Talking Proud - The American withdrawal from Afghanistan 2017

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2017 Report



The Mattis R4+S Afghan War strategy

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SecDef Mattis presented the new strategy for the Afghan War to the Senate Armed Service Committee on October 3, 2017. He termed it the "R4+S: Regionalize, Realign, Reinforce, Reconcile and Sustain." I do not yet have a good explanation of what this means. The Daily Caller, Saagar Enjeti has offered the strategy emphasizes a regional approach and providing US military advisers at lower levels of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Enjeti also said it pledges to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. The ultimate goal he wrote is "reconciliation," which requires "convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government." General Dunford, USMC, CJCS commented “this entire effort is to pressure the Taliban and make them understand they will not win a battlefield victory.” We should recall the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, some 16 years ago, to overthrow the Taliban government and drop some bombs on al Qaeda. Now we are at R4+S for the foreseeable future. "R4+S" strikes me as a real mouthful. Frankly this is hard to comprehend. The American people I believe deserve something a bit more understandable. I'll be looking for the Mattis testimony so I can review it. (100317)

Some 3,500 - 4,000 military will be deployed to Afghanistan

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The Military Times reported Secretary of Defense Mattis said on September 11, 2017 that Secretary of Defense Mattis has signed orders to deploy about 3,500 military members to Afghanistan. Fox News is saying 4,000 more will go. AP says 3,900. They will come from all services in order to add more air and ground resources. They will participate in a campaign target at the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan. The DoD has acknowledged it now has 11,000 military members there, so this will increase the force level to 14,500 or more. More on this as it comes available, if it comes available. It is worth noting that Mattis told reporters on August 31, 2017 that this was going to happen. Regrettably I just picked up on this today from the Military Times. One is forced to wonder whether the US is tip-toeing back into a full scale war. (091217)

SecDef Matis outlines Afghan options before Trump

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Secretary of Defense Mattis on August 17, 2017 outlined the options that will be considered by President Trump this weekend at a Camp David National Security meeting. He said:

"We are coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future,' Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday of the meeting, which will also include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other national security advisers...

"The options the Pentagon is presenting are straightforward, and nothing the president has not seen before:

  • "Stay the course with the current strategy, which combines counter-terrorism with a relatively narrow advise-and-assist mission to support Afghan government troops;
  • "Add the several thousand additional American forces that the top U.S. general there has asked for;
  • "Send in private contractors;
  • or withdraw. (081817)

Afghan strategy coming soon: Use civilian contractors to fight?

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DoD Buzz has reported that SecDef Mattis is preparing a strategic plan to surge private contractors into Afghanistan and take over duties now done my US military people. Mattis said, "The strategic decisions have not been made, but — I don’t know how to put this — I think that’s all I want to say. The strategic decision has not been made … It’s part of the options being considered. And the president’s open to the advice of the secretary of state, and myself and the director of the CIA … We are close (to a decision on a new strategy for Afghanistan) if there were an increase [in security contractors], we’d tell you there’s going to be an increase. We might not tell you which specific number’s going where. But no, I mean we’d be — we’d be open about — transparent about that.” The new Afghan strategy was due out in mid-July, and has been held up, some say because President Trump does not want to send more forces, and actually would like to get the forces out. Jim Michaels, reporting for USA Today on August 8, said, "The proposal calls for deploying 5,500 private contractors, mostly former commandos, to advise Afghan forces, along with a 90-aircraft private air force to provide close-air support." (081717)"

Commanders in Afghan surprised by Trump's indecision

Politico reports today that senior officers in Afghanistan have been surprised by President Trump's indecision on what to do about US participation in the Afghan war. They had expected Trump to approve the plan to increase force levels, but now are caught in a period of uncertainty, something military officers do not like. There are rumors Trump may wish to replace military advisors with contract employees, ala CIA in Laos. (081017)

Original story: Politico has reported that President Trump is looking at withdrawal options for Afghanistan. That is as opposed to adding about another 3,900 troops. Apparently the issue has to do with how long the US is prepared to stay. Politico quoted one unnamed official saying if we are not prepared to stay for the long haul, then we ought to withdraw it all now. Recall that SecDef Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13, 2017 that the US is not winning. Not only that, he said "the enemy is surging right now." He further indicated the US does not have a strategy. He said one would be ready by mid-July 2017, and it's almost August and we do not have one. In the mean time, our forces are over there and some are getting killed. (073117)

More Marines headed to Helmand

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NBC News reported on August 7, 2017 that the US is sending more Marines to Afghan's volatile Helmand Province. The mission it says is "internal force protection," which implies they are going to protect the other 300 Marines already there assigned to Task Force Southwest. The Marines are to deploy from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response Central Command, already located in the region. The US command in Afghan requested the help. The photo shows Marines on patrol in 2014.

