventional ground forces had to come in with their numbers and firepower. Special Forces then focused on behind the lines and close-in reconnaissance and targeting beacons for air. The commander of the US Special Forces Command, Admiral William McRaven, has hinted at a need for his forces to return to their original roots, which I have interpreted to mean they cannot and should not try to replace the Army and Marines when those kinds of forces are needed. (051513)

Pay attention to how the post-2014 mission is described

US and Afghan negotiators met formally for the second time on May 11, 2013 in Kabul to discuss the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries. It is crucial for the American public to stay focused on how the US mission is described as we get closer to an agreement. In earlier descriptions, the emphasis was on training. mentoring, and providing logistics support. But now I have seen hints a US role might be to deny al-Qaeda and its affiliates a foothold in Afghanistan. This is a combat mission, and one half of the original mission when this war started back in 2001, the other half being to destroy the Taliban. The original mission expanded to national building and the spread of democracy, which is why we are still there to this day. (051313)

“Five years to go” in Afghanistan, Admiral Stavridis

Stavridis
Admiral James Stavridis, USN, outgoing commander US European Command (EUCOM) and outgoing NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said on May 9, 2013, “When I look at Afghanistan, we still have five years to go before we can really disengage.” He does not think the Taliban can “succeed in he military dimension,” and again urged the Taliban to negotiate and end to the war. Nonetheless, he said five more years at least for us, and urged we concentrate on continued training and spread of democratic ideals. While the war in Afghanistan is being fought on the surface by NATO, it is hard to understand what the admiral’s role has been as the US has been calling all the shots and has commanded all the Allied troops there since the beginning. (051013)

Karzai says US wants nine bases post-2014

On May 9, 2013, Afghan President Karzai announced that the US wants to remain at nine bases throughout the country post-2014. Karzai indicated he is amenable to that, with conditions. I have not seen any of the bases identified yet. Not sure what the base configurations might be, or their missions, but numbers of remaining US forces to remain that I have seen seem low to handle nine bases. Have to wait to see how the nations evolve. The US has made no comment on the president’s remarks. (050913)

ISAF commander assesses security situation

Dunford
On April 24, 2013, General Dunford, USMC, the ISAF commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement of the security statement in-country. He said, “ISAF’s analysis indicates that 80% of the enemy attacks are occurring in areas where less than 20% of the Afghan population lives. More than 40% of all enemy attacks are occurring in just 10 districts, most of which are in the northern reaches of Helmand Province and western Kandahar Province. Equally important to the insurgency’s decreasing relevancy, the expectations of the Afghan people have changed. Surveys clearly reflect that the Afghan people will simply not tolerate the oppressive policies imposed by the former Taliban Government. In some areas, this sentiment has manifested in anti-Taliban movements … Afghan forces are leading 80 percent of all conventional operations. Very soon, the ANSF will be responsible for security nationwide. They are steadily gaining in confidence, competence, and commitment.” This flies in the face of many, mostly pessimistic assessments issued almost daily by “experts” on the region. That is probably due, in part, to the fact that Dunford likely is hesitant to get into the political situation, which is fragile at best. One is also reminded that the Taliban and al-Qaeda early in on this war slipped into the mountains and into Pakistan, regrouped, and made a huge comeback. One always worries this will happen again when ISAF leaves. The status of residual ISAF forces, especially US, beyond 2014 remains up in the air. I would also again highlight Lt. General Terry’s (USA) remarks below, that the enemy remains “very resilient.” Terry is the departing number two US commander there. (050713)

“Insurgency remains very resilient,” Lt. General Terry, USA

TerryJames
Lieutenant General James Terry, the departing US second-in-command in Afghanistan, told reporters on April 30, 2013, “I’m not going to make any predictions. My first time here in 2007 there were a lot of well-intended people making claims about the last gasp of the insurgency. Frankly, (the insurgency) is very resilient.” He relinquished command of the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) on May 2, 2013, and added at this ceremony, “What you do this year, and what you do this summer is absolutely critical. It’s a critical milestone on the road to victory. On the road to winning. On the road to creating a stable Afghanistan.” (050113, updated 050213)

US air power to be available to Afghan post-2014

A29SuperTucano


Major General H.D. “Jake” Polumbo, Jr., USAF, director of the International Security Assistance Force Air Component Coordination Element and commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force Afghanistan, talked to reporters on April 23, 2013. He said the US is committed to building up the Afghan Air Force. It will be receiving 20 US-funded A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft (example shown in photo) in 2014. It is produced by Embraer of Brazil, with Boeing integrating US required sub-systems. At the moment, the Afghans only fly helicopters. Polumbo said that it is likely the USAF will retain assets in Afghan beyond 2014 and the Navy ail remain off-shore to provide “over the horizon” air support as needed. In addition, the US plans to continue flying drones. (042623)

Dunford continues to emphasize uncertainties in Afghanistan

General Joseph Dunford, USMC, commander ISAF, said on April 16, 2013, “We [must] confront growing uncertainty in Afghanistan and in the region … Many Afghans have told me they no longer fear the Taliban as much as they fear what will happen after 2014 … “There is a growing sense that December 2014 is a cliff for the Afghan people. This] dynamic must be addressed with an incredible, compelling narrative of U.S. commitment.” While he remains confident, he did highlight that ISAF must continue to deny al Qaida Afghanistan as a safe haven and must continue to assure the Taliban does not overthrow the Afghan government after 2014. Dunford has recently been emphasizing the uncertainties in Afghanistan. A few days ago, he said, “The war in Afghanistan is entering an uncertain and dangerous phase.” (041713)

