View Full Version : OEF: a lingering Afghan small war for the West (catch all)

12-30-2014, 07:43 PM
This is the third of five new threads on Afghanistan 2015 onwards, its focus is on the new The NATO Mission: concerned watchers and trainers. The mission is called Operation Resolute Support, with twelve contributors (down from fifty with ISAF) and with a declared non-combat mission.

For a brief outline see:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-30616380 and from NATO:http://www.nato.int/cps/da/natohq/topics_113694.htm

I do appreciate that there can be cross-over between the five threads, notably how this NATO mission interacts with the ANSF and Afghan politics.

There are a large number of now closed, relevant threads on the ISAF experience and amongst the most recent are:

1) Green on Blue (causes and responses): http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=14506
2) Afghan Exit:why, how and more in country and beyond: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=16907

There are a good number of threads on particular national contributions before 2015, notably by Australia, Canada, France, Holland, the UK and the USA.

Just how the relationship works is currently IMHO unclear, will the relatively new Afghan national government survive without external "boots on the ground" - even if some of them are in the air above.

12-23-2015, 04:34 AM
Ahmed Rashid once more is forthright on Afghanistan's dire future, let alone the implications for the region and beyond. The article from 'The Spectator' is now two weeks old, so predates the Taliban's reported success @ Sangin, Helmand Province on another Afghan thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=21566&page=2

He opens with, with my emphasis:
Amid all the chaos in the Middle East, the breakdown of borders and states, a new threat is fast emerging. The key strategic bulwark to stabilise the region is a strong Afghanistan. But after 15 years of occupation by western troops and a trillion dollars spent, it now appears to be going the way of the Levant.

A weak government in Kabul has proved unable to forge a political consensus. The Taleban is resurgent, while other similar groups control much of the Afghan country-side. And this — with the potential spread factor of Isis — means that Afghanistan is probably worse off today than when foreign forces intervened in 2001. You will read very little about this problem, because Afghanistan is now regarded by most western leaders as an old problem, one that dogged their predecessors, one that they don’t want to confront. But expect to hear more about Afghanistan over the next year, because a bad situation is turning much worse.

For those who seek detail try the summary on the latest CSIS report, even more depressing on a quick read 'losing, not lost':http://csis.org/publication/afghanistan-year-after-transition-losing-war-every-level

01-29-2016, 01:04 PM
Hat to tip to WoTR for this challenging, short article 'Do We Know What We Are Doing in Afghanistan This Year? by MG Eric T. Olson and he asks:
So those who are looking for some understanding of how things are going and exactly what we are now doing in Afghanistan must search elsewhere. And to make sense of the critical decisions that will be made in 2016, such an understanding is essential.

Personally I cannot see any US President - given the legacy of 9/11, the ejection of AQ from Afghanistan and simply still being there - in whatever format and number - leaving.

04-03-2016, 10:44 AM
Hamid Hussain, an occasional SWJ contributor, has a short piece 'Present Through the Prism of the Past' linking the US General John W. Nicholson Jnr, who is now the US commander in Afghanistan and his Imperial era relative Brigadier General Nicholson:
...though separated by a span of 170 years, both share some interesting characteristics and association with Afghanistan and Pushtuns. Both are men of two different eras. Hamid adds: Facts are sometimes stranger than fiction. Enjoy.

General John W. Nicholson Jr. took command of U.S. troops in Afghanistan on 02 March 2016. His father General John Nicholson also served as general officer of United States army. John’s career in U.S. army followed the usual path of other fellow general officers. However, he has some qualities which put him above his peers. On September 11, 2001 his office at Pentagon was destroyed when Flight 77 crashed into Pentagon. John was not in his office that day as he was moving to a new house. Later, a significant portion of his military career was linked with Afghanistan. His first tour of the country was command of 3rd Brigade Combat Team in eastern Afghanistan. His second tour was Deputy Commander of Regional Command South and third tour as Deputy Chief of Staff of commander of US forces in Afghanistan. In between, he also served as Director of Afghanistan-Pakistan Coordination Cell at Pentagon.