It is not known how many Marines will deploy. NBC said "dozens."
Military Times says up to 100.

In the meantime, the WSJ reported:

"To understand the Trump administration's struggle to agree on a strategy to reverse the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, it's useful first to look back in time.

"In early 2013, Donald Trump tweeted: 'We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives.' Early the following year, when President Barack Obama was trying to withdraw virtually all American combat troops, he tweeted: 'I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!'"

"Thus, when Mr. Trump argues, as officials say he has in meetings, that the U.S. is 'losing' in Afghanistan, that isn't a new thought. When he appears conflicted about sending in more troops to reverse Taliban gains there, that reflects his longstanding doubts about a prolonged American presence there."

The net result is the US still is not winning the war, and it still has no strategy. (080817)


CJCS - Afghan more troops? Yes, but White House sets cap when will this end?

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It's now July 7, 2017 and I am writing:

Politico has reported that Lt. General McMaster, the National Security Advisor, has sent a classified memo to a few in the administration saying the president hs set 3,900 more troops for Afghan as the cap. To go beyond that, SecDef Mattis will have to come back to the White House and present his case. Politico implies there is growing concern in the White House that the US is getting bogged down over there. It's about time!


Back in December 2011, I wrote, "US politicians and even our military leaders have said we have changed strategy in Afghan, moving now away from combat to advising Afghan forces. Let’s make sure we understand what is often entailed in being a 'military advisor.' Our forces have to go out with the forces they are training and advising to help them along and observe how they handle themselves. So when you hear 'military advisors,' do not think they will see no combat. Most will see plenty of it, embedded with the Afghan force they are advising." So now it is mid-2017, and the US is in the final stages of planning troop increases, maybe 4,000 more. We have anywhere from 8,000 - 10,000 troops there now. Officials say the idea now is to get our forces closer to the battle to help Afghan forces, and enable US forces to maneuver around the battlefield more easily. NATO is also going to send more, so it says. We have not yet seen numbers. Sixteen years the US has been there, with no end in sight. We are supposed to hear about our "new strategy" soon. The Washington Post says this is to be a "major shift in strategy." Some think the idea is to force the Taliban to the table. I keep my fingers crossed, but I do not see the Taliban negotiating anything with us. (062917)

Damn, the US is sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan

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The Associated Press has reported the Defense Department will send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan.The Associated Press has reported the Defense Department will send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan. SecDef Mattis made the decision, on his own.

However, Mattis will announce this officially next week according to the AP. AP quoted a Trump administration official saying this on June 15, 2017:

"The rising threat posed by Islamic State extremists, evidenced in a rash of deadly attacks in the capital city of Kabul, has only fueled calls for a stronger U.S. presence, as have several recent American combat deaths. The bulk of the additional troops will train and advise Afghan forces, according to the administration official, who wasn't authorized to discuss details of the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A smaller number would be assigned to counterterror operations against the Taliban and IS."

When all this started in 2001, some 16 years ago, the misson was to oust the Taliban government and bomb al Qaeda. Then the US added it wanted to bring democracy to the country. Now the US has added ISIS as a the latest fad. I find this infuriating. SecDef Mattis said we are not winning this war and we have no strategy. Anymore, what does "winning this war" mean? I would it be measured? Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, USN, said, "No decisions have been made."

Daulat Waziri, an Afghan MoD spoekesman said:

"The United States knows we are in the fight against terrorism. We want to finish this war in Afghanistan with the help of the NATO alliance."

The fight against terrorism was once confined to al Qaeda, but now includes ISIS.


US Strategy against ISIS failing?

