The 17 year-long war (or 40 year-long war, depending on your perspective) continues in Afghanistan. The war has settled into a stalemate. While the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) has improved over time (at least DoD and RS Hqs would have us believe that) the Taliban continue to capture district centers and threaten a few provincial capitals. The fighting season kicked off in April (it will go to late fall) with several terrorist attacks in Kabul, attacks in the rural areas around the country, and offensive operations conducted by the ANDSF.
CENTCOM commander General Votel visited Kabul last week for meetings with Afghan officials (President Ghani and others) and with the leadership of the Resolute Support Mission. General Nicholson has completed two years as the commander of Resolute Support (and USFOR-A). Rumors that he will be replaced by LTG Scotty Miller are in the wind. Miller has been nominated for four stars and is leaving his post as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Miller has previous assignments to Afghanistan as commander of special operations forces in country.
Below are excerpts and links to several stories about the conflict in Afghanistan – grouped in general topic areas – security, ANDSF, governance, development, etc. Occasionally we (the staff here at SOF News) insert a little analysis and commentary to accompany the article descriptions.
Fight for the Tala Barfaak District. The Taliban took another district center on Wednesday, May 9th. The ANDSF surrendered and/or retreated (depending on the news source) Tala Barfaak district, Baghlan province to the Taliban. Some reports say more than 100 ANDSF defected to Taliban side turning over Humvees and weapons. The ANDSF had run out of supplies. (Reuters, May 8, 2018).
Attack in Jalalabad. An attack on a government building in Nangarhar province left at least 10 (perhaps more) people dead and many more injured. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility. The attack involved suicide bombers and gunmen. Story by Chad Garland of Stars and Stripes, May 13, 2018.
Photo: ANASOC’s 1st Special Operations Kandak (Battalion) Maj Massoud Rakhman rides the horse of a ISIS-K commander killed in a recent battle between ANASOC Commandos and ISIS-K in Achin district of Nangahar province, Afghanistan. After the battle, Rakhman rode the horse back to Camp Commando (located on the outskirts of Kabul) and presented the horse to Lt. Gen. Habibullah Waziri, ANASOC Commander. Waziri then told Rakhman the horse should be part of the ANASOC Corps headquarters. And so, Rakhman rode the horse in front of the latest Commando class assembled for graduation. The 980 newly trained Commandos will soon join the fight against the Taliban and ISIS-K. (Photo by Master Sergeant Felix Figueroa, NSOCC-A / SOJTF-A, March 9, 2018).
Black Hawks. The U.S. Congress set the conditions for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) to jettison their Russian-built Mi-17s for the U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Over 159 of these flying machines will eventually find their way to the Afghan skies. The first group of Afghan UH-60 pilots have graduated from their long pilot training course and are now for the first time flying operations (as of May 8, 2018). Read more in “Afghan Pilots Conduct First Operation with Black Hawks a day after graduation”, Khaama Press, May 9, 2018.
Report on CIVCAS by UNAMA. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has published a ten-page report about the Afghan Air Force (AAF) airstrike by MD-530 helicopters against a mosque that killed 30 children in April 2018.
Voter Registration. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has changed the end date for voter registration – now mid-June.
Atta Noor. While he may have stepped down from his governor’s position in Balkh province the former governor continues to wield significant influence in northern Afghanistan. He will likely be running for President in 2019.
Nangarhar Governor Dismissed. Security has sharply deteriorated in the eastern region of Afghanistan amid allegations of widespread corruption among officials. The Nangarhar governor has been replaced due to the continuing problems. (Reuters, May 14, 2018).
New PCoPs. The Afghan Minister of Interior (MININT) has announced fourteen new provincial chiefs of police. Corruption and ghost policemen has been a big problem at provincial level. Read “Interior Ministry Appoints New Provincial Police Chiefs”, Tolo News, May 12, 2018.
Beef & Beer Weekend. The Duskin and Stephens Foundation is holding a fundraiser on Thursday, May 24, 2018 at the Pinehurst Fairbarn in North Carolina. The event organizer, the Duskin and Stephens Foundation, is run by teammates and colleagues most of whom are still active duty members of the military. The organization supports the Special Operations community and their families in the Fort Bragg area and beyond. The foundation is named in honor of Warrant Officer Two Michael Duskin (20th and 3rd Special Forces Groups) and SFC Riley Stephens (101st Airborne Division and 3rd Special Forces Group). Both Duskin and Stephens died of wounds received from small arms fire in Wardak province, Afghanistan.
Hydropower Plant. The Naghlu Hydropower Plant (HNPP) is Afghanistan’s largest. Located in Sarobi district, it is just 85 kilometers east of Kabul. It has restarted operations with one of its four turbines after being dormant since 2012. See “Afghanistan Resurrects its Largest Hydropower Plant Toward a Brighter Future”, Modern Diplomacy, May 14, 2018.
