Talking Proud - The American withdrawal from Afghanistan 2014

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2014 Report


Obama has conflicting messages about “end of combat mission”

President Obama has sent out conflicting messages about the so called “end of the US combat mission in Afghanistan.” On December 25, 2014, he told troops at a Marine Corps base in Hawaii, “Because of the extraordinary service of the men and women in the American armed forces, Afghanistan has a chance to rebuild its own country. We are safer. It's not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again." However, in his weekly Christmas greetings message on December 24, 2014, he said, "Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end. Of course, the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan doesn't mean the end of challenges to our security. We'll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America.” So on the one hand, he said the country will not be a source of terrorism, yet on the other he we have to continue working with the Afghans to make sure it is not a source of terrorism. (123014)

So now we have several names for Afghan mission in 2015

I reported that on December 28, 2014, at formal ceremonies in Kabul, NATO and the US formally concluded their combat missions in Afghanistan and began their transition to a “non-combat mission in a combat environment.” The transition mission is called “Resolute Support.” Resolute Support is the name for the NATO mission in 2015. However, the US has named its mission as “Operation Freedom Sentinel.” SecDef Hagel described this mission in a statement on December 28, 2014: “In Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the United States will pursue two missions with the support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people. We will work with our allies and partners as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces. And we will continue our counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al-Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland.” (122914)

NATO and US conclude Afghan mission, start transition, but ...

ConcludeISAFMission2014


On December 28, 2014, at formal ceremonies in Kabul, NATO and the US formally concluded their combat missions in Afghanistan and began their transition to a “non-combat mission in a combat environment.” The transition mission is called “Resolute Support.” General John Campbell, USA, commander ISAF, said, “Today marks an end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Today NATO ends its combat mission.” However, the US will maintain about half its remaining forces outside the NATO training and advising mission, outside Resolute Support. They will conduct counter-terrorism missions which could include Taliban insurgents connected to groups such as al Qaeda. The US did this in the early days of NATO’s arrival, contributing a fairly small force to NATO and retaining a larger force to fight against al Qaeda in the East. There will be about 17,500 foreign troops remaining in Afghanistan in 2015.

President Obama is scheduled to officially terminate the US combat mission on December 31, 2014. He said in an address on December 25, 2014, "In just a few days, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our longest war will come to a responsible end." This statement does not seem to synchronize with the facts presented above. (122814)


Worrisome Taliban advances

The New York Times has reported the Afghan Taliban have taken districts in the country once held by US forces, especially in Helmand Province. Furthermore, the Times says the Afghan police have lost more than 5,000 officers and soldiers, far higher than official numbers. Some 1,300 of these have been lost in Helmand alone. The Taliban offensives began as soon as US forces left Helmand. This province has been a traditional stronghold for the Taliban. The Taliban has infiltrated the old Camp Bastion, now known as Camp Shorab Maidan.

US changes Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan

The US is changing its Rules of Engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan. Military people always have the right of self-defense. But a Pentagon spokesman said on December 16, 2014, "We're not going to target Taliban just because they are Taliban. That said, a (Taliban) who undertakes missions against us, or our Afghan partners, renders himself vulnerable … for his actions. It's about what you're doing, not just because you're a member of the Taliban." The US will retain the ability to conduct counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban, but only when they directly threaten the US or its allies. Afghan forces will have the full combat lead. (121714)

US withdraws from all prisons in Afghanistan

The US has now withdrawn from all prisons in Afghanistan, releasing the final three detainees from the Parawan Detention Center. A Pentagon spokesman said on December 10, 2014, "The Defense Department no longer operates detention facilities in Afghanistan nor maintains custody of any detainees.” The Government of Afghanistan is now responsible for any detention facilities. (121114)

NATO operational headquarters terminates mission

The NATO operational headquarters in Afghanistan, the ISAF Joint Command, terminated its mission on December 8, 2014, Lt. General Joseph Anderson, USA, in command. The IJC was established in 2009 and at its peak controlled over 130,000 troops. This is part of the overall NATO withdrawal, which already has replaced its regional combatant commands with “Train-Advise-Assist” commands. (120814)

US increases planned troop strength for 2015

AP, the New York Times and Washington Post all are reporting the US will increases panned troop strength remaining in Afghanistan in 2015 from 9,800 to10,800, an increase of 1,000 troops. SecDef Hagel reportedly said this figure will stand for the first few months, and then the drawdown will resume. He also said the US will conduct limited counterterrorism operations, whatever that means. (120814)

Mission in Afghan in state of flux

It will come as no surprise to anyone watching Afghanistan, Iraq and US foreign policy that the mission in Afghanistan is presently in a state of flux and will likely remain that way for a while. In May 2014, President Obama said our troops would be engaged in “two narrow missions after 2014: training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaida.” However, that has expanded a bit. Obama has reportedly signed an order which says US forces can attack not just al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists, but insurgents gunning for the Afghan government as well. Of course, training remains. The rhetoric still talks in terms of the use of US close air support, but as each day passes it looks more and more like US ground forces will be engaged in combat as well. Furthermore, it looks like withdrawal planning is in a state of flux, and numbers for post 2015 and 2016 are likely to change, probably significantly. It is unlikely that all US forces will be out by the end of 2016. (120514)

US ramps up combat operations in Afghanistan

Two actions have occurred recently that show US forces in Afghanistan will be ramping up their combat operations there as US forces draw down. First, Afghan President Ghani has authorized them to conduct night raids. President Karzai had prohibited those. Second, there are reports that President Obama has authorized US forces to conduct limited combat operations in 2015, much of which will include air attacks along with the ground support needed to conduct accurate and productive attacks. (112514)

British Tornados leave Afghanistan

British RAF Tornado GR4 fighter-bombers have flown their final missions from Afghanistan as part of the overall British withdrawal. The aircraft were from 31 Squadron and they have returned to their home base in Cyprus. The Tornado ground attack jets have flown surveillance missions and air strikes since they took over from RAF Harriers in June 2009. (111314)