Dempsey wants 8,000 - 12,000 tools post-2014 in Afghan

DempseyMartin
General Martin Dempsey, USA, CJCS, says he has recommended keeping from 8,000-12,000 troops in Afghanistan post-2014. That strikes me as a wide, and politically motivated window. Dempsey calls his numbers a “reasonable target.” This corresponds with what former SecDef Panetta recommended. Under ideal conditions, the commander in the field would outline the military requirements and match the force structure to those requirements. But in the real world of Washington, they fling around politically acceptable numbers that may or may not correspond well with the commander’s requirements. In fairness to Washington, a commander does always want more, so the tug of war is common-place in Washington. But it would be good to hear how Dempsey came up with his numbers, somehow matching them with military requirements instead of just throwing his numbers out there without supporting rationale. (041214)

III Corps prepares to head to Afghan

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The US Army’s III Corps “Phantom Warriors” at Ft. Hood, Texas is preparing to move 600 headquarters soldiers to Kabul, Afghanistan for a year long deployment, its first to Afghanistan. It will help form the International Joint Command, which is a corps-level headquarters controlling the ground war. Its task is to lead the effort to set the conditions for a handoff to the Afghans by the end of 2014. III Corps is a major formation of the United States Army Forces Command --- among other units, it commands the 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and a host of other combat nuts spread across the US. (041113)

New Zealand withdraws


New Zealand has withdrawn its small contingent of 145 soldiers in central Bamiyan Province, five months earlier than expected. It will keep 27 planning and intelligence people in Kabul. Since 2003, it lost ten KIA.

Kearsarge
replaces Peleliu in Arabian Sea

The USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked has relieved the USS Peleliu ARG with the 15th MEU embarked in the Arabian Sea in a routine deployment activity. (040413)

Dunford says transitions are “very, very difficult times”

DunfordJoseph
Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, met with General Joseph Dunford, USMC, ISAF commander, and commented, “The war in Afghanistan is entering an uncertain and dangerous phase.” She said General Dunford noted, “Transitions, by definition, are very, very difficult times. They're filled with friction. They're filled with challenges. And that's what we're seeing. We're seeing the emergence of democracy over time … In these next couple of months, I expect those decisions (on force levels) to be made, and I think -- I believe we'll know by the summer, generally speaking, what the future is. And the president of the United States and the president of Afghanistan are certainly committed to try to get this bilateral security agreement done by the May-June time frame." Dunford kind of said that the US has not yet achieved what it had hoped for: “"We came here because there was a threat of international terrorism from this region … And we haven't yet set the conditions where that won't occur again.” (040313)

Afghan recruits fleeing

AfghanRecruits


Brian Brady, Jonathan Owen reported for The Independent of the UK on March 31, 2013, “Thousands of recruits are quitting the newly formed Afghan police and armed forces every month, raising fears over their ability to protect the emerging democracy when coalition troops leave the country in less than two years' time.” Afghan security forces are not reaching their recruiting goals. Meena Haseeb, reporting for the Khaama Press, says British officials have confirmed that about 5,000 Afghan troops are leaving every month. Brady and Owen suggest that some NATO allies are now in a hurry to get out before the place falls apart completely. (040113)
First shipment made through Karachi

The first shipment of military equipment out of Afghanistan through the southern port of Karachi, Pakistan has been completed without any notable hitches. US forces are aware of the rising Taliban threat in the city, but for the moment, will continue shipping through Karachi with alternative plans in their hip pockets. This initial shipment, a kind of test of the route, procedures and coordination, contained more than 70 containers and 20 military vehicles. The US plans to move out a combined total of 100 containers and vehicles through Pakistan to Karachi per month, which is expected to peak in August 2013, sending 1,500 military vehicles and 1,000 containers out of Afghanistan, with about two-thirds of that planned to go through Pakistan. (033113)

Russians may wish to set up bases in Afghan post-2014

Note bene: Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said on April 5, 2013 that setting up Russian bases in Afghanistan was “out of the question.” (040713)

J. Dana Stuster reported for
Foreign Policy on March 29, 2013 that the Russia is considering setting up bases in Afghanistan after 2014. Right now, the Russians are calling them “repair bases” to support Afghan equipment, some of which is Soviet-made. Russia is also exploring expanding supply routes into Afghan. Russia sees Afghanistan as in its zone of interest. Stuster argues that Afghans view the Russians with respect. (033013)

Suits in Washington have not prepared well for withdrawal

Ronald E. Neumann’s opinion piece, “US must decide about troops n Afghanistan,” published by The Washington Post on March 29, 2014 raises some serious issues of indecision and complacency among the suits in Washington about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. He highlights major challenges:

  • Failure to pay close enough attention to local police forces could lead to their becoming a threat to the state.
  • US indecisive about post-2014 US force structure. Allied forces see low US numbers as an indicator they should keep their contributions low or not contribute at all.
  • US intentions in Afghanistan are unclear, strategic and tactical. The US has confused the Afghan leadership. Given low estimates of US force structure post-2014, Afghans find it hard to take US commitment seriously, as they know these low numbers are not enough to do the job. The numbers Afghans see are not enough to handle training, advising and support to counterterrorism.
  • US trainers and advisors need to be in the field, not in Kabul.
  • US forces themselves do not understand their mission between now and 2014.
  • End result is Afghans do not understand what the US intends to offer them, and therefore are reluctant to sign any deals. (033013)

