Posted tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around

September 13, 2017

Ryan Mauro: It’s a Bad Time to Be an Ayatollah in Tehran with Mattis & CIA’s “Dark Prince” Around, Clarion Project via YouTube, September 12, 2017

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Clarion Project’s Shillman Fellow, Prof. Ryan Mauro, reacts to reports that the Trump Administration is planning a more aggressive strategy towards Iran by pointing to the CIA’s “Dark Prince” and Secretary of Defense Mattis as reasons why the ayatollahs in Tehran should be worried.

Trump Makes the Right Decision on Afghanistan… and Pakistan

August 22, 2017

Trump Makes the Right Decision on Afghanistan… and Pakistan, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, August 21, 2017

Immediately after Donald Trump’s Afghanistan speech, Lindsey Graham — not always the president’s biggest fan — praised the address and noted Trump was smart to leave the actual direction of day-to-day conduct of warfare to those trained to do it: the generals. He contrasted Donald with Obama, whom Graham called a “bad general.”

True enough, but it’s worse.  Obama wasn’t just a bad general or even an atrocious one.  Consciously and/or unconsciously, he was on the other side.

Sound exaggerated? Then ask yourself this — why would a man as intelligent as Barack Obama 1. telegraph his intentions and pull-out date to the enemy, 2. not keep a decent military presence in Iraq, leaving it wide open to the nascent ISIS or similar religious maniacs and 3. give so much money to the Iranian mullahs in pursuit of a chimerical nuclear deal with a result that they are now all over the Middle East, killing as many people as possible and perpetuating the endless Syrian civil war (with literally millions of refugees), while testing ICBMs for the day when that (sort of) deal expires? And that’s leaving out the red line, the complete punting on North Korea, etc.

I thought this was supposed to be the smartest guy in the room.  Well, if you don’t like America and want to see it neutered, maybe he is.

But our media of course will not even go near this.  They would rather attack Trump for whatever — in the case of his Afghanistan speech for using it to again downplay Charlottesville.  (For an example, see the tweets from NPR’s oh-so-sophisticated political editor. These people are so fixated on Trump’s non-existent racism, they probably wouldn’t have even alter their views if half their families had been wiped out on Barcelona’s La Rambla last week.  It’s almost a monomania with them.  Two hundred hapless loser neo-Nazis with comb-overs are more of a threat than radical Islamists who have killed 1275, wounded 932, in 179 attacks in 25 countries in July 2017 alone! )

As for the specifics of the speech, I have always thought Donald Trump would end up a hawk after all, because — much as we may like to think otherwise — you can’t make America great again without being one.  I never bought the palaver coming from the alt-right and Rand Paul about having to withdraw from all or most international engagements.  It’s based on a theory of human nature that alas makes no sense.  The world has been filled with evil since the beginning of recorded time and no doubt before. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has noted that war, not peace, is the natural human condition.   Someone’s got to be the sheriff to keep things under control, to actually maintain the peace. America — of all nations — has done by far the best job of that, historically. No one else is even close.

So, unfortunately, we’re stuck with the job — unless you can think of a good replacement. That means we have to hold down the fort in Afghanistan lest it be used once again as a staging area for international terrorism, just as it was for 9/11. They seem to have been planning that and more already.  In October 2015, the U.S. military took out an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan that was an incredible thirty square miles.  That’s approximately half the size of Pittsburgh.

This does not, of course, mean that we have any business or should waste one minute trying to turn places like Afghanistan or Iraq into Denmark.  While we can excuse ourselves for believing that dream before the Iraq War, certainly the results of the conflict — actually about a week of it — should have  disabused us of that notion.  It wasn’t the first time idealism has been smashed, but that’s what happens when, just as in life, political reality collides with your ideological theories. Hopefully, you learn.

Praise is also due Trump for, finally, challenging Pakistan, the nuclear-armed, semi-terror state that hid Osama bin Laden virtually in plain sight. The nefarious Pakis and their notorious intelligence service have played both sides agains the middle for too long.

With all that, questions arise about the size of Trump’s commitment.  No mention was made of the number of new troops in the speech, though 4,000 has been bandied about.  Not many, it would seem, in the grand scheme of things.  But who knows?  It would be nice if such a small amount could keep things under control.  If not, as Trump has said himself, it’s in the hands of the generals.