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) just opined that the US effort against ISIS is failing. I will try to get more on this. (061517)

SecDef Mattis says "we are not winning," no strategy

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After nearly 16 years of US war in Afghanistan, SecDef Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13, 2017 that the US is not winning. Not only that, he said "the enemy is surging right now." He further indicated the US does not have a strategy. He said one would be ready by mid-July 2017, saying in response to Sen. McCain's frustration, "We're putting it together now and there are going to be — there are actions being taken to make certain that we don't pay a price for the delay, but we recognize the need for urgency and your criticism is fair, sir." Shortly thereafter, President Trump authorized Mattis to make decisions on troop levels in Afghanistan on his own. (071417)

Marines have returned to Helmand

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Task Force Southwest, about 300 US Marines, replaced the Army's Task Force Forge on April 29, 2017 in Afghanistan's Helmand province. During 2010-2011, more than 20,000 Marines were posted there. The photo shows a transfer-of-authority ceremony at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan,. Credit: E.B. Boyd, Stars and Stripes. Camp Shorab was once known as Camp Leatherneck. Brigadier General Roger Turner, USMC, the Marine commander, said, "We're still seeing a lot of the same activity that we were seeing years ago from the Taliban. They are still scattering IEDs everywhere … They still kind of indiscriminately target people. They arrest people, they put them in jails, and they extort their families and they extort the farmers for their poppy production and tax them. ... It's more of the same." He has already hinted he may need more Marines. (051617)

73rd Cav arrives in Afghanistan

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Three hundred soldiers from the 3/73rd Cavalry have arrived in Kabul, part of the 82nd Airborne's 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), Lt. Colonel Stephen G. Dobbins, USA in command. The 3/73rd deployed in mid-April. Some 1,500 from the 1st BCT are scheduled to go to Afghanistan by summer's end. The 3/73rd Thunderbolts form the American component of the Kabul Security Force, British Brigadier Nicholas Pond in command. Drew Brooks reported for the The Fayetteville Observer on May 13, 2017 "the paratroopers are responsible for site security, escorting advisors on foot through parts of the city, liaising with police commanders and responding to incidents within the city." (051517)

Taliban retakes Sangin town

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Afghan forces withdrew from Sangin town on March 22 or 23, 2017, leaving the town to the Taliban. US commanders say this was a planned strategic maneuver. The Afghan forces at the time moved two kilometers south of the city. The Taliban says it controls the whole district. NATO disagrees. The Taliban control the district police and government headquarters, but the US says the town was left in pretty much a shambles. There is some speculation the Russians are helping the Taliban. Afghan leaders say they are preparing for a full scale counter-offensive. The photo shows Sangin Valley. (032617)

Afghanistan at military deadlock, more US troops needed

General Joseph Votel, USA, commander CENTCOM told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, 2017, that he agreed with the assessment that Afghanistan was at a military deadlock ad more US troops are needed. General John Nicholson, USA, top US commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Service Committee on February 9, 2017 he needs more troops, but did not say how many more. Votel and Nicholson are working together to come up with their best advice for the SecDef. (031017)

US general wants more troops

General John Nicholson, USA, top US commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Service Committee on February 9, 2017 he needs more troops. The US now has about 8,400 there. He would not specify a number, but did say he needs a "few thousand." (020917)

The real situation in Afghanistan. Very ambiguous at best.

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I try daily to get a handle on the war situation in Afghanistan, and it is exceedingly difficult to do. There is barely any news about the war available on a daily basis. Added to that, one does not know whom to believe. And the of course, I'm not sure whether very many people in the US care, other than the families of our forces deployed over there.

As a result, today, February 3, 2017, I decided to quickly canvas opinions of those who do care and have written editorial pieces. Now these are not necessarily factual, since they are editorial and we do not know the authors. I have tried to include commentaries that make sense, and exclude those that don't. I must confess my bias is I want us to get all our forces out of there, so keep that in mind.

We currently have 9,800 troops over there, due to drop to 5,500 but a schedule does not exist.

Pajiwok News reported on January 4, 2017, "5,887 people were killed and 4,410 wounded in 777 attacks in the last five months of 2016. Most of these causalities resulted from face-to-face fighting and airstrikes." On average, that's 70 killed or wounded per day.