Extent of US withdrawal challenges overpowering

AWaitShipmentBagram


Brigadier General Steve Shapiro, USA, deputy commander of the unit overseeing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,told reporters recently, "Our workload will at least double by the beginning of the fall … We're hearing about $6 bn in transportation costs.” There are apparently two hubs in Afghanistan for shipping out, one is at Bagram AB. It hosts three 60,000 sq ft warehouses to hold outgoing equipment. Shapiro said he has some 28,000 vehicles and 20,000 shipping containers that need to be sorted and prepared in Afghanistan, then shipped out of the country by the end of next year. The will be a lot left, to be given or sold to the Afghans or destroyed. Planners say they cannot afford to let stuff pile up, or they’ll never get it out. They have to keep the outflow steady and even, no peaks and valleys, and at the same time handle inputs for the remaining forces that are in country, and fighting. The first ship packed with equipment has already left the Karachi port. No high tech or sensitive equipment is being sent out through this port, fearing security issues. (032913)

Taliban strengthening in Karachi, Pakistan, US withdrawal port

The Taliban appears to be growing in strength in the Pakistani port of Karachi, a main outlet for US forces withdrawing from Afghanistan. The Taliban seem to control some parts of the city, it is building extortion rackets, setting up its own judicial systems, and imposing Islamic law. This could affect security of departing US forces and their equipment. (032913)

Australia withdrawing most of her troops by year’s end

Australian Defense Minister Smith said on March 26, 2013 that at least 1,000 of Australia’s 1,550 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by year’s end. Rod McGuirk reported for AP, “Australia has the 10th largest national force in Afghanistan and is the largest military contributor outside NATO. Australia also has the largest number of special forces in the campaign after the United States and Britain.” (032613)

Afghan withdrawal will be “historic,” General Stein

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Major General Kurt Stein, commander of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, told reporters in Kuwait last month that the Afghan withdrawal “Will be historic, it’s nothing like we have ever done in the history of our military.” But he added, “There is no other organization in the world besides the U.S. military that can do this. There is no doubt about that.” He sees the lines to the Karachi port in Pakistan as long and vulnerable, and envisions incredible coordination being required to take the northern route through Central Asia and Russia to Poland and the Baltics. Stein handled the Iraq withdrawal, but said there is no comparison. For Iraq, he had Kuwait as a support stop; there is no such thing for leaving Afghan. Some equipment will go out by air, but he said, “Our goal is to put most of it on ships.” Equipment that flies out will go straight home, but much will fly to Jordan, Dubai and Oman, and then be transferred to ships. Thus far, Stein said that only non-essential equipment is leaving now; he has yet to get to the main drawdown. He commented, “What we’re really doing is setting the conditions for success for our future retrograde (withdrawal). So we’re making sure our policies and procedures, and authorities are in place to do what we have to do once the big retrograde process might begin.” (032613)

Danes pulling out in August

Danish forces will end combat operations in Afghanistan in August, six months earlier than planner. Three-hundred fifty will be withdrawn leaving 300 for training purposes only. (031913)

Another FOB closing, down to 45 from 193 in Helmand

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The Marines are closing Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shamsher in the Sangin District, Helmand Province. The Third Platoon, Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2 is shutting her down. The FOB once hosted a mortar transport platoon, engineers and others. It now only has a sustainment group. Cpl. Lia Adkins reported for one convoy, “Marines loaded a forklift, ISO containers, fuel containers and other miscellaneous equipment and transported it all back to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where it will be reutilized or shipped back to the U.S. The more difficult piece of equipment to load and backhaul was a Persistent Ground Surveillance System— a helium-filled, 75-foot long balloon that resembles a blimp and is used as a security measure. It has a camera attached to the belly that gives Marines a detailed view of their surroundings.” Once complete, Coalition Forces will have only 45 FOBs in Helmand, as opposed to the high of 193. The photo shows 3rd Platoon vehicles heading to FOB Shamsher to pick up their loads. (031513)

101 Airborne now in command in Afghan

The 101st Airborne Division (Assault), the “Screaming Eagles,” assumed command of the combined joint task force in eastern Afghanistan on March 14, 2013, Maj. Gen. James C. McConville in command. It will operate Regional Command - East (RC-E), an area about the size of Virginia. It has replaced the 1st Infantry Division. This is the third time the 101 has taken this command. Several of its brigades have ben in the fight for several months already.

US must move $48-billion worth of equipment back home

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Major General Kurt Stein, USA, is in charge of withdrawing American equipment from Afghanistan. He and his people must move 35,000 vehicles, 95,000 shipping containers, and a bunch of other equipment out of a landlocked country. He’s done it before, in Iraq, but he has noted Iraq was different: "Hard but not that hard (Iraq). Afghanistan? Big difference. We don't have the road networks or the ports." In addition, he is not sure how much he must leave behind, because he is not sure what force structure will remain after 2014. He says, "All we can do now is get after what we know today. (The rest) depends on the end state, which we certainly don't know." He guesses that it will cost $6 billion to move everything, and he’ll need 86,000 people to do it, military and civilian. Complicating all this, he still has to send in mounds of stuff to support the 66,000 troops who are still there. David Zucchino reported for the LA Times on March 13, 2013, “U.S. forces have shut down or turned over to Afghan forces 619 bases and combat outposts, with 193 still to be handed over or dismantled. All that equipment has to go somewhere. Some — portable toilets, concrete barriers, vehicles, modular housing — is going to Afghan security forces because it costs more to ship than it's worth. Other stuff — wood and metal from temporary buildings and barriers, plus old vehicles and trailers — is being crushed and sold to Afghans as scrap.” (031513)

Commander puts US forces on alert in Afghanistan --- might Afghan forces turn against the US?