Pentagon report points finger at Pakistan for using Taliban as proxies

In October 2014, the DoD issued a report to Congress entitled, “Progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan.” This report accuses Pakistan of using the Taliban as proxies to help Pakistan maintain influence over Afghanistan. The report notes how the US and Pakistan are cooperating, and how the Pakistani military is working against the Taliban, it says, “Afghan- and Indian-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military. These relationships run counter to Pakistan’s public commitment to support Afghan-led reconciliation.” (111014)

3 ID HQ sets up in Afghanistan

The 3rd Infantry Division (ID) set up the newly formed Train, Advise, Assist Command – East (TAAC-E) on November 4, 2014 in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan, Brigadier General Christopher Bentley, USA in command. About 60 staff officers and NCOs and Soldiers from the 3 ID HQ and about 1,000 Soldiers from the division’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment (CR) are assigned. It has replaced NATO’s Regional Command East (RC-E) which was a combatant command and has been dissolved. (110714)

10th Mountain terminates Afghan mission

The 10th Mountain Division terminated its operations in Afghanistan on November 4, 2014. It was in command of Regional Command East headquartered at Bagram Air Field. Stars & Stripes reported 20,000 US forces remain, due to draw down to 9,800 by year’s end. I am not 100 percent certain whether this 20,000 still includes the 10th Mountain or not, since its forces have not yet left. (110614)

Afghan losses unsustainable

Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, USA, Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps, said in Washington on November 5, 2014 that Afghan Security Force losses are unsustainable. The Afghans have endured over 9,000 KIA since 2013, compared to 2346 US losses since the war began in 2001. Anderson made these remarks at a time when the ISAF commander, General Campbell has begun reassessing the overall US withdrawal plan. (110614)

General Campbell reassessing withdrawal plan

CampbellJohn
The current plan is for about 9,800 US forces to remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 and for all US forces to be out by the end of 2016. General John Campbell, USA, commander ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, has said he is reassessing this plan. He noted that the delays in signing the Bilateral Security Agreement and the uncertainties associated with the Afghan presidential election may have negatively impacted the training schedules for Afghan forces. He said his staff was just now beginning to reassess the overall withdrawal plan. (110414)

3 ID HQ to Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced on October 29, 2014 that the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters (-) will deploy to Afghanistan next month to assume its role as the U.S. Forces Afghanistan National Security Element. The deployment will include a supporting element in Qatar and a liaison in Kuwait. Approximately 200 Soldiers are scheduled for the 12-month deployment in support of the Resolute Support Mission. This is a major part of the transition form combat to advise and assist. It will part of the force structure of 9,800 troops due to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. (102914)

British shut down operations

BritishLeaveBastion


Great Britain terminated its military operations in Afghanistan on October 26, 2014. British forces turned over Camp action to the Afghans and they will leave in a few days. There are at present only a few hundred British forces there. At its peak, Bastion held around 40,000 people. NATO claims it has made enormous gains against the Taliban in Helmand Province, while local residents say the Taliban is as strong or stronger than ever in the province. (102914)

Important withdrawal milestones now in train

It is almost November 2014 and the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is picking up steam. The Regional Commands which controlled combat operations are now becoming “tactical advise and assist” commands. This transition has already occurred in the northern, southern, western and capital regions of the country. On October 26, 2014, On Sunday, British troops and U.S. Marines ended combat operations in Afghanistan, turning over two adjacent bases in Helmand province, Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck, to the Afghan National Army's 215th Corps. It used to host Regional Command Southwest. Regional Command-East, also an American command, headquartered at Bagram Airfield, remains in full operation. The US has handed over Kandahar to the Afghans. It hosted Regional Command-South. Kandahar was the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan. As of October 17, 2014 there were 31 remaining coalition bases in operation as compared to 840 in October 2011. We expect about 9,800 troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to train, advise and assist. US air forces will continue to provide combat support to Iraqi Security Forces against ISIS. I do not know whether they are included in the 9,800 number --- probably not since both air and naval forces are involved, many of whom are not stationed in Afghanistan. (102714)

Commander says withdrawal on schedule

General Campbell, USA, commander ISAF, said on October 2, 2014 that the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan is on schedule. Troop levels are to decrease from current levels of just under 40,000 to about 12,000 by the end of this year. (100714)

US-Afghanistan sign BSA

The United States and Afghanistan finally signed the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on September 30, 2014, allowing an as yet not fully detrained number of U.S. troops to remain in the country after the NATO combat mission ends in December 2014 (AP). Ambassador James B. Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Mohammad Hanif Atmar, a former Afghan interior minister who is now President Ashraf Ghani's national security advisor, signed the security pact at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, just three months before the bulk of foreign forces are set to withdraw. (093014)

Troops sent to “advise and assist” drawn into combat

Members of Dragon Troop, the 2nd Squadron 3rd Cavalry Regiment were to fill “advise and assist” roles in Afghanistan. However, in early September 2014 they were drawn into combat in Logar Province. Stars & Stripes reported that General Abdul Raziq asked the Americans to cover for the last few days missions. The Americans apparently agreed. A fight was not expected, but it came. Dragon Troop has been sent “outside the fence” frequently, including at night. (092614)
NATO summit inconclusive on post-2012 commitments

The NATO summit held in Wales, September 4-5, 2014, was inconclusive on what it will commit in Afghanistan post-2012. NATO had planned to keep about 12,000 troop there including more than 9,000 Americans, but this is now all on hold because of the indecisions regarding the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. One NATO official said “everything is on hold.” SecGen Rasmussen said “Without a signature (on the Bilateral Security Agreement), there can be no mission.” President Karzai has refused to sign it. The 9,000 number for US forces is also suspect. (090914)

General Campbell tells troops what’s on the docket

CampbellJohn
General John Campbell, USA, the new ISAF commander, has published a letter to the troops. He said “Resolute Support” is the mission. SAF defines its mission this way: “The Resolute Support mission will provide the framework for coalition troops to move into a train, advise and assist role in Afghanistan.” He emphasized, “We find ourselves in a decisive phase of our campaign. In the midst of this summer’s fighting season, political and security transitions are taking place simultaneously. Dramatic changes are also occurring in our task organization, force lay down, and mission orientation.” (090314)