WORTH NOTING: The speech was again well-crafted.  Trump has some excellent writers in Stephen Miller and Michael Anton (aka Publius Decius Mus).

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy

August 22, 2017

Winning Afghanistan: Support Trump’s Strategy, Clarion ProjectRyan Maur0, August 22, 2017

A US soldier holds the national flag ahead of a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.

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President Trump is pledging to “win” in Afghanistan by defeating the terrorist “losers.” He is correct about the disaster ahead if the U.S. retreats from Afghanistan, but his speech doesn’t seem to have addressed the concerns of those who believe that the campaign there is a lost cause.

Trump rightly pointed out that there are 20 groups designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the U.S. abandons Afghanistan, these groups will use the country as a launching pad to target the U.S. and destabilize the region, including nuclear-armed Pakistan.

From this base, they will likely be able to roll back progress we’ve made against terror havens in Iraq, Syria and Libya. And, of course, each success breeds a multitude of new members for the victorious terrorist group as momentum is interpreted as Allah’s blessing.

Yet, these realities do not address the core skepticism of those who oppose the war in Afghanistan — that there’s simply nothing more we can do. President Trump needed to confront this head on.

It’s extremely important that the American public understand that the war in Afghanistan is not like a videotape on loop. We have made progress, but the American public rarely heard about it because President Obama did not wish to bring attention to the war and its political liabilities. The progress was then lost due to the rapid withdrawal based on an arbitrary timeline.

“We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistakes our leaders made in Iraq,” Trump said.

Addressing the need to make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan to defeat the terror forces there, Secretary of Defense Mattis said it best when he told President Trump, “Mr. President, we haven’t fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war 16 times.”

In 2014, 95% of all operations were being done by the Afghans and they were taking 95% of all casualties, according to Michael O’Hanlon. Foreign forces were only 15% of coalition manpower. The Taliban and other jihadists had a growing presence in the areas where foreign forces decreased, but this territory only encompassed about 10% of the Afghan population.

The Defense Department’s April 2014 report said that U.S. casualties had “dropped significantly” over the previous year and the Afghan forces conduct “virtually all of these operations independently.” The Afghan economy was lunging forward and the Defense Department reported a “dramatic increase in basic education.”

The mantra we always hear in the media is that the Afghans won’t fight the Taliban and other terrorists. They did.

There was also major economic, educational and political progress.

That year, Afghanistan held a hotly-contested presidential election where all of the major candidates agreed that the U.S. military should be asked to stay. The election was a big success, as U.S.-backed Afghan forces made the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists fail miserably in achieving their stated goal of wreaking havoc during the voting.

Despite the extremely high risk, voter turnout was about 58%, matching that of America’s 2012 presidential election. One in three voters were women and a record number of women were running for office, including two for vice president.

After the vote was held, accusations of fraud came from both sides. Sectarian tension was high as each candidate represented different constituencies. Amazingly, despite all these pressures, the parties then reached a power-sharing agreement and had Afghanistan’s first peaceful transfer of the presidency through elections.

It is absolutely essential for President Trump to mention this progress to the skeptical American public so that they can know we haven’t been simply running in circles in Afghanistan. It is also important for the U.S. military that sacrifices so much to hear that their gains are known and appreciated.

Any progress that this new strategy makes will be limited by the assistance that the Taliban and other terrorists are receiving from Pakistan, Iran and Russia.

President Trump put Pakistan on notice like never before. The Pakistani government is going to be held accountable for harboring and materially supporting the terrorist network that sustains the jihad in Afghanistan. It is probable that we’ll see an increase in cross-border operations.

Trump’s praise for India as a strategic partner is a powerful lever to pull to pressure Pakistan. The State Department’s recent designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization shows that the Trump Administration is serious about this. Hizbul Mujahideen is a terror group that primarily targets India and is backed by Pakistan.

It was strange that Iran’s role in assisting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda went unmentioned in Trump’s speech. Iran is actively murdering U.S. and Afghan troops. However, Secretary of Defense Mattis’ desire to deliver some payback to the Iranian regime for targeting the U.S. military is well-known. You can bet he has plans in mind for that.

All of the talk about the war in Afghanistan inevitably brings up the experience of the Vietnam War. Although there is much to criticize about National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, he wrote a critically-acclaimed book about the Vietnam War.