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., USMC, commander ISAF and commander, US forces Afghanistan, has placed US forces on alert in Afghanistan as the result of President Karzai’s recent inflammatory anti-American remarks. Dunford is said to be concerned that Karzai will inflame Afghanis to attack US forces who otherwise might not. Dunford is quoted saying, “His (Karzai’s) remarks could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces — he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk.” This latter comment is especially worrisome, as it suggests the idea that Karzai might try to turn his American trained forces against US forces. (031413)

Austin confirmed as next commander, CENTCOM


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General Lloyd Austin, USA, has been confirmed by the Senate to replace General Mattis. Austin currently serves as vice chief of staff, Army. He took command of US Forces Iraq in September 2010 and commanded those forces through the withdrawal. During his CENTCOM confirmation, he supported a robust US presence post-2014. He has said he wants a “hedge against any Taliban mischief,” commenting, “You could reasonably expect that an enemy that's been that determined, that agile, will very soon after we transition begin to try to test the Afghan security forces.” (030613)

Mattis recommended 13,600 US troops in Afghan post-2014

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General James Mattis, USMC. commander, CENTCOM, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5, 2013 that he had recommended the US maintain 13,600 troops in Afghanistan post-2014. He also said the other NATO countries could contribute another 6,400 troops, bringing the total to 20,000. (030613)

Marines leaving Helmand

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As of March 2, 2013, there are 7,000 Marines left in Helmand Province, down from the peak of 21,000. The Marines suffered 360 KIA and 4,700 WIA while pressing the fight there. NATO bases have declined from 240 to 44. There is only one platoon in what was the most dangerous place in the country, Sangin. One Marine has died in the province this year. The Afghans have inserted nearly four brigades, more than 16,000 soldiers. The Brits and Americans spend most of their time now in southern Helmand. The Marines continue to pack up to leave. Incredibly, during the Marine surge, some 25 percent of all Marine Corps equipment was in Helmand. The Marines have moved out about two thirds of that equipment since last summer. There is disagreement within the military as to whether the Marine sacrifice and commitment were worth it. Concern centers on the draw of the opium crop and the likelihood the Taliban will return. The Marines feel they built a solid security bubble, enabling governance to return, and offering a situation where the enemy can be held at bay. (030613)

NATO expected to decide on post-2014 force structure by mid-year

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on March 4, 2013 that he expects a NATO decision on post-2014 forces structure in Afghan by mid-year. One of the big challenges is to figure out how to train and fight off tracks at the same time. For the moment, the numbers appear to range in the area of 8,000-12,000, according to NATO wishes, most of whom would be American. Rasmussen said they have got to settle on a number so the planning can begin --- time is running out. (030413)

Disagreements about closing outposts and bases

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Shashank Bengali, reporting for the Tribune on March 3, 2013, has highlighted disagreements between the US military and Afghanistan regarding closing and demolishing outposts and bases. Bengali reported, “As of Feb. 1, the coalition had handed over 376 checkpoints, camps, bases and other facilities to the Afghan government while closing 243 other sites. The disposition of 193 other bases — including most of the largest ones — will be determined in negotiations that could stretch into 2014. Most of the bases that survive will remain security facilities, Afghan officials said, while plans call for others to be converted to schools or restored to agricultural land.” The US has maintained it must demolish many of the facilities because the Afghans will not be able to care for them, perhaps not even be able to defend them, and they could be used by enemy forces. The Afghans in turn argue that they can use many of these facilities for military and non-military purposes. One issue is for sure: the Afghans are now realizing the US is and NATO are really going to leave, and many are worried. The photo shows Sgt. Cody Palfreyman guiding a bulldozer to move a berm surrounding a guard post at Firebase Saenz, Helmand Province, back on December 4, 2012.(030413)

Thirty Afghan policemen killed in two days


Foreign Policy reported on March 1, 2013, “A roadside bomb in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar on Thursday killed at least nine people, primarily border policemen (AP, RFERL). The attack, along with another in Helmand by two new Afghan Local Police recruits said to be loyal to the Taliban, brought to 30 the number of Afghan policemen killed in targeted attacks over just two days.” (030113

Specialized logistics support essential for Afghan withdrawal --- lessons to be learned

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The Marines have just completed Operation Dynamic Partner to provide logistics support to help RCT 7 Marines withdraw from the Upper Gershk Valley of the most volatile Helmand Province. The operation occurred between February 9-18, 2013, about nine days. The Marines were located at Village Stability Platform Shurakay, in southern Helmand province. Only one unit had the equipment and knowledge to extricate the equipment from this location, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, CLR-2. They needed medium and heavy lift equipment, and landing support Marines to coordinate the convoy flow. The site was small and hard for the heavy equipment to maneuver. They had Load Handling Systems capable of loading and offloading containers along with Logistics Vehicle System Replacement (LVSR) MKR-18 cargo vehicles.