NATO summit this week to address Afghan plan

NATO will hold a summit in Wales this week, September 4-5, to discuss, among other things, a plan for supporting Afghanistan after 2012. The US still does not have a bilateral security agreement with Afghan and the new Afghan president has yet to be decided. That new president was to sign this agreement. (090214)

Presidential election results delayed until September, Karzai to quit next week

The UN has delayed release of its audit on the Afghan presidential election until mid-September. President Karzai is said to be packing and will leave office on September 9, next week, as scheduled. Unsure what will happen. Karzai says he will give powers to vice presidents; vice presidents say they might not recognize UN audit. (090214)

ISAF changes command leadership

CampbellJohn
General John F. Campbell, USA, assume command of ISAF in Afghanistan on August 26, 2014, relieving general Joseph F. Dunford, jr., USMC. Dunford was in command for 9 months and oversaw the decline in force levels from about 100,000 to 35,000. Campbell had been the vice chief of staff, Army. Dunford will become the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Campbell will likely oversee the final US withdrawals, either by the end of 2014 or by the end of 2015 or 2016, however that all works out. Campbell is on his third tour in Afghanistan, having served as a brigade commander in Kandahar and as commander, Regional Command-East. The current plan is for General Campbell to be the last ISAF commander. (082714)

US needs 120 day notification to get out

General Martin Dempsey, USA,CJCS, is in Afghanistan. Dempsey told journalists traveling with him the US needs about 120 days notification to completely withdraw. The US is prepared to allow those 120 days to extend a short time into 2015 if a full withdrawal notification comes late. Lack of a decision to declare succession to President Karzai is the hold up at the moment. (082514)

A peek at a “retrograde” mission

RetrogradeTrucks


ISAF has provided a nice peek at what’s involved in our forces conducting a retrograde mission to pick up materiel at a forward operating base (FOB), in this case FOB Apache in Zabul Province. This mission was conducted in late July 2014 by the 1742nd Transportation Co., South Dakota National Guard. Theirs was a two day mission to escort about a dozen Afghan contractor semi-trailers from Kandahar AB to FOB Apache and back. The Soldiers attended a one hour pre-convoy mission brief, then went to a group prayer. They left Kandahar after dark. They used to escort all military vehicles, but now escort Afghan contractors, which presents some growing pains due to cultural differences. This mission took five hours at 20 mph average speed, arriving at Apache at 0230 hours. This makes them especially vulnerable to attack, and such convoys have been attacked. The Soldiers at the FOB have everything ready to go, so the contractors proceeded to the loading zone. The trucks brought in resupplies which were downloaded, and then equipment such as combat vehicles, engineering equipment and other supplies were uploaded. Following the upload, the 1742nd Soldiers set up a camp by tying tarps between their parked vehicles in the convoy staging area. They departed the next day in the late afternoon.

1742ndTransCoEscort


The contractor vehicles were now heavily laden with equipment which made the return trip slower. You can imagine the dangers involved in this kind of mission and the combat support that hopefully was available if trouble erupted. I do not know what the Soldiers used as vehicles though the report made several references to “gun trucks” and gunners. Most likely attack helicopters and rapid reinforcement groups were standing by at Kandahar to respond to trouble as needed. In some cases, I have seen reports where helicopters escorted the convoys in addition to ground escorts.

The first photo shows two mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles lined up for a convoy to Kandahar prior to leaving FOB Frontenac in 2013. The second photo shows a convoy escorted by the 1742nd Transportation Company, driving through the city of Qalat, Afghanistan, July 23, 2014, on their way to Kandahar Airfield. (082014)


“Resolute Support” - post 2014

ISAF has labeled the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, if there is one, “Resolute Support.” ISAF defines its mission this way: “The Resolute Support mission will provide the framework for coalition troops to move into a train, advise and assist role in Afghanistan.” (081814)

NATO sets BSA deadline --- September 4, 2014

RasmussenAnders
NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen has said it must have a signed Bilateral Security Agreement by September 4, 2014, or NATO will not be able to provide continued military support after 2014. He told Reuters on August 11, 2014, "Soon we will have to take tough decisions, because if there is not a legal basis for our continued presence in Afghanistan, we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year and to do that we will have to start planning ... very soon.” He set the date September 4, 2014 as a deadline; this is the first day of a NATO summit. (081614)

Enemy in Afghanistan one tough customer

Elizabeth Williams, writing “Taliban summer offensive shows increasing capability,” July 29, 2014, concludes this: “Policymakers in the United States should note that militant groups in Afghanistan remain capable, organized, and lethal. As U.S. and NATO forces draw down, indicators of insurgents’ growing capability will include ability to mass in larger formations; freedom of maneuver closer to urban areas; ability to seize and maintain control of district centers; ability to displace families; abilities to target critical infrastructure repeatedly; and restrictions on the freedom of maneuver of the ANSF. These kinds of activities were hallmarks of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and affiliated groups before the surge of forces and counterinsurgency campaign accelerated in 2009-2010. These early indicators of rising militant capability relative to the ANSF and current configurations of ISAF troops have already appeared in the summer of 2014 and will likely escalate as further troop reductions transpire later in the year.” Commend the article to you. (072914)

82 Airborne checking on Afghan forces

Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division are paradropping into contested areas throughout Afghanistan to check on how Afghan forces are performing. They are getting involved in the fighting at these locations as a result as they attempt to offer help and counsel. (072914)

2-77 FA leaves FOB Walton in Helmand

The 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment (2-77 FA), 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team left Forward operating Base (FOB) Walton on July 20, 2014. This marks the end of a permanent ISAF presence in this central area of Kandahar Province. (072214)

Danes and Georgia leave RC-SW

The Danish and Georgian contingents of ISAF concluded its participation in Regional Command-Southwest (RC-SW) on July 21, 2014. (072214)

1st Cav takes over RC-South

The 1st Cavalry Division, Major General Michael Bills, USA in command, replaced the 4th Infantry Division to command Regional Command-South (RC-S) on July 21, 2014. (072214)