Taliban offensives have been so persistent in Helmand Province that the US is deploying about 300 Marines there this spring. The Sangin District is there. Back in 2011 I wrote an extensive story about British and US military operations in that area, entitled,
"Afghanistan’s hell, the Sangin Valley: Why Sangin? 'The Valley of Death.'" Afghan and Taliban forces are now involved in heavy figtin g in the area, and it is hard to tell who is gaining any advantage.

Robert Fisk, reporting for Britain's
The Independent published on December 27, 2016, entitled his report, "You won't hear it, but news from Afghanistan is bad." He wrote, " Isis men are now fighting in their thousands in the country we arrived to 'liberate' 14 years ago, quite apart from tens of thousands of Taliban 'pushing' in to their 'heartland' around Sangin." He accused the Obama administration of deceiving the American public. He then wrote, "So just stand back and look at the script. The Taliban ended the lawless regime of the Afghan militias and controlled almost all of Afghanistan by 1996. But it also sheltered al-Qaeda post 9/11. So we invaded Afghanistan to destroy both al-Qaeda and the vile misogynist, murderous and undemocratic Taliban. But the Taliban was not conquered. And now it is winning. And today, we surely want it to fight against the even more vile, misogynist and murderous Isis."

The US Institute of Peace wrote on January 13, 2017, "Afghanistan’s war is fueled by support from within Pakistan for Taliban insurgents, and by poor governance within Afghanistan, including entrenched patronage systems and corruption, and a weak rule of law."

The Military Times reported on June 16, 2016, "The Taliban's warm-weather offensive has shown the insurgents to be bolder and better organized, holding more territory now than at any time since 2001, when their regime was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion, according to recent U.N. estimates."

Bill Rogio, reporting for
The Long War Journal on November 2, 2016, said, "The US military says that the Taliban 'influences' at least 25 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts and controls only 8 more. The numbers are at odds with an assessment by The Long War Journal of Taliban control in Afghanistan. The US military’s estimate does not explain how the Taliban is able to support multiple concurrent offensives across the country and threaten five provincial capitals ... The Long War Journal believes that the US military’s assessment of the state of play in Afghanistan’s districts is flawed ... numerous local and international press reports indicate that all of Helmand remains a battleground, and the Taliban controls or influences/contests far more than three districts ... The situation in Helmand is so bleak that the Taliban has effectively surrounded the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah for well over a year, and have launched several forays into the city ... The Taliban has also attacked four other provincial capitals: Kunduz City, Tairn Kot, Maimana, and Farah City over the past several months. Additionally, last week, the Taliban cut off the main roads to Maidan Wardak, the capital of Wardak province just outside of Kabul ... Despite the success the Taliban has had employing this strategy, General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in the country, has downplayed the Taliban’s control of rural areas."

And finally, Noor Sahid report for
Voice of America of January 13, 2017, "The Afghan Government on Thursday pushed back against a U.S. Inspector General’s report that said Afghan forces are losing significant territory to Taliban insurgents and are not capable of keeping the nation secure ... U.S. Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) reported that territory under the Afghan government diminished significantly in 2016 and that the Taliban made large gains."

General John Nicholson, USA, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said on December 2, 2016, “We are stabilizing what was once a deteriorating situation and have the international support to progress even further in the coming years. The Afghan leadership remains focused on the future as the men and women of the security forces fight daily for a safe and stable Afghanistan.”

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Marines returning to Helmand as Sangin may have fallen

There are unconfirmed reports the Taliban recaptured Sangin, Helnand Province, Afghanistan toward the end of 2016 - early 2017. What is for sure is the US Marines will send a task force of about 300 men back to Helmand this spring. The units will remain for nine months and rotate in and out. The task force will be known as Task Force Southwest. Andrew deGrandpre and Shawn Snow reported for the Marine Times on January 6, 2017, "Task Force Southwest will comprise mostly more-senior military personnel pulled from units across II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, including from the 6th Marine Regiment." Brigadier General Roger B. Turner Jr. will command. The Marines will replace an Army unit.
General Turner said, "We're viewing this as a high-risk mission that really requires training to ensure our Marines are capable of countering the full spectrum of threat. We're not in any way viewing this as a noncombat mission, or something to take lightly. We're following the situation [in Helmand] closely ... to make sure the training and force protection is commensurate with that threat."

From where I sit, given the British and American blood that has been spilled here, the return of the Marines signals bad news. (010717)