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The lesson learned from this withdrawal, which the military is calling “retrograde,” is that ground combat elements cannot do this kind of work; they must have specialized logistics support. The ground combat troops needed to focus on security and engage enemy that might try to upset the withdrawal. There was considerable concern about, and much planning to handle any attempted attacks against the convoys and the Marines uploading the equipment. Overall, everyone made it through unscathed. My gut instinct is that it will be like this throughout much of Afghanistan as the US departs. (022713)


Karzai orders US Special Forces out of Wardak

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Afghan President Karzai, on February 24, 2013, ordered all US Special Forces out of Wardak province, implying they might have participated in harassing, torturing and murdering innocent villagers. Wardak province abuts to Kabul’s southwest border. The US has denied the allegations. Lt. Col. Les Carroll, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said in a statement, "In recent months, a thorough review has confirmed that no coalition forces have been involved in the alleged misconduct in Wardak province.” It is hard to tell, and may take time, for this allegation to be flushed out completely. Misinformation is rife throughout Afghanistan, but it is vogue at the higher levels of government there to blame all things that go wrongly on Americans. It is also hard to gauge the real Afghan sentiment toward the American presence. Those who have helped US forces are certainly very worried about the impending US withdrawals. Same for many women who have achieved a new level of freedom since the Americans have been there, and US forces have done a lot to help expand educational opportunities for Afghan children. But, of course, war is war, Afghanistan has been invaded by foreigners before, and my sense is there is a growing divide between the people and the Americans. (022613)

Panetta outlines withdrawal plan

SecDef Panetta, following NATO meetings in Brussels, announced a broad outline of the US withdrawal plan from Afghan. He said 60,000 will remain until after the fighting season, that is, through spring and summer 2013, then cut down to 34,000 by February 2014 and remain at that level until Afghan elections are over in 2014. I understand that these elections are scheduled for April 5, 2014. Then the US will begin its final withdrawal. NATO has not yet decided what it is going to do. Panetta said, “There are a range of options on [NATO’s] post-2014 posture that would provide for an effective regional presence.” NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said NATO’s presence post-2014 would be smaller, but declined to give numbers. (022513)

Discord in NATO over what to do in Afghanistan

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Der Spiegel of Germany is offering an interesting perspective on the NATO meetings in Brussels, subject Afghanistan and NATO’s future role. The magazine paints a picture of discord, hesitancy to commit, and discussions that have been intense. Germany’s defense minister has said many “difficult questions” must be answered and commented that the first plan for the future has been “frozen.” Apparently the US intends to keep its involvement in the NATO mission to a minimum, 5,000 for the NATO training mission, another 5,000 committed to an American-Afghan bilateral mission of continuing the hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda. Furthermore, the US apparently does not want to commit medevac helicopters to the NATO mission. Since NATO had envisioned 15,000 troops for training, and the US is only willing to agree to 5,000, that means NATO members have to come up with 10,000, and that has met stiff resistance. (022313)

NATO exploring withdrawal options

NATO officials are presently exploring their withdrawal options from Afghanistan. SecDef Panetta is in Brussels for the meetings, still serving in that position until a new replacement is sworn in. Adam Entous reported for the Wall Street Journal on February 22, 2013 that Panetta’s spokesman, George Little, said, "A range of 8,000 to 12,000 troops was discussed as the possible size of the overall NATO mission, not the U.S. contribution.” NATO is at the moment look to the US to provide 67 percent of those. In addition, the Americans are talking about an American force separate from NATO which would join with the Afghans to argot al Qaeda and Taliban enemies. Organizationally, this is the way things existed years ago when NATO first came in. Then, the US committed some forces to NATO but kept most of its forces separate to fight al Qaeda. That would change over time. (022213)

Budget constraints may slow US withdrawal

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General Dennis Via, USA, commander Army Material Command (AMC), said on February 21, 2013 that current budget problems in Congress could slow the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. He said he is having to fly a lot of equipment out which is very expensive, and he said that US forces are having to pack up and leave and fight at the same time. He called it a “retrograde while in contact.” Pakistan is allowing the US to move equipment out by road through Afghanistan but the US does not enjoy a setup like it had with Kuwait for Iraq. The US could simply get the equipment out of Iraq and set it down in Kuwait to sort out later for shipment by boat out. (022213)

President postpones decision on post-2014 force structure in Afghan

Administration officials have said the president has postponed a decision on the size of the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan. A month or so ago, we had expected a decision by now. It is probably too early to make such a call, as we have not gotten through the 2013 fighting season. The problems I see are that we are withdrawing large numbers of forces now, we will slowly but surely be leaving a smaller force behind during 2014, that remaining force will be hanging out there on a limb, and in the mean time, due to so many budget uncertainties at home, the Army chief of staff has said publicly he is not sure he can train the forces he will have to send to Afghanistan in 2014 to be combat ready. The Navy has already said it can keep only one carrier strike group in the region instead of he two it has deployed there for some time. (022113)

Army may send Soldiers to Afghan in 2014 who are not ready - Odierno

General Raymond Odierno, CSA, has said the Army had enough money to train forces in Afghan who are there now and will go to Afghan in summer and fall. However, if the budget cuts now looming happen, those going in 2014 may lack the training they need to be ready. (021713)