Top military doctors being withdrawn from Afghanistan

There are indications that many of the military people who are being withdrawn from Afghanistan are top-light US surgeons. This raises the question of the adequacy of medical help that will be available to residual forces, now and beyond 2014. It appears the US might be leaning toward greater use of Afghan medical teams who have been and will continue to be trained by US military medical personnel. (071614)

Violence ramping upward fearing Allied withdrawal

The Khaama Press reported on July 11, 2014, “Recent violence allegedly sparked by the behavior of Arbaki forces (pro government militants) and local warlords in north, central and southwestern provinces of Afghanistan has raised fears that the planned withdrawal of international forces by 2014 could lead to renewed violence even in the generally more peaceful central Kabul province the capital of the country.” People are said to be re-arming; local police feel they will be less accountable as US forces leave; many feuds in the villages could lead to one targeting another. (071114)

General Campbell nominated to command ISAF

CampbellJohn
General John Campbell, USA, has been nominated to command ISAF forces in Afghanistan. He is currently the vice chief of staff, US Army (VCSA). He is a West Point graduate and has served with special forces, the 82nd Airborne, and as a battalion and brigade commander. He also commanded the 101 Airborne and Regional Command East in Afghanistan. He will replace General Joseph Dunford, USMC, who is scheduled to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps. (071014)

The political turmoil in Afghanistan could throw US military withdrawal into whirlwind

The rift between Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah over who won the presidential election in Afghanistan not only could throw the country into civil war at worst and political breakdown at best, it could also throw all planning for US military withdrawal into a whirlwind (I hesitate using the word chaos since military planners are very good at their work). The problem is that President Karzai refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which the US must have to keep any forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014. If the political turmoil causes delays in forming a new government, then the BSA may go unsigned and the US might find itself having to get out fast, before years’ end. Both candidates said they would sign it if elected. (070914)

Political turmoil in Afghan could lead to civil war

AbdullahandGhani

The two men who competed in a runoff presidential election have claimed victory. The vote tally shows Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (right in photo) to be the leader in preliminary results by a pretty good margin, 56-43 percent. However, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (left in photo) says he won. An UN audit is to be conducted. Rumors have been spreading that one or both of them will set up parallel governments, which could lead to civil war. Abdullah’s supporters have already been chanting “Death to Karzai,” Abdullah has said he will never accept Ghani as the winner, and there is been some violence. Meanwhile, NATO troops withdrawals proceed, and troops continue to be killed in action. (070814)

NOTE BENE: On vacation June 19-July 1, 2014. Will resile reporting on July 2, 2014.

Karzai’s National Security Adviser says US post-2014 troop levels undecided

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's national security adviser said on June 19, 2014 the number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan after 2016 has not yet been decided. Rangin Dadfar Spanta told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that there is a provision in the bilateral security agreement (BSA) between the United States and Afghanistan that troop numbers would be decided based on assessments of the security situation in Afghanistan and that the Afghan government would be bound by the agreement to allow more U.S. troops into the country, if necessary, to combat terrorists. (062014)

USAF inactivates operation at Manas AB, Kyrgystan

ManasRomania

In response to the desire of the Government of Kyrgyzstan, the USAF has inactivated the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) at Manas AB, used to supply forces in Afghanistan and serve as a transit point. The USAF is now using at the Mihail Kogainiceanu AB in Romania as a replacement. (060514)Afghan President Hamid Karzai's national security adviser says the number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan after 2016 has not yet been decided.

General Dunford to leave Afghan

DunfordJoseph
General Joseph Dunford, USMC, commander, ISAF and commander, US Forces Afghanistan, has been nominated to become the next Commandant of the Marine Corps replacing General James Amos. We believe he will move to the new job in October 2014, just months before the NATO mission concludes in Afghanistan on December 31, 2014. It is not yet known who will replace him. There has been some debate about replacing him with a three-star general instead of a four-star, as a means to demonstrate to the Afghans that they are in charge. However, there are questions about the commander losing clout and respect as a three-star. No decision yet. (060514)

Europeans may leave 5,000 behind post-2014

Some NATO officials have said Europeans may leave 5,000 troops in Afghan beyond 2014 to combine with 9,800 US forces. (060314)

US plans to leave 9,800 troops in Afghan beyond 2014

The long-awaited number is out. President Obama announced on May 27, 2014 the US plans to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Commanders had asked for a minimum of 10,000. Obama said nearly all forces would then leave by the end of 2016. The missions of the residual forces are twofold: train Afghans and support counterterrorism. We will watch how many if any are used for oner purposes. While he said our forces would not be involved in combat, the facts are, to train Afghan forces requires the trainers go out with them at least on occasion, and to support counterterrorism is not yet defined, but easily could involve some exposure to combat. Leaving these forces still requires Afghan signature on the bilateral security agreement, which has not yet been achieved. Both runoff candidates for president say they will sign. It will be interesting to see what equipment stays behind with the troops, and what airpower will be available and from where. Furthermore, it will be noteworthy to observe how the residual forces are deployed. At some point, they will consolidate at Bagram AB, but they will deploy initially throughout Afghanistan. American Forces Press service reported, “The number of troops allows for a regional approach to the assist-and-advise mission, officials said. The headquarters will be in the Afghan capital of Kabul, with regional centers at Bagram Airfield, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Herat.” It is not yet clear what other NATO members might contribute. (052814)

Denmark pulls out

The final contingent rotation of Danish soldiers terminated their mission to Afghanistan on May 20, 2014. They have worked, since 201, mainly as part of Task Force Helmand. Some 18,000 Danish soldiers have deployed to Afghan since the war began. They suffered 33 KIA. (052214)

Taliban launches spring offensive

As expected, the Taliban has launched its pre-announced spring offensive on the date the said they would, May 12, 2014. They entered a justice ministry building in Jalalabad, forced a shootout, and killed two policemen and four civilians. The attackers were later killed. In Ghazni province, they attacked police checkpoints, killing at least three, including one policeman. They launched rockets in Kabul and against Bagram AB --- no injuries yet reported. (051314)

