Talking Proud - The American withdrawal from Afghanistan 2016

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2016 Report

US-Afghan forces fail to break Taliban in Sangin

The New York Times reported on February 16, 2017 that US and Afghan forces have failed to break the Taliban hold in Sangin. US troops had joined a small garrison of Afghan forces positioned in government buildings. NATO has confirmed US forces were there. They helped to regain some lost positions, then withdrew and the Taliban reoccupied those positions. Civilian casualties have been heavy, in pat allegedly due to US air attacks. (021617)

US troop commitment to Afghan rises --- long term
ala Korea?

President Obama has decided to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan throughout 2016 and into 2017 vice the planned 5,500. There are now 9,800 there. He said that Generals Dunford (CJCS), Votel (Commander Special Operations Command) and Nicholson (Commander US forces Afghan) all agreed to this number.

Reporting thus far is that he has the support of Republicans and most Democrats.

General Nicholson outlined ow US forces in Afghan will be used:

  • 6,700 of the 8,448 troops will be used to advise and assist, down from current 6,900
  • Of these 6,700, about 3,000 will be advisors while 3,700 will be "enablers"
  • Some 400 will be kept outside Afghan but the do not count toward the 8,448 cap
  • About 2,150 will be part of a separate US counter-terrorism mission. The US has generally maintained a separate force
for this mission since NATO entered the picture. They are not part of the NATO operation.

I believe Obama is afraid of getting another ISIS-Iraq by withdrawing to the 5,500 level and prefers to leave the entire problem to the next president. He said the US would withdraw completely from Afghanistan when he started his tour of duty, but he has failed to deliver that promise. IN fact, this is the second time he has changed his mind. He originally intended to leave only 1,000 to guard the embassy.

I see some relationship here to the US decision decades ago to remain in the Republic of Korea (ROK) following the Korean War. It looks to me like we are in Afghan to stay, and Iraq might take the same direction until they can get on their feet politically and militarily. If you recall, the ROK was extremely turbulent politcally following the Korean War and for this and other reasons the US remained.

The net result of all this for American forces is they will remain at war in these regions, US military equipment, especially aircraft, will continue to wear, military costs will rise, and US military KIAs and wounded will remain with us for the foreseeable future.

US forces will remain at Bagram north of Kabul, in Kandhar, Jalalabad, and Helmand. Obama acknowledges the troops will be at risk, but refuses to call their role combat, even though they are involved in the fighting, which translates to this retired USAF officer as combat. (070716)

Obama approves offensive operations for US forces Afghan

President Barack Obama has approved expanded authorities that will allow U.S. troops to accompany and conduct offensive operations with Afghan forces. SecDef Carter announced this change on June 10, 2016. General John Nicholson, our commander there, suggested these. This applies to troops on the ground with Afghan forces, US artillery and offensive air. Rules of engagement are being formulated now. Obama had announced the end of US combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, but has gradually adjusted that. (061116)

General Campbell wants US forces in Afghan for the next five years

General John Campbell, USA, the commander of US Forces Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee on February 2, 2016 that the US should retain an American troop presence in Afghanistan for the next five years. He also took issue with President Obama's plan to draw down to 5,500 troops by the end of 2016 from the 9,800 there now. He said that would leave the US with "a very limited capability." Campbell said his intent was to retain the 9,800 through the end of the summer fighting season and begin removing troops no later than October, if they have to leave as required by the current plan. He said, "The United States must continue to show flexibility with our mission in 2016 and beyond … As the commander ... I’m assessing the ways that we ensure that 2016 is not a repeat of 2015 based on conditions and performance of Afghan security forces during this winter lull. I’m also reviewing how well those forces will likely perform in 2017 and the United States and coalition resources that are required for their continue development … To continue to build on the Afghan security forces...we'd have to make some adjustments to that number." Lt. General John Nicholson, USA, is scheduled to replace Campbell in March, and has promised the Senate he will provide his own recommendations, commenting that the security situation in Afghanistan has "deteriorated." (020216)

SecDef says US in Afghan for the long haul, beyond 2017

SecDef Carter said on January 28, 2016 that US support for the Afghan military will last through 2017 and beyond, saying the US is "in this for the long run." News reports from BBC on January 30 said that ISIS is operating in about 30 percent of the country. Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, President Obama's nominee for commander of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, said on January 28 that "we do need to think about an enduring commitment to the Afghans." He said this while going through his confirmation hearings. He acknowledged the ISIS threat in Afghanistan, saying "trans-national terrorist organizations (are seeking to) establish sanctuary inside Afghanistan," organizations that include ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS announced the foundation of a new so-called Caliphate in Khorasan - an ancient Islamic region encompassing parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India - in January this year. To complicate the scenarios, the Taliban has declared war against ISIS. (013016)

Obama replacing US Afghan commander

The New York Times has reported President Obama will choose Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. (shown here) to succeed Gen. John F. Campbell as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, possibly as soon as March 1, 2016. The Times said Campbell has served in this position since August 2014 was due to be replaced. He is expected to retire. His successor, Lt. Gen. Nicholson is career infantry and currently serves as commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey. It is hard to tell just from this report whether Campbell was in fact due to be replaced. This seems to be an odd time to replace him. He has advocated greater troop numbers in Afghanistan, so it could be he was upsetting an applecart. Only time will tell. He has served for 37 years. (012816)

ISIS is in Afghanistan and growing

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on December 3, 2015, "The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s affiliate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is effective, operational, and positioned to expand. The affiliate, Wilayat Khorasan, controls populated areas in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province and has launched attacks on Jalalabad and Kabul. Afghanistan’s security is deteriorating and will likely worsen. Taliban infighting has intensified after the official announcement in July 2015 that Mullah Omar, the movement’s founder, had died several years ago. These violent conditions will likely facilitate Wilayat Khorasan’s recruitment, attacks, and territorial expansion. Afghanistan’s precarious unity government has not maintained effective security as international forces have drawn down. Wilayat Khorasan’s growth gives ISIS additional strategic resiliency outside of Iraq and Syria and will intensify the global competition between ISIS and al-Qaeda (AQ), which is also present in the area. The United States and its NATO allies must respond more aggressively to this threat."