Soldiers withdrawing from Kandahar area draw hostile fire on way out

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The New York Times reported enemy forces watching a small and isolated outpost near Kandahar City, Strong Point Haji Rahmuddin II, were prepared to be attacked as they left and they were right. Enemy forces, knowing the US troops were leaving, filtered back into the area and engaged the outpost for a brief period two days before our troops were due to leave. The enemy knew the US was leaving as our soldiers started taking down antennas. So they attacked, briefly. The outpost was manned by a US platoon and 16 Afghan soldiers. The Afghans asked the Americans to stay, but their orders were to leave. The platoon put up a surveillance blimp to help defend the outpost, but eventually brought it down as well, waiting until the last moment. It’s worth noting the Americans went out on patrols with the Afghans to assure they destroyed enemy positions and cleared IEDs. The platoon left safely, at one point leaving only three soldiers at the outpost to watch for enemy right up until they too departed. The platoon expects to have to return on occasion to check on the Afghans and see if they need help. But for the moment, the troops are gone. However, the enemy was able to observe their methods of withdrawal so one can expect them to use that information on other outposts also withdrawing. Kandahar remains volatile and the US is giving up hotly contested areas. The photo, courtesy of The New York Times, Bryan Denton, shows Specialist “Gonzo” Gonzales, B/3-41st Infantry and Pvt. Musa Hussein speeding the final moments in their empty tent before their platoon vacated Strong Point Haji Rahmuddin II, leaving it to the Afghan Army, and consolidating themselves at a larger base nearby. (021613)

ISAF says security transition well underway

An ISAF news release of February 13, 2013 says the security transition in Afghanistan is well underway. The text is quite optimistic and ought to be held as a measure of progress as we step through the months ahead. ISAF said, “The ANSF is currently providing security for the majority of the Afghan population and leading the vast majority of operations across Afghanistan. The ANSF, with support from the International Security Assistance Force, have successfully pushed the majority of violence out of the country's population centers.” (021513)

Military wants phased withdrawal from Afghanistan

The DoD is pushing for a phased military withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving 8,000 troops there after the 2014 deadline. Then the military would slowly shrink their numbers over the next two years through 2016. They are said to fear a drastic reduction would obliterate gains made. Numbers used are to have about 3,500 - 6,000 troops left by 2016, and then perhaps 1,000 by early 2017, most of whom would be with the US Embassy Kabul. There is also an idea to position special forces at bases and on ships nearby to react rapidly to terrorist activity. To do that, they would deploy to Afghan bases and work with the Afghans. Expect to see a variety of numbers coming out over the months and years ahead. I was involved in our withdrawal from Taiwan while on the Pacific Command J5 staff and it seemed like we got a new number every day. Interestingly, one of the last things we closed was the post office. (021513)

Karzai welcomes Obama announcement of major withdrawal

Afghan President Karzai has welcomed President Obama’s announcement during the state of the union speech to Congress that the US will withdraw 34,000 more troops by February 2014. Karzai’s office said, "Afghanistan welcomes the announcement by President Obama. This is something Afghanistan has wanted for so long now. The withdrawal in spring of foreign forces from Afghan villages will definitely help in ensuring peace and full security in Afghanistan." The withdrawal is fraught with many dangers, including whether our forces will have to fight their way out, how the Taliban will treat those Afghans who were loyal to NATO forces, and Afghan women. We saw what can happen when the US withdrew from Indochina, what the communists did to the indigenous people who helped Allied forces, such as Montagnard in Vietnam and the Hmong in Laos --- mass slaughters. And of course, the enemy marched into Saigon, Phnom Penh and Vientiane and took over all Southeast Asia with ruthless not seen in a long time, including a holocaust in Cambodia. NATO must withdraw, but one is forced to wonder what the planning will be with regard to all those Afghans who helped us. The American record on this is not good. (021313)

Obama expected to cut 34,000 troops in Afghanistan by February 2014, about a year away

President Obama, in his state of the union address on February 12, 2013, is expected to announce he will withdraw 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by February 2014, one year away. That will cut the US force there by more than half. There are about 100,000 foreign troops now in Afghanistan, with the US providing about two-thirds. We still do not know what the plan is post-2014. (021213)

General Bullard outlines US withdrawal planning from northern Afghanistan

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Brigadier General John Bullard, USMC, deputy commander for coalition forces in the north of Afghanistan, has outlined a broad aspect of the planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nathan Hodge reported on this on February 8, 2013. Camp John Pratt in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif will host a great deal of heavy equipment the US will move out of Afghan. Hodge reported that heavy development and construction work is underway to prepare the camp. He said, “Prefabricated hangars and rows of general-purpose tents have been erected to accommodate an influx of military hardware and the personnel who will move it. Hundreds of vehicles in identical desert tan are already here, parked in rows and ready to be sent to their next destination.” Bullard said, "We've collapsed both in from the east and west as we transition over a lot of the security responsibilities to the Afghans.” Camp John Pratt lies north of the Hindu Kush mountains and will be the staging area for equipment on that side of the mountains. The rest will move to the Hairaton border crossing into Uzbekistan which is attached to a network than enables movement to the Baltic and Black Sea ports. Hairaton itself is a port facility on he Amu Darya river and there is a bridge across the river into Uzbekistan. It is about an hour away (33 miles) from Camp Pratt. The US is testing the route now and hopes to have air-land-rail operations going by spring 2013. The camp is adjacent to a commercial airport and railroad. The rail line between the two cities is said to be operational. Sensitive equipment will fly out. (021113)

Dunford now in command

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General Joseph Dunford, USMC took command of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on February 10, 2013, replacing General John Allen, USMC. general Allen was in command for the past 19 months. Most assume General Dunford will be the last ISAF commander, unless something goes awry. General Dempsey, USA, CJCS and General Amos, USMC, CMC both attended the ceremony as did General James Mattis, commander Central Command. General Allen received the Distinguished Service Medal. (021113)

US moving equipment out of Afghanistan through Pakistan, troops leaving as well by air