US military presence in Afghanistan to remain “significant,” we think, we hope

Dobbinsjames
The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins has said that the US-led military presence in Afghanistan will remain “significant” despite military withdrawal from the country this year. However, no details have been decided. He told AFP, “I hope we will decide sometime in the next month or two on the exact size of (the remaining) contingent ... We and our allies, I think, will be prepared for a continuing advisory mission, much smaller numbers than we have there today but still significant in terms of its ability to continue to improve the quality of the Afghan security forces.” (051314)
CIA withdrawing to Kabul only

Foreign Policy (FP) reported on May 9, 2014 that the CIA is closing all its bases in Afghanistan and withdrawing its people to Kabul, along with National Security Agency (NSA) specialists. FP said military commanders are not happy with this move fearing a loss of crucial intelligence acquired by case officers and NSA specialists working with Afghans. (050914)

Taliban spring offensive expected soon

Some members of the Taliban have said they will start their spring offensive on May 12, 2014. They said their intent is to attack foreign troops, diplomatic centers, contractors, Afghan government officials, parliamentarians and judges. Afghan officials seem to think this is just propaganda. However military leaders think the Taliban may try after poppy season. (050814)

Marines leave northern Helmand


Some 300 Marines from 1-7 Marines departed their last two outposts (FOBs Nolay and Sabit Qadam) in Sangin district, Helmand province on May 4, 2014 and went to Camp Leatherneck farther to the south. The Afghan National Army is now fully in charge up there. (050514)

Al-Qaeda in one form or another, is everywhere

Anyone suggesting al-Qaeda has been defeated is smoking bad pot. Multiple sources report it and its affiliates have found safe havens in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, North Africa and Somalia. Furthermore, some of them have gone to western Europe, most notably to Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Belium and Sweden from where they cycle in and out of Syria at the least. (050114)

Northern exit route from Afghan now in doubt

The Northern Distribution Route out of Afghan connects Afghan with the Baltic Sea and Baltic ports, but must go through Russia. Concerns are rising that Russia will block this route out. That would leave air exit and the Pakistan exit as the only options. It is worth noting that in April 2014 the US severed all collaboration with Russia. US military planner safe now confronted with tough challenges. First, they have no decision from Washington on how many forces, if any, will be left in Afghan, what their mission will be, where they will be posted, and what equipment they will need. Therefore they do not know what to pack up and what to leave. Now the northern route could be off the table, and Pakistan could do the same with its exits at any time. Time is running out. (050114)
Presidential run-off required, forces will have to secure it now

Quite an effort was expended by Allied forces to secure the country for the recent presidential election. However, now a run-off is required, to be held on June 7, 2014 Allied forces will again have to secure these. (042714)
Looks like Pentagon to present three Afghan options

An internal Pentagon John Roth memo is said to say the following about 2014 Afghan planning: "The Defense Department will prepare three scenarios for war funding next year depending on how many U.S. troops, if any, will remain in Afghanistan ... "One estimate would take into account 10,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country, another would presume 5,000 and another would imply zero presence as of Jan. 1, 2015.” Apparently these is a budgetary approach, and does not take into account operational decisions or plans.” (042514)
Marines still have 4,000 in Helmand - the fight continues

MarineFieldMissionhelmand0414


In January 2014, Marines and Sailors from the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) (I MEF) deployed to Helmand Province for what could well be the last US deployment there. The British have left. The total I MEF head count is about 4,000 and they are conducting patrols. Their focus is said to be to keep Camps Leatherneck and Bastion open and safe. The Afghan National Army (ANA) is responsible for most operations in the province but Marines do tag along and also go out on their own. Given the drawdowns in Helmand, keeping the two camps safe will be a little harder, as they are now more vulnerable to attack. Marines of course do roam the areas outside the bases to take down he enemy before he reaches the camps. Marines do not like to sit still inside static bases. It is worth noting the Marines protecting the bases prior to I MEF’s arrival lost nine KIA. The photo shows members of the 1-7 Marines on a mission in Helmand to disrupt lethal enemy aid and to search three compounds of interest. (042414)

White House looking at only 5,000 troops beyond 2014

Missy Ryan and Arshad Mohammed reported for reuters that the White House is looking at leaving only 5,000 troops behind in Afghan after 2014. General Dunford, USMC, our commander there, asked for 10,000. The White House is said to believe the Afghan Army is better than most think. The US now has about 33,000 there. Laura Lucas Magnuson, spokesperson of the National Security Council, the White House told Pajhwok Afghan News, ““The President has not yet made any decision on the number of troops he may keep in Afghanistan if the Afghan government signs the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).” (042214)

British turn over Helmand Province to US

On April 1, 2014, British forces command of Helmand Province, known as Task Force Helmand. was turned over to the US. Regional Command Southwest (RC-SW) will assume control of military forces in Helmand, Brigadier General Daniel Yoo, USMC in command with HQ at Camp Leatherneck. RC-SW is composed mostly of US Marines, known as Task Force Leatherneck. Task Force Helmand had been headquartered at Camp Bastion. The British now have to finish packing and get everything out. Some British forces will remain in Afghan through the end of 2014. (040214)

Questions arise about withdrawing through Russia on northern route out

On April 1, 2014, NATO foreign ministers agreed to suspend all civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia as a result of Crimea and the Ukraine, though political dialog will continue. Questions have now arisen about whether Russia will continue to allow NATO forces to withdraw from Afghanistan through Russia on the northern route. (040114)

ISAF outlines withdrawal plans

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Brigadier General Daniel O'Donohue, USMC, chief operations officer for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command, talked about the U.S. withdrawal plan in Afghanistan over the next year. He said, "When it comes to personnel, there are still about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but there's also 'a steady path to reduce throughout the year ... Current forecasts call for 54 more bases to be closed by August 1, and only about 27 bases are expected to remain open by the end of October ... the goal is to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by about 15 percent (to 28,000) by August 1 and by another 20 percent (to 24,400) by October 31.” Those numbers seem not to envision a zero option by year’s end. Getting 24,000 out in two months would be very hard. (040114)

Canada withdraws combat forces

Canada has lowered its flag at ISAF HQ and its ground forces are leaving Afghan, mission complete. (032814)

Taliban no longer “existential threat” to Afghan? Must continue pursuit of al Qaeda

