The mini-surge in Afghanistan is on, but will it pay dividends?

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The mini-surge in Afghanistan is on, but will it pay dividends?

Sort of a quick post today while my body figures out why we do daylight savings time, other than to make me hate my alarm clock.

From Voice of America:

The U.S. is bolstering its military presence in Afghanistan, more than 16 years after the war started. Is anyone paying attention?

Consider this: At a Senate hearing this past week on top U.S. security threats, the word “Afghanistan” was spoken exactly four times, each during introductory remarks. In the ensuing two hours of questions for intelligence agency witnesses, no senator asked about Afghanistan, suggesting little interest in a war with nearly 15,000 U.S. troops supporting combat against the Taliban.

It’s not as if the war’s end is in sight.

Just last month the bulk of an Army training brigade of about 800 soldiers arrived to improve the advising of Afghan forces. Since January, attack planes and other aircraft have been added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

But it’s not clear that the war, which began in October 2001, is going as well as the U.S. had hoped seven months after President Donald Trump announced a new, more aggressive strategy. The picture may be clearer once the traditionally most intensive fighting season begins in April or May. Over the winter, American and Afghan warplanes have focused on attacking illicit drug facilities that are a source of Taliban revenue.

Again, the main focus of the surge though is to train the Afghans, as it has been since we first showed up.  Unfortunately, they got hit pretty hard this weekend (from Long War Journal):

The Taliban killed at least 10 Afghan commandos and several other security personnel during an ambush in Farah province last night. Security in Farah has been slipping over the past two years as the Taliban has focused efforts in the western province.

Taliban fighters ambushed the special forces unit that was partnered with local security forces that prepared to launch a raid in the Bala Buluk district of Farah, provincial officials told TOLONews. The number of casualties suffered by the combined Afghan force varies in Afghan press reports. However, officials from the Afghan Special Forces Unit confirmed that ten of its commandos were killed. Eight policemen were also killed and at least three more were captured by the Taliban during the fighting.

Afghan Special Forces Unit officials blamed the high number of casualties on a lack of air support and the failure of the Afghan military and police to provide reinforcements as the Taliban launched their attack, ATN News reported.

Afghanistan’s special forces have been at the tip of the spear in the fight against the Taliban. The loss of the commandos, who are considered to be the most effective and motivated of all of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces, is a painful blow. Four other commandos were killed in a Taliban attack in Farah earlier this week.

The Afghan Special Ops guys have come a LONG way, but without air support, which has traditionally been supplied by us, there is only so much they can do.  I’m a big fan of more air assets and fewer conventional troops on the ground.  I’ve long hoped we’d set our special operators (both Army and Air Force JTAC types free with Afghan units, and see what we could accomplish.)

The International News had an article the other day that paints a pretty bleak picture:

…we must have in mind the state of affairs in Afghanistan in 2018. According to a recent study by the BBC, over several months, the legal government of Afghanistan actually holds only 30% of the country. In the rest of the country, home to 50 percent of the Afghan population, the Taliban have at least one "open and active physical presence". How to explain such a disaster? The fault of foreign forces? If we listen to the authorities in Kabul and Washington, the case is heard: everything is the fault of the Afghan regional environment. Pakistan is the main scapegoat. But some Afghan and American officials do not hesitate to blame Iran and even Russia. In Afghanistan, for example, some people accuse the Russian services of having helped the Taliban to take Kunduz in 2015 and 2016 .

The problem with these accusations is that they are sometimes abusive or even false. For example, we know that Iran has forged links with the Taliban since the beginning of the 2010 decade, when the Americans themselves accepted the idea that defeating them militarily would be impossible, and that a political dialogue was needed in Afghanistan. No Iranian conspiracy against Afghan stability here, but then a simple recognition of the balance of power on the spot, as much in Tehran as elsewhere.

On the other hand, accusations involving Iranians and arms supply to the Taliban appear to have been exaggerated. Similarly, the Afghan and US authorities continue to claim that the Kremlin has provided weapons to the Taliban while the evidence is non-existent. As for the accusations against Pakistan, they sometimes fall into simplism, and rely on important omissions about a complex bilateral relationship. For example, the fact that geopolitically, Afghanistan and Pakistan oppose each other since the founding of this country. Kabul, in the continuity of Mullah Omar and the previous regimes in Afghanistan, persisted in not recognizing the Durand Line, the current border between the two states. The Afghan Pashtun nationalists supporting this policy can, from there, claim up to 60% of the Pakistani territory . In the past, Kabul has not hesitated to support Pashtun and Baloch separatists in Pakistani territory. It is in this logic of "cold war" that we must see the difficulties of cooperation between Afghans and Pakistanis. Today, if Pakistan has contacts, and perhaps ways to influence some of the Taliban, not only is it not the only one, but most importantly, it would be simplistic to imagine that they control them. Adding to the difficulty of the bilateral relationship between Kabul and Islamabad, it should not be forgotten that anti-Pakistani terrorist forces use Afghanistan as a refuge.

It would be nice to think eventually they’d get tired of fighting, but since they’ve been doing just that for the better part of 40 years, that may be wishful thinking.


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Two ways to beat an enemy 1) cut off supplies 2) use lethal rules of engagement. My opinion.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.