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The US has begun using Pakistan routes to move equipment out of Afghanistan as part of the current withdrawals. The US moved 50 shipping containers into Pakistan over the weekend of February 9-10, 2013. These were the first convoys to pass into Pakistan as part of the US withdrawal. The route employed was to the south to Karachi, a port. The photo shows US Soldiers embarking aboard an USAF C-17 on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan as they complete their tour. Back during the Indochina War days, the USAF used the C-141, known as “The Freedom Bird.” In those days, those of us waiting to board the Freedom Bird viewed the event as “we’re getting out of this place!” Not sure how these forces see it, but I suspect there are some shared sentiments there. (021113)

British to leave a lot of equipment behind

The UK Telegraph reported on February 7, 2012 that British forces will leave as much as half their equipment behind in Afghanistan. The British also have said they want to negotiate with the Taliban to assure a peaceful exit for British forces. The Telegraph said, “Government estimates suggest about 11,000, 20ft containers worth of equipment are currently in theatre, including around 3,000 vehicles. Of these, military chiefs plan to bring back some 6,500 loads, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds. It would leave around 4,500 containers, or 40 per cent of the kit, to be disposed of in Afghanistan, according to plans revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.” The British maintain that leaving this much behind is not unusual in the context of a war like this one. What catches this editor’s eye is that the British believe they need to negotiate with the Taliban to assure a safe exit. This underscores my concerns that US forces may have to fight their way out. We already have some indications during early departures that this might happen. (021113)

Allen on the way out, Dunford in country

General John Allen, USMC, ISAF commander, will hand over command of ISAF to General Joseph Dunford, USMC on February 10, 2013. Dunford is in country and touring with General Allen. Dunford has visited with Pakistani leaders. (020813)

Karzai displeasure with foreign presence growing more pronounced

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Afghan President Karzai’s displeasure with foreign intervention is growing more pronounced. That he has flapped at the mouth complaining about the US is not new. But now he is arguing that the greatest threat to Afghanistan is not the Taliban but rather interference from foreign powers. He has also said that the security situation in southern Afghanistan, specifically Helmand province, has deteriorated since the foreign intervention. He has apparently forgotten how he came to power in the first place. The Taliban government was among the world’s most ruthless and its relationships with al Qaeda caused 9-11 in the US --- so the US deposed the Taliban and struck at al Qaeda, replacing the Taliban with Karzai. But setting that aside, Karzai’s pronouncements, day after day, are bound to have e very negative affect in the US and Britain in particular. This editor, for example, wants all US forces out by the end of 2013 with a promise to come back in a different way should the Taliban and al Qaeda threaten the US again. Next time, hit and run, in and out, strike and leave. Karzai seems to want us out, so I say let’s get out. (020413)

US forces already fighting their way out of Afghanistan

Nate Rawlings wrote this for the January 28, 2013 edition of Time Magazine:

Throughout history, one of the most difficult maneuvers to pull off in combat has been the fighting withdrawal. It’s an aspect of war that plagued battlefield commanders from Napoleon to Lee to Bradley. Getting into a fight is easy; getting out usually presents a challenge and particular dangers. Every infantryman and combat soldier knows the concept of breaking contact. It is a battle drill practiced over and over: one part of the unit fights on while the other part pulls back, and in a carefully coordinated (though often chaotic) leapfrog, the soldiers extract themselves from harm’s way.”

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Bull Battery, an airborne field artillery unit in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, has begun pulling out of Forward Operating Base Altimur, Logar Province, and as the unit expected, it is having to fight its way out. It has had some practice withdrawing from small outposts. As convoys carrying out nonessential equipment leave, they are coming under RPG fire. The unit then had to start mixing up departure times, leaving in daylight and at night. At the same time, while some troops pack up trucks and helicopters, others still have to go out on patrol with Afghan forces. Those staying at the FOB find themselves coming under fire, they return the fire, and then they return to inventorying and packing equipment, and the beat goes on. It is my understanding that Afghans are driving the trucks out. While this is all frustrating, the soldiers are motivated because they want to get out of there as fast as they can. The photo, from Time magazine, shows paratroopers from Bull Battery, 4-319 Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, carrying machine guns from their combat vehicles after completing a patrol in Logar province, Afghanistan. (013013)

101 Airborne preparing to deploy to Afghanistan

The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) “Screaming Eagles” is in the final stages of preparing to deploy some of its forces to Afghanistan. About 600 Soldiers will go in the next few weeks. The 101 will command Regional Command-East (RC-E) for the third time. Some of its units are already there, including the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and elements of the 101st Sustainment Brigade. RC-E is currently commanded by Major General William C. Mayville, USA, commander 1st Infantry Division “Big Red One.” (012513)

US “Retrograde” --- withdrawal --- underway in a “tough love” mode

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The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is gaining momentum. Douglas Wissing, reporting for CNN, says he hears US commanders referring to the withdrawal as a “retrograde.” My dictionary defines retrograde as “reverting to and earlier and inferior condition.” US forces are on the one hand withdrawing and on the other are saying “no” to Afghan military and police requests for help, which one US officer called a “tough love” approach. Wissing reported, “Long convoys of armored vehicles are making their way back from forward bases as combat outposts are closed or transferred to Afghan security forces. Remaining U.S. bases are groaning with the influx of transiting troops and contractors, housed in new barrios of Alaska tents and ‘tin-can’ metal housing pods. Some bases are being dismantled and returned to nature. Combat Outpost Tillman, named after the NFL star and special forces soldier Pat Tillman who died in an infamous friendly fire incident, was one of those closed … Aid and development money is drying up.” Military members at all levels are concerned, and so are many Afghans. US special operations forces have been working in villages with the Afghan Police in a program that has been showing positive signs. President Karzai’s proclamation that US forces have to leave the villages will ruin this program. Afghans who have gone out on a limb to support US and NATO forces have special reason to be worried. One military officer believes the enemy is husbanding his forces waiting for the US and NATO to get out. I continue to believe this withdrawal is going to be very difficult and fraught with risk. (012413)

minimum of 6,000 US troops needed to operate one base in Afghan --- and that won’t cut the mustard