General Joseph Dunford, USMC, commander, ISAF, told a Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2014 that the Taliban no longer presents an “existential threat” to the Afghan government. Must confess I’m not sure what he means by “existential,” but assume he means “actual” or “factual” or “genuine.” That leaves open, what kind of threat does it present? He also said al Qaeda is in an “survival mode” but acknowledged “extremist networks have expanded in the country.” He continues to want 8,000-12,000 US troops in-country post-2014, along with several thousands special forces units to conduct counter-terrorism against al Qaeda and its affiliates. (032514)

Karzai wants US out by year’s end

Afghan President Karzai told parliament on March 15, 2014 that country no longer needs US forces, they can leave by year's end. We should oblige. General Dunford has said we can be out in 102 days, but he does not want to leave. (031814)

Canada competes Afghan mission, heading home

Canada completed its military mission in Afghan on March 12, 2014. Its forces are heading home. I believe Canada only had 100 troops left in Kabul on a training mission, so these will be the final group out. More than 40,000 Canadians have served in Afghan between 2001 and 2014. (031414)

General Dunford says he only needs 102 days to get out of Afghan, but doesn’t want to get out

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General Joseph Dunford, USMC, ISAF commander, says he can wait until September for a decision as to what to do about 2014. During a media roundtable in Washington on March13, 2014, he said he can execute an orderly withdrawal if a decision has to wait until September. He added he can go beyond September but the risks grow. This is a long way from original statements saying we needed a decision by December 31, 2013. At the same time, General Dunford told the Senate Armed Forces Committee on March 12, 2014, “If we leave at the end of 2014, the Afghan security forces will begin to deteriorate, the security environment will begin to deteriorate, and I think the only thing to debate is the pace of that deterioration.” He was responding to the direction from President Obama to start planing for the zero option.(031414)

NATO SecGen says not discussing zero option, well that was on Day 1 of 2

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NATO Secretary General Rasmussen told reporters on February 26, 2014, the first day of a two conference on Afghanistan, that NATO’s ministers are currently not discussing the zero option for troop levels in Afghan. The ministers are meeting this week. He said, “First of all, actually we are not talking about a zero option. On the contrary, actually we are talking about our preferred option which is to deploy a NATO-led training mission after 2014. Our preferred option is to deploy such a training mission to Afghanistan. But of course we have to take realities into account and the reality is so far we have not got a signature on the BSA between the US and Afghanistan which means that nor have we got finalised the NATO SOFA agreement, these are facts of life and it’s also a fact that if we don’t get the legal framework in place then we can’t deploy and then we will have to withdraw everything by the end of this year.”

However, after meeting the Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi on the second day, February 27, the tune had changed a bit. The Pajhwok Afghan News Agency reported on February 27, “Rasmussen said if the BSA was not signed, they could not conclude the SOFA agreement and without a necessary legal framework, there simply could not be a deployment after this year. ‘These are the hard facts,’ he said.” The agency went on to quote Rasmussen saying: "Today we agreed the need to plan for all possible outcomes including the possibility that we may not be able to deploy to Afghanistan after 2014 due to the persistent delays we have seen.”
(022714)


Down to 3,000 troops post-2014 an option? One of four

Karen DeYoung reported for The Washington Post on February 23, 2014 that President Obama is considering four troop level options for Afghan post-2014. One of these is said to set a force level at 3,000, based in Kabul and at Bargram. Commanders have recommended 10,000. DeYoung wrote, “Under the 10,000-troop option, U.S. forces would remain in Kabul, Kandahar, Bagram and Jalalabad until the end of 2015, with 5,000 NATO and other international troops based in the northern and western parts of the country as part of a NATO mission called Resolute Support ... A second option would base a somewhat smaller number of U.S. troops in Kabul and Bagram until 2016, with authorization to travel across the country to train and advise Afghan forces as needed. Under the proposals, Option 1 could merge into Option 2, with the entire force scheduled to leave by the end of Obama’s term in office ... The fourth and final option calls for a complete U.S. withdrawal.” (022714)

CJCS in Afghan to discuss full withdrawal planning

General Dempsey, USA, CJCS arrived in Afghanistan on February 26, 2014 to discuss full withdrawal planning with military leaders there. He told reporters traveling with him, “The idea here is we’re at the point where we have to begin planning for other options. We’ve seen it coming, and I’m sure I’ll find our junior leaders are ahead of me on this.” As an aside, some US leaders have said al-Qaeda is finished. Not so Dempsey. he said, “The United States does not want to leave Afghanistan, principally because al-Qaida -- the ideological movement that manifests itself in violence and anti-American, anti-Western activities -- is still alive.” (022614)

NATO begins planning full withdrawal

NATO defense ministers will discuss plans for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by year’s end. I believe such discussions are being held at the ministerial level now, February 26-27, 2014. Some member states have said they must consider leaving earlier than year’s end because of the US support on which they depend. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the start of the meetings, “This is not our preferred outcome. But these are the facts — facts that we need to take into account in our planning.” (022614)

Marines are moving out --- Camp Leatherneck a hub

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The Marines have set up what is called the Retrograde and Redeployment in Support of Reset and Reconstitution Group, or R4OG, Lt. Colonel John Flynn in command, to prepare equipment in Afghanistan for return to the US or for equipping other Marine units worldwide. During the period Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013, the R4OG sent home more than $570 million worth of equipment and materials. The photo, by Jennifer Hiad, Stars & Stripes, shows gear collected being staged from the R4OGF lot at Camp Leatherneck, ready to go home. (022014)

Planning for potential zero option have to be underway

You might not find many who will admit so publicly, but you know the US military is doing contingency planning to withdraw from Afghan completely by year’s end. The Obama administration has changed its position on when the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has to be signed. Once adamant at the highest levels that the document needed to be signed by the end of 2013, the administration then slipped it until a matter of weeks, not months when we moved into 2014. Now the White House is willing to wait until after the April 2014 elections. Reports will soon start leaking out about how the US military might pull this off if the BSA is not signed, a requirement for continued military presence beyond 2014. Julie Pace reported for AP on February 14, 2014, that one option is for the US to reduce its force level to 20,000 by summer 2014.That would make a rapid withdrawal by the end of 2014 easier. The military must also contemplate using more airlift to move equipment out, which will be very expensive. At the same time, however, new forces are rotating in and will have to be properly equipped to train, conduct counterterrorism combat operations, and protect themselves. Military commanders reportedly are saying they have to have to least six months to shut down and get out. (021414)

Senator Graham wants to see US aid to Afghan stop if Afghans release 65 prisoners

Addendum 021314: The Afghan government released the 65 prisoners on February 13, 2014. The US considers them violent criminals.