There should be no doubt that the lessons of Vietnam are in the mind of McMaster and have been discussed within the Trump Administration every step of the way towards crafting the U.S.’ strategy in Afghanistan.

As Trump acknowledged, Americans are understandably frustrated and sick of being at war in Afghanistan. But there is reason to believe we can be successful. Moreover, advocates of a withdrawal have yet to explain how we can withdraw and still stop Afghanistan from becoming an extremely dangerous terrorist base.

If we would withdraw from Afghanistan now, how would we feel seeing images on our TV screens of the Taliban coming back to power, carrying out massacres and once again stopping girls from going to school, knowing that we could have stopped it.

We’ve sacrificed too much already to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban and regressive forces. The consequences of retreat are so dire that it’s worth giving Trump and his team a chance for their strategy to work.

President Trump Addresses the Nation | Full Speech 8/21/17 [Afghanistan]

August 22, 2017

President Trump Addresses the Nation | Full Speech 8/21/17 via YouTube

(The full text is available here. — DM)

 

 

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan

August 3, 2017

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan, Washington ExaminerDaniel Chaitin, August 2, 2017

(Please see also, McMaster, On ‘Warpath,’ Purges Key Trump Allies From White House NSC. — DM)

President Trump is looking at shifting CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the White House as national security adviser, according to a report Wednesday evening.

The move would bump H.R. McMaster, the current national security adviser. McMaster, a three-star Army general, would in turn be sent to Afghanistan to command U.S. forces in that country, the New York Times reported, citing several unnamed administration officials. The move could help McMaster earn his fourth star.

Trump has reportedly expressed frustration with Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, because the U.S. and its allies are not “winning” the war there.

The White House shuffle, if it came to pass, would be the latest in a string of staffing changes, including the exit of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. He was replaced by John Kelly, a retired general who had been serving as secretary of homeland security.

McMaster too has overseen a National Security Council that has recently seen some people ousted.

McMaster was named national security adviser in February, replacing Michael Flynn after it was revealed he misled the administration about his communications with a Russian envoy. Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, was sworn in as CIA director in January, days after the inauguration.

Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban

July 26, 2017

Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban, World Affairs Journal, Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, CNN, July 25, 2017

(Please see also, Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government. — DM)

Story highlights
  • Two videos obtained by CNN suggest the Taliban have received improved weaponry supplied by the Russian government
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment but has previously called claims they are arming the Taliban “utterly false”

(CNN)The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

US generals first suggested they were concerned the Russian government was seeking to arm the Afghan insurgents back in April, but images from the battlefield here corroborating these claims have been hard to come by.

These two videos show sniper rifles, Kalashnikov variants and heavy machine guns that weapons experts say are stripped of any means of identifying their origin.

Two separate sets of Taliban, one in the north and another in the west, claim to be in possession of the weapons, which they say were originally supplied by Russian government sources. One splinter group of Taliban near Herat say they obtained the guns after defeating a mainstream rival group of Taliban. Another group say they got the weapons for free across the border with Tajikistan and that they were provided by “the Russians.”

The videos don’t provide incontrovertible proof of the trade, of which Moscow has categorically denied involvement. Yet they offer some of the first battlefield evidence of a flow of weapons that has the Afghan and American governments deeply concerned about Moscow’s intentions here.

“The Russians have said that they maintain contact with the Taliban, we have lots of other reports from other people they are arming the Taliban … there is no smoke without fire,” Afghan government spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. “That’s why our intelligence agencies are up to the job to find out what level of support that is to the Taliban.”

Another Afghan official said they were sure that trade was happening between Russia and the Taliban.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment for this article but has previously called claims they are arming the Taliban “utterly false” and said they were made to cover up for the United States’ failure in Afghanistan. The Russians talk to the Taliban purely to promote peace talks, they said.

US officials have long voiced concerns about any weapons flow to the terror group. Asked in April whether he would refute the reports Russia was arming the Taliban, the US commander here, Gen. John Nicholson, said: “Oh, no I’m not refuting that… Arming belligerents or legitimizing belligerents who perpetuate attacks … is not the best way forward.”

Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of US Central Command, told a congressional committee in March he believed the Russians were seeking influence in Afghanistan.

