Tag Archives: Afghanistan United States

War under the Cover of Training and Advising: Afghanistan

Soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard and the Latvian army patrol through a village in Konar province . Image from wikipedia

Months after President Obama formally declared that the United States’ long war against the Taliban was over in Afghanistan, the American military is regularly conducting airstrikes against low-level insurgent forces and sending Special Operations troops directly into harm’s way under the guise of “training and advising.”…[I]nterviews with American and Western officials in Kabul and Washington offer a picture of a more aggressive range of military operations against the Taliban in recent months, as the insurgents have continued to make gains against struggling government forces.

Rather than ending the American war in Afghanistan, the military is using its wide latitude to instead transform it into a continuing campaign of airstrikes — mostly drone missions — and Special Operations raids that have in practice stretched or broken the parameters publicly described by the White House.

Western and military officials said that American and NATO forces conducted 52 airstrikes in March 2015 months after the official end of the combat mission. Many of these air assaults, which totaled 128 in the first three months of 2015, targeted low- to midlevel Taliban commanders in the most remote reaches of Afghanistan.,,,“They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes,” one of the officials said. “It’s not force protection when they are going on the offensive.”…Gen. John F. Campbell, vehemently denied accusations that he was putting troops into harm’s way just to enable more airstrikes.….“Washington is going to have to say what they say politically for many different audiences, and I have no issue with that,” General Campbell said. “I understand my authorities and what I have to do with Afghanistan’s forces and my forces. And if that doesn’t sell good for a media piece then, again, I can’t worry about it.”

The operations are continuing during a troubling stretch for the Afghan security forces, as the Taliban are continuing to make gains…Mr. Ghani, who has yet to name a minister of defense, has in many ways outsourced much of the running of the war to General Campbell.

Excerpts from AZAM AHMED and JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN, Taliban Gains Pull U.S. Units Back Into Fight in Afghanistan, NY Times, Apr. 29, 2015

Rogue Army or Rogue Soldiers? the review of the military justice system, United States

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has directed a panel of experts to assess whether reforms are needed in the way the military justice system handles crimes committed by U.S. forces against civilians in combat zones, the Pentagon said on Friday (Aug. 3, 2012).  While the Pentagon said the decision was not linked to any specific case, it follows a spate of incidents in Afghanistan that have outraged the local population, including one in which a soldier is suspected of killing 16 villagers in a shooting rampage.   “There is no one case that motivates this,” said Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, who explained Panetta’s decision to undertake the review.  “We’ve now been in deployed areas for over 10 years,” he said. “We want to ask ourselves every once in a while: Is the system working like it should? Are there reforms that could be brought about to better apply military justice in deployed areas when the offense involves civilians?”

Panetta asked a subcommittee of the newly established Defense Legal Policy Board to review cases over the past decade in which U.S. forces committed crimes against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan to see whether judicial procedures need to be improved.  “Abuses have been rare among our professional fighting force, but they became huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission and the foundation of our relationship with the host government and its people,” Panetta said in a memorandum to the Pentagon leadership.  “For offenses that take place in a country in which we operate alongside the civilian population, it is critical that our system of military justice be efficient, fair, dependable and credible,” he added.

The review is expected to look into cases like the Haditha massacre in Iraq, where Marines killed 24 civilians. Of the eight Marines originally charged in the case, only one was found guilty — of dereliction of duty.  Cases like the one against Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who is accused in the slayings of 16 Afghan civilians earlier this year, may not factor into the investigation. Panetta’s instructions call for the panel not to “intrude upon any pending case or investigation.”

The review panel will be led by former top Pentagon lawyer Judith Miller and retired Major General Walter Huffman, a former Army judge advocate general. While largely made up of lawyers, the panel also includes retired military commanders and a former police criminal investigator.  The group is expected to deliver a report within seven months to the Defense Legal Policy Board, which will review the findings before passing them to the defense secretary.

Panetta orders review of military justice in combat zones, August 03, 2012|David Alexander | Reuters

Can a Puppet be Effective? Afghanistan

For much of the past decade, NATO commanders have dictated most aspects of the allied war strategy, with Afghan military officers playing a far more marginal role. But with the signing of an agreement last month, Afghans have now inherited responsibility for so-called night raids — a crucial feature of the war effort.  To Afghan leaders, the decisions made by their commanders reflect growing Afghan autonomy from Western forces as NATO draws down, and prove that Afghan forces are willing to exercise more caution than foreign troops when civilian lives are at stake.  “In the last two months, 14 to 16 [night] operations have been rejected by the Afghans,” said Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the top Afghan army officer. “The U.S. has said, ‘This operation better be conducted. It’s a high-value target.’ Then my people said, ‘It’s a high-value target. I agree with you. But there are so many civilian children and women [in the area].’ ”Many of the rejected night operations are later conducted once civilians are no longer in the vicinity of the targets, Karimi said.

U.S. officials point to progress they have made in their own efforts to reduce civilian casualties, and say that while the Afghans occasionally choose not to act on American intelligence, night operations are nonetheless frequently conducted. Americans continue to provide logistical support and backup, U.S. officials say, using their aircraft to deposit Afghan soldiers at the targets.  “The Afghans are the ones who give final say on whether or not the mission gets conducted. That’s how the process works now,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. “The operational tempo hasn’t been affected by this. I don’t think there’s been a night when they haven’t conducted a good number of operations.”…

The Afghan president grew even more disenchanted over the last week, when separate NATO airstrikes killed 18 civilians in Logar, Kapisa, Badghis and Helmand provinces, according to Afghan officials. The president and his advisers said the attacks raise questions about the newly minted partnership agreement….

Excerpts from, Kevin Sieff, Afghan commanders show new defiance in dealings with Americans, Washingtong Post, May 11, 2012