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Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 11, 2014, want s the US to stop development aid to Afghanistan if it releases 65 prisoners from the Bagram jail. US Forces Afghanistan (USF-A) issued a statement condemning the planned release. It said, “The U.S. has, on several occasions, provided extensive information and evidence on each of the 88 detainees to the Afghan Review Board, the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Attorney General’s office ... We have made clear our judgment that these individuals should be prosecuted under Afghan law. We requested that the cases be carefully reviewed. But the evidence against them was never seriously considered, including by the Attorney General, given the short time since the decision was made to transfer these cases to the Afghan legal system ... The release of these detainees is a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan. Some previously-released individuals have already returned to the fight, and this subsequent release will allow dangerous insurgents back into Afghan cities and villages.” (021214)

State Department having trouble planning over Kabul embassy future

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The State Department has reacted to the lack of clarity about the future of US military forces in Afghanistan. Its inspector general issued a report this week that said continued uncertainty has complicated the planning effort for the embassy in Kabul, shown here. The report said, “Key decisions cannot be timely made until the U.S. military presence post-2014 is clarified. Without timely key decisions, the embassy will potentially be unable to fully prepare for the transition from a military-led to civilian-led mission in Afghanistan ... Without U.S. military support, embassy operations may need to be significantly curtailed at diplomatic platforms or the embassy will need to expend substantially greater resources in an effort to address an increased security risk.” The US now will not decide on its military future in Afghan until after the April 2014 Afghan elections, or so that is the position today. It has changed multiple times. The State Department in Afghan has been relying on US forces for protection and security, instead of contractors as was the case in Iraq. Many aid agencies are also wondering what their future holds. (021214)

US military will wait until after elections to decide on force levels and withdrawal schedules

In a complete turnabout, the US will wait until after the April presidential elections in Afghanistan to determine future force levels and withdrawal schedules. The US will make no decisions on either until that time, when it expects the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be signed. My guess is the US is counting on it being signed and is planning to do what it plans to do with that assumption. If the assumption proves wrong, the military will be jumping through a bunch of hoops to get out by the end of 2014, one would think. However, one senior US military official has said, “The real challenge for the BSA delay is not associated with military planning.” The military says it has revised its withdrawal planning and can wait until a decision in the summer 2014 if it has to withdraw entirely. This is surprising, given that Afghanistan is landlocked, Pakistan is unreliable, the northern route is a very difficult trek, and airborne withdrawal is very expensive. (021114)

Obama changing the rules on Afghan withdrawal

Margaret Talev and David Lerman reported for Business Week on February 5, 2014 that President Obama is now willing to wait for the April elections to obtain an Afghan signature on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would direct US post-2014 troop presence in Afghan. That is a major change, as his aides have been saying that a signature on the BSA is needed in weeks, not months. This places an enormous burden on military planners. It would appear that they are being told that odds are President Karzai’s replacement will sign the agreement and they therefore should go ahead and plan to have forces there post-2014, at what level we do not know yet. That is risky, as his replacement might change his mind and not sign, which would mean we need a second planning cell that would have to get everyone out by the end of 2014 on a very shortened timetable. Obama is most certainly gambling here. (020614)

Obama met with top defense leaders to discuss Afghan

President Obama met with top defense leaders in the White House on February 4, 2014 to discuss Afghan options. General Dunford, USMC, our commander in Afghan, SecDef Hagel and CJCS General Dempsey, USA were there. So were VP Biden and SecState Kerry. It does not look like anything decisive was achieved. Laura Magnuson, a White House spokesperson, said, “The president continues to weigh inputs from military officials, as well as the intelligence community, our diplomats, and development experts and has not yet made decisions regarding the post-2014 U.S. presence.” General Dunford is known to be recommending 10,000 troops post-2014 or nothing at all. (020514)

US drawdown in Afghan to continue

The US met its goal of drawing down its force levels in Afghanistan to 34,000 by February 2014. The Pajhwok News Agency has reported the US plans to continue the drawdown through the summer, though it provided no numbers. Whether the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is signed will drive the numbers. The missions at present for US forces are to train, advise and conduct counterterrorism operations. The main challenge facing US force planners now is whether they will have to plan to withdraw completely by year’s end. The British Telegraph has reported that President Obama will meet with his defense leadership this week to talk to the subject of “what to do.” (020414)

Karzai says “I saw no good” with America’s presence in Afghanistan

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President Karzai said recently he “saw no good” in the American presence in Afghanistan. He also said: “This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people ... They (the US) did not work for me, they worked against me,” and spoke of the Americans as “rivals.” He added, “The money they (the US) should have paid to the police they paid to private security firms and creating militias who caused lawlessness, corruption and highway robbery ... They then began systematically waging psychological warfare on our people, encouraging our money to go out of our country... What they did was create pockets of wealth and a vast countryside of deprivation and anger ... In general the US-led NATO mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand." What is most disturbing about this is Karzai and the suits in Washington do not understand. Our forces entered Afghanistan as the result of 9-11. The mission was to overthrow the Taliban and beat up al Qaeda because the Taliban had offered al Qaeda a training sanctuary. So our forces did not come there to "do good," though one would have thought eliminating the Taliban government would have been seen as good. Where the suits in DC screwed up was our forces finished the job in less than a year, and the suits broadened their mission multiple times to try to do good ala the Western perspective. The more immediate problem, however, is that Karzai’s constant attacks against the US embolden our enemies there, give the enemy reason to convince the public to hate the US more than it might, and make a withdrawal safe for US forces. (020314)

US wants BSA signed in weeks, cannot wait until April elections

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said in a Washington news conference held on January 29, 2014, “Because of the need to coordinate this planning internationally with the Afghan government and within our own military, we still believe this needs to be done in the next several weeks and not delayed until after the election.” The US continues to insist on no more negotiations and says the text has been agreed. The driving force now is logistics planning. At some point in time soon, logistics planners have to know whether to remove it all or whether to leave something behind. Such decisions cannot wait much longer. Rhodes added, “The President has been very clear to us that even as we plan for potential options for a troop presence after 2014 in the event of a BSA, that we're not going to keep troops in Afghanistan if there's not a BSA. So we also have to plan for a contingency of not having troops in Afghanistan.” (013014)

US military says 10,000 troops after 2014 or zero by January 2017, but ...