Connecting Afghanistan to Central Asia. The countries of Central Asia are turning their eyes south and actively engaging Afghanistan on several fronts in the economic sector. Read more in “Central Asia Opens the Door to Afghanistan”, The Diplomat, May 10, 2018.
Taliban’s Counter-Strategy. So this guy gets it. Haroun Mir has been engaged in the political evolution of Afghanistan for more than two decades. He has provided us with what one could call the Taliban’s counter-strategy to wait out the resolve of the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan. If you want to read why the U.S. and NATO face an uphill battle in Afghanistan read “The Taliban’s counter-strategy in Afghanistan”, Asia Times, May 9, 2018.
Are the Taliban Unbeatable? “Insurgencies are famously difficult to defeat, yet the Afghan Taliban have proven especially so”. A recent article by Theo Farrell examines how the Taliban have come back so successfully after its huge defeat in late 2001. He explains that its resiliency stems from two factors: its social resources and its ability to adapt militarily. Farrell is a book author and professor at the University of Wollongong, Australia. His article is Unbeatable: Social Resources, Military Adaptation, and the Afghan Taliban, Texas National Security Review, May 8, 2018.
Canadians Should Continue Support for Afghanistan. Maj. – Gen. (Ret’d) David Fraser led Canadian troops in Afghanistan through 2006. He shares his thoughts on why Canada should remain committed to helping Afghanistan. Read “Canadians helped build today’s Afghanistan. And we need to stay with it”, National Post, May 14, 2018.
The Trump Effect. James R. Van de Velde, an adjunct faculty member at John Hopkins, Georgetown and the National Intelligence University, provides an extremely detailed account of the Obama administration ‘giving up on the war in Afghanistan’ and the new South Asian strategy of the Trump administration. He explores what happens if the U.S. decides to stay in Afghanistan and he speculates on how to involve Iran, Russia and others in the stabilization process. Read “Trump Effect Comes to Afghanistan”, Real Clear Defense, May 12, 2018.
Providing Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan – Testimony. Laurel E. Miller of the RAND Corporation presented testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on May 9, 2018 about the challenges and the benefits for U.S. National Security of providing foreign assistance to Afghanistan. (RAND, May 2018).
FAQ on Afghan Peace Process. M. Ashraf Haidari, the Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan answers the most commonly asked questions about the latest developments in the peace process and explores the opportunities and challenges facing the peace process. Read “The Afghan Peace Process: An FAQ”, The Diplomat, May 14, 2018.
Book Review – Directorate S. Indranil Banerjie, an independent commentator on political and security issues, provides an Indian perspective on the new book by Steve Coll about the CIA, ISI (of Pakistan), and Afghanistan. Read “Magnum opus on AfPak history of CIA, ISI at work”, Asian Age, May 13, 2018.
Book Review – Taliban Narratives. Omar Sadr, a research associate at the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), reviews Thomas Johnson’s book “Taliban Narratives: The Use and Power of Stories in the Afghanistan Conflict” (2018).
Drone Strikes – Blowback? Does anger about U.S. drone strikes lead individuals to join militant Islamist groups? Aqil Shah explores this topic in “Do U.S. Drone Strikes Cause Blowback? Evidence from Pakistan and Beyond”, International Security Journal, Belfer Center of Harvard Kennedy School, Spring 2018.
More Drone News – Ever Heard of the “Silver Fang”? It seems an IED-seeking drone was deployed to Afghanistan with very little publicity. Read more in “Air Force deployed mysterious drone to Afghanistan to catch terrorists planting roadside bombs”, Defense News, May 12, 2018.
The Rehabilitation of Russia in Afghanistan. Russia’s history in Afghanistan is a bleak one – ending with the withdrawal of Soviet Union troops from a brutal war in 1989. In recent years Russia has been polishing up its act in Afghanistan. Read more in “The Great Russian involvement in Afghanistan”, by Venita Christopher, Modern Diplomacy, May 11, 2018.
U.S. Medical Logistics in Kandahar. A news story published on Army.mil describes the job of a medical logistics specialist based in Kandahar. (Army.mil, May 11, 2018).
Old Photos of Afghanistan. There was a time where westerners could roam the streets of Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan quite freely with little concern for their safety. View some photos from Afghanistan’s past in “Afghanistan As It Once Was: The Photographs of William Podlich”, Radio Free Europe, May 12, 2018.
Movies about Afghanistan
Movies about the Battle of Kamdesh. In 2009 a small American force battled against a numerically superior insurgent force at COP Keating – a small outpost in Nuristan province, Afghanistan. Eight of the 50 men at the COP died. Two soldiers would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions. Two movies are coming out about the Battle of Kamdesh. Read more in a news article by Meghann Myers in Army Times, May 5, 2018.
Photo: Former Taliban turn in their weapons during an Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) ceremony in Ghor province, Afghanistan on May 28, 2012. Photo by Lt JG Joe Painter, DoD.