Tag Archives: Afghanistan withdrawal

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

Afghanistan Withdrawal to Benefit US Bases Overseas

Salang Pass Road. Image wikipedia

Barack Obama says he is still deciding how many American troops to keep in the country after NATO’s combat mission expires in 2014. No doubt it will be a tiny fraction of today’s total. In the next 18 months America expects to remove as many as 28,000 vehicles and 40,000 shipping containers of equipment.  Shifting that much kit, with an estimated value of $30 billion, is daunting enough. The retrograde itself will cost as much as $6 billion and involve about 29,000 personnel, for the American part alone (each of the 50 coalition countries is responsible for its own logistics). The job is unprecedented in complexity; compared with Iraq, the region’s terrain and politics make it a mover’s nightmare.

The biggest problem… is that for the first time America finds itself fighting a war without a reliable seaport. From Iraq there was easy access to Kuwait. Afghanistan’s landlocked borders put the nearest usable port in Karachi, in Pakistan, which can be reached only by crossing the Khyber Pass in the east, or at Chaman in the south.  Uneasy relations between national governments have become the worst pitfall of those routes…..The difficulties of the southern route have spurred the search for an alternative. The “northern distribution network” crosses from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, branching through the Central Asian republics and onwards, along a Soviet-era rail system, to the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and Europe. The route is safer and less volatile, but also slower and far more expensive. Perhaps its biggest drawback is Central Asian bureaucracy. …

A particular weak spot is the 3,900-metre-high Salang pass, which joins the north and south of the country. Prone to avalanches in winter, the road is in poor condition all year.   A final unknown is how the Taliban will react. Cargo trains make tempting targets, and some outbound convoys have already been attacked. Commanders are loth to reassign troops to their protection, when it would mean diverting them from building up the Afghan forces.

This unending procession of lumbering armour must be cleaned, stripped of munitions, loaded and secured for shipping. Each mine-resistant vehicle, for instance, is itemised as 17 different components, from turret to on-board computer, each piece to be logged separately. About 1m items are in the system. Some will be sent to other parts of Afghanistan, but 90% are bound for American bases overseas.

Excerpt, Withdrawing from Afghanistan: The big retrograde, Economist, Apr. 27, 2013, at 38.