The Wall Street Journal reported on January 21, 2014 that the US military has recommended to the president that the US either leave 10,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 or withdraw them all by the end of Obama’s term, January 20, 2017. But the WSJ story also says the military leadership recommended if they cannot have 10,000 troops after 2014, they would like to withdraw most by the end of 2014. There seems to be a disconnect here. I am trying to clarify with the WSJ. General Dunford, USMC, the NATO and US commander there, reportedly has said 10,000 or nothing because anything less than 10,000 will insufficient to defend the force that is there. In the mean time, Stars & Stripes has reported that National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden has said if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is not signed soon, the US will have to plan for a complete withdrawal by year’s end. She said, “(W)e are talking about weeks, not months, left on the clock to conclude the BSA.” (012214)

HASC Chairman McKeon lashes out at Obama for his failure to lead in Afghan

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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeaon has told it like it is about Obama's attitude toward our forces in Afghan, He said, "(Obama) has not for months talked to the American people about the situation [in Afghanistan]. He has not given any [verbal] support or succor or help to our troops that are serving. He hasn’t buoyed them up in their mission and the things that they’ve been asked to do. They’re over there every day putting their life on the line, and they don’t hear from the commander-in-chief ... When I talk to the troops, sometimes they have questions about what the mission is, about why they’re there. And it’s incumbent upon the commander-in-chief to talk to them [and] to talk to the American people.” The commander-in-chief task is one of a president’s most important constitutional duties, one of very few assigned to a president by the way. (011514)

Ambassador warns Karzai will not sign early

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Karen DeYoung, Ernesto Londono and Kevin Sieff reported for The Washington Post on January 10, 2014, that US Ambassador James Cunningham, the lead negotiator for the Bilateral security Agreement (BSA) with Afghan, has told the Obama administration Karzai will not sign the BSA until the April elections are over. The authors opined, “The assessment, if borne out, would leave the administration with little time to assemble a military coalition to remain in Afghanistan and could raise the chances of a hasty and messy troop withdrawal by the end of the year.” If that assessment is correct, then US forces would be wise to prepare an irreversible plan on a complete withdrawal by 2014 --- the clock is ticking and there is a lot of stuff to move out, there are many hostile threats that could disrupt the withdrawal, and one never knows what avenues of departure will be open or closed at any given time. General Dunford, USMC, the ISAF commander there, has said, “All I can tell you is that our Government has been clear that if the BSA is not signed soon, we simply have to make plans for an alternative option if there isn’t a BSA. So that’s really all I can tell you in terms of the timing.” (011014)

Does US have a strategic interest in Afghan stability? Maybe not

The Stratfor Global Intelligence Group, in a report dated January 5, 2014, says, “The United States has no vital interest in the kind of government Afghanistan develops, and that once again the president cannot allow counter-terrorism to be a primary force in shaping national strategy.” The group says this in part because al-Qaeda and other wanna-be terrorists can strike at the US from anywhere, even from inside the US. Furthermore, Stratfor argues that there is no way to stop the terrorist activities in Afghanistan, other than to encourage and enable Pakistan to take the lead. Stratfor maintains that the Indo-Pakistan is the vital US national security interest, and if anything, Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan to India’s advantage. As a result, Stratfor argues that Pakistan is a top US priority, that it must remain strong and stable, and that its strength needs to be balanced with India, both nuclear powers. (010814)

US wants BSA signed in weeks not months

White House spokesman Jay Carney warned that United States might completely withdraw from Afghanistan if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) is not signed “promptly.” He said, “I don’t have specific deadlines or other policy decisions to announce today. But I can tell you that we are talking about weeks, and not months. And, you know, the clock is ticking.”

SFC William Lacey first American military man to die in Afghan 2014

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Sergeant First Class (SFC) William Lacey, USA, 38, is the first American service member killed in Afghan in 2014. He died from injuries received during a rocket propelled grenade attack in Nangahar Province. He is also the first combat loss for NATO’s ISAF this year. He was a vehicle mechanic assigned to the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Knox. This was his fifth deployment overall and second to Afghan. (010714)

It’s not just advising, it’s fighting for the 10th Mountain

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The mission of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) is to advise Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). We have said for some time, do not be fooled by the words “training” and “advising.” To do that effectively in the field means you have to go out with the ANSF and fight. And that’s exactly what the men of the Spartans of the 10 Mountain are doing. They are back in the mountains of Afghanistan “advising.” Col. Sam Whitehurst, the Spartan brigade commander, said, "This is an incredibly tough fight, but I can't think of any unit who's better prepared to handle a very complex problem.” The photo shows Spartan Soldiers moving to secure the helicopter landing zone on Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, December 26, 2013, at year’s end. (010214)

Medevac challenges for US forces now arises as an issue

Cid Standifer, Stars & Stripes, reported on January 1, 2013, “In the rugged mountains of Nangarhar province, medical aid is often unavailable. Ground ambulances usually take hours to reach the nearest clinic, and attempts to get an air medical evacuation through Afghan government channels can take a week.” As a result, training Afghans on battlefield medical services including medevac has become a top priority. Forces on the border are at greatest risk. While US trainers are confident the Afghans will improve over the year, the question arises, “What about US forces who might be deployed out with them?” This is an issue we will have to watch closely. US officers have said that most US forces will not be in tactical zones. If you accept that, which this editor does not, then you still have to work with the word “most.” That’s not “all.” That means we have to have US medevac capabilities remain until the last US soldier is withdrawn, in our view.(010214)