“I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to (the Taliban) in terms of weapons or other things that may be there,” he said.

In one video the Herat group are seen brandishing the guns, which they said were taken from the mainstream Taliban, led by Mullah Haibatullah, after that group attacked them. Eighteen of their rivals were killed in the attack and six were captured, they said.

“These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran,” said their deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. He went on to repeat the often-heard rationale behind the arming — which Moscow denies — that the weapons were supplied to help the Taliban better fight ISIS.

“The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too,” he said.

The second video was shot nearer Kabul and features a masked Taliban fighter parading arms he says he obtained through the northern province of Kunduz. He said he did not pay for the weapons — insurgents often pay for guns with opium crops — and that his group received the guns via the Tajik border.

“These pistols have been brought to us recently,” he says. “These are made in Russia, and are very good stuff.”

Weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey studied the videos and said there was little in them to directly tie the guns to the Russian state. The weapons were not particularly modern or rare, and even some of the more elaborate additions, like a JGBG M7 scope on one machine gun, were Chinese made and readily available online, they said.

Yet Benjamin King from the Survey said, “the weapons didn’t seem to have the manufacturer markings where we would expect them.” He said that elsewhere there have been reports of supplying governments and others going to great lengths to remove identification markings from weapons.

“If this is a pattern seen in Afghanistan then it would be noteworthy,” he added.

Sediqi, the Afghan government spokesman, said they had put the allegations to Moscow and also received a denial. He added Afghan officials have expressed their concerns about Moscow’s contacts with the Taliban, which coalition officials say legitimizes the insurgency.

“The issue of contact with the Taliban with the Russians was something that really concerned us as well,” Seddiqi said. “No contact with non-state groups.”

Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government

July 25, 2017

Taliban seizes 3 districts from Afghan government, Long War Journal, , July 25, 2017

Even as the three districts fell, the Taliban is on the offensive in all of the other regions. Afghan security forces, which are sustaining record highs in casualties and desertions, is largely on the defensive in most areas of the country.

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The Afghan Taliban has overrun three districts previously held by the Afghan government in the provinces of Paktia, Farah and Ghor over the past several days. The Taliban is demonstrating that it can sustain operations in all theaters of Afghanistan. The three districts are located in three different regions of the country.

The district of Jani Khel in Paktia, a known stronghold of the Haqqani Network – the powerful Taliban subgroup that is based in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas – fell to the Taliban earlier today after several days of heavy fighting, according to Afghan officials and the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the district headquarters buildings, the police headquarters and all security checkpoints are under his group’s control. Fighting is underway at a nearby military base.

Jani Khel was effectively under Taliban control. At the end of March, the group claimed that all but six percent of the district, including the district center, was under Afghan government control.

The districts of Taywara in Ghor in central Afghanistan, and Kohistan (or Lolash) in Faryab in the northwest fell to the Taliban on July 23 after several days of fighting. TOLONews confirmed that the two districts are now Taliban controlled and “government forces have not yet launched military operations to re-capture these districts.”

The loss of the three districts shows that the Taliban is capable of conducting operations in all regions of the country. Even as the three districts fell, the Taliban is on the offensive in all of the other regions. Afghan security forces, which are sustaining record highs in casualties and desertions, is largely on the defensive in most areas of the country.

The state of play of Afghan districts is often difficult to determine. Often, some districts switch hands multiple times over a short period of time. For instance, Nawa district in Helmand province has gone back and forth between the Taliban and the Afghan government four times over the past year. The Afghan government retook it just last week, but the Taliban are fighting to regain control.

In some cases, such as with Jani Khel or all of the districts in Uruzgan province, the Taliban controls all of the district except for the district center, which hosts the government facilities and police headquarters.

Estimates issued by the US military and the Taliban are not that far apart. The US military estimated in the spring that the Taliban now controls or contests 40 percentof Afghanistan’s districts, while the Taliban in late March claimed the number is closer to 50 percent. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Taliban controls or contests 40 percent of Afghan districts: SIGAR and Afghan Taliban lists ‘Percent of Country under the control of Mujahideen’.]

Afghan forces have ceded control of some rural districts to the Taliban, excusing the districts as strategically unimportant. The Taliban has instead used these districts as bases to attack Afghan forces in more populous districts.