The Institute of the Study of War (ISW) has said it will take a minimum of 6,000 US troops to operate and secure one base in Afghanistan. ISW says anything less than that is militarily infeasible. But a base with even 6,000 US troops would not be able to do very much training and would have “no meaningful capability to conduct counter-terrorism operations.” ISW believes that is how military planners quickly ramp up the number to 20,000, even 30,000. President Obama will not like those numbers. We had hoped o learn of the US plan for post-2014 soon, but now it looks like months away. (011813)

NATO panniers envision enduring presence in Afghanistan

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NATO planners envision an enduring presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. At the moment, they are concentrating on the missions and capabilities needed to execute those missions. One official said, “It has been less a conversation about numbers than it has been about capabilities and requirements.” He said that the missions that appear to be on the table include training-and-advising capability with a focused counterterrorism capability. This latter mission sounds like a combat mission. NATO planners expect the fighting to be fierce throughout this year and probably into next. Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times reported that NATO is not considering a zero option for troops after 2014, despite pronouncements from Washington that indicate President Obama wants to withdraw everyone. CJCS General Dempsey, USA is in Brussels attending planning meetings. (011813)

Bulgaria to withdraw 40 percent of troops in 2013

The Bulgarian government on Wednesday said it had decided to withdraw some 40 percent of the country's 600-member contingent in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stationed in Afghanistan within the first half of 2013. Bulgaria has had a 358 member group guarding Kandahar airport; these men will remain until the end of 2014. (011713)

Pakistan in crisis

Der Speigel reported on January 15, 2013 that Pakistan is tumbling into chaos.” Mass protests against the government continue to gain strength, a once obscure clerk is calling for revolution and people are listening. The military is getting nervous. The military has lost influence over the past five years and may see this turbulence as a chance to reinstate its standing. This is all good news for the Taliban in Pakistan, as the government and military will be preoccupied with this crisis. (011513)

Afghans reacting negatively to quick US withdrawal ideas

Following President Karzai’s visit with President Obama, and the latter’s declaration that the US is going to speed its withdrawal, have created some anxiety back in Afghanistan. The defense minister says he wants US forces to remain beyond 2014. He is worried the US will abandon Afghanistan. Furthermore, even though Karzai told US forces to leave the villages, the US will continue providing logistics support to the villages. Afghan ambassador to the US Hakimi has stressed the people need such US support. Afghan members of parliament (MP) are very worried the Taliban will take over once the US leaves. Even President Karzai is now indicating Afghanistan will offer immunity to US forces remaining after 2014 after initially opposing that. The finance minister has suggested that a rapid US withdrawal could undermine the economy by causing investors to flee. Several Afghan politicians have criticized Karzai for agreeing to a quicker US withdrawal. (011513)

Obama returns to original Afghan mission

President Obama has told the press that the mission objective in Afghanistan is to prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan to launch attacks against the US. My memory says that this was the original mission. It required we depose the Taliban government which hosted and welcomed al Qaeda and that we strike at al Qaeda. We did all that in short order. Then somehow someone stuck in “spread democracy,” and in this editor’s opinion, that’s why we have been there so long. It will be interesting to observe how the president implements this proclamation as we go forward. He has essentially said we are no longer in a counterinsurgency (COIN) mission, but rather a counter-terrorism mission. In this editor’s mind, this means use US forces only to hunt down and destroy as many al Qaeda as possible, which some experts say has already been done, and let the Afghan security forces do what they want to do against the Taliban without US help. This goes against what both Generals McChrystal and Petraeus were trying to achieve, and what I believe the current commander, General Allen has been trying to do. Frankly, we have seen so many mission changes in Afghanistan one wonders whether anyone in Washington really knows what they’re doing. I’m not convinced Obama knows the meaning of what he has said. We’ll have to wait and watch. What we do know is the drawdown is going to be accelerated and that alone is a helluva mission to implement. (011413)

Word on the street is Obama has accelerated US withdrawals

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported that Presidents Obama and Karzai have agreed to speed up the timeline for withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan. The airwaves are abuzz with this news. The problem is it is hard to gauge what is going really happen. Obama has said, "Starting this spring (2013), our troops will have a different mission—training, advising, assisting Afghan forces … This sets the stage for the further reduction of coalition forces." The WSJ has speculated --- speculated --- that his signals “at least some of the 66,000 American troops now in Afghanistan could leave starting this spring and summer, rather than in the fall, the time frame preferred by commanders … The steps announced Friday (January 11, 2013) by the U.S. and Afghan leaders moved up that time frame by several months, to spring … Military officials now expect troop reductions to begin in the spring and accelerate in the summer and fall.” President Karzai said, "In spring this year (2013), the Afghan forces will be fully responsible for providing security and protection to the Afghan people.” Obama apparently will make some detailed announcements in the “coming months.” The meaning of all this is hard to assess --- we’ll have to watch and wait. (011313)