In 2007, then Colonel John Nicholson was commanding 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 10th Mountain Division and deployed in eastern Afghanistan. 3rd Brigade Combat Team was headquartered in Jalalabad and responsible for four provinces; Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman. On March 2007, a Marine Special Operations platoon was hit by a suicide bomber near the village of Spinpul on the main highway near Jalalabad. Only one soldier had a minor wound but soldiers opened indiscriminate fire while driving down the road killing several civilians. John was commanding Task Force Spartan and the incident happened in his area of operations. He offered apology to local elders and in a statement to the local media, John apologized stating that "We are filled with grief and sadness at the death of any Afghan, but the death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hand of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people." Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway, many other officers and Congressman Walter Jones criticized John for offering apology. In March 2016, when he landed in Afghanistan as commander of US forces, his first visit was to Kunduz where he apologized to local Afghans for the tragic mistake of last October when a hospital was hit by an air strike killing innocent civilians. These acts show the moral courage of the officer to stand up and admit mistakes publicly.

According to Carlotta Gall, General John W. Nicholson Jr. is a distant relative of a legendary figure of the Raj Brigadier General John Nicholson. Though separated by a span of 170 years, both share some interesting characteristics and association with Afghanistan and Pushtuns. Both are men of two different eras.

John Nicholson; a sixteen year old Irishman set sail for India in 1839 to join 41st Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) in Benares. In December of that year he was transferred to the 27th Bengal Native Infantry and he joined his regiment in March 1840 then stationed at the border town of Ferozpur. In early 1841, 27th BNI was ordered to Afghanistan to relieve 16th BNI. Nicholson arrived in Jalalabad with his regiment; a town where his distant relative with same name would base his headquarters one hundred and seventy years later. He then moved on to Ghazni to relieve 16th BNI. In March 1841, Nicholson drew his sword in the most disadvantageous circumstances against Afghans in Ghazni. After the fall of Ghazni, he was captured by Afghans.

He marched back with his regiment from Afghanistan to Meerut. He was a commissariat officer during Anglo-Sikh wars and he was present at Mudki, Ferozshah and Sobraon. After annexation of Punjab in 1849, many young officers serving under Henry Lawrence were dispatched to administer newly acquired territories of East India Company.

Four Nicholson brothers served and died in India. Alexander Nicholson was killed during retreat from Kabul and buried by his brother John. William Maxwell Nicholson joined Bombay Native Infantry regiment and died at Sukkhar at the age of twenty in June 1849. Charles Nicholson was commissioned in 31st Bengal Native Infantry. He was with his brother John during siege of Delhi in 1857 and both brothers were lying next to each other in a hospital tent. John with a mortal wound and Charles with right arm amputated. Charles died in 1862 when he was going to take command of a Gurkha battalion.

Nicholson of the nineteenth century had the advantage that other young men destined to become legends were his companions in the arduous task while Nicholson of twenty first century doesn’t have that advantage. When Nicholson took charge of Rawalpindi district, George Lawrence became deputy commissioner in Peshawar, James Abbott in Hazara, and Reynell Taylor in Bannu; while Herbert Edwards came a little while later to take charge of Peshawar. Later, Nicholson served as Deputy Commissioner of Bannu and Peshawar.

In the dark early days of 1857 mutiny, when Nicholson reached the Delhi ridge, some of the best soldiers of the Company were encamped there. The list included Alexander Taylor (later General) Neville Chamberlain (later Field Marshall), William Hodson (father of famous Hodson Horse regiment still on ORBAT of Indian army), John Coke (later Major General and father of Coke’s Rifles; now 7 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army), Henry Daly (later General and father of 1 Punjab Cavalry that after many re-organizations now 11 PAVO Cavalry of Pakistan army) and Frederick Roberts (later Field Marshal).

In 1849, a small group of Hindu devotees declared Nicholson a new incarnation of God and start worshipping him. The sect was called Nikalsainis. Nicholson was puritan and had his followers flogged and imprisoned for the blasphemous act. However, they took the punishment like martyrs, and the more they suffered at his hands, the louder would they chant their hymns in honor of the mighty Nikalsain. Not many colonial masters can claim to be worshipped by natives.

John Nicholson resented all plundering of the people by an army in the field. After the battle of Chillianwallah, he flogged many soldiers for plundering. He wrote to his master Sir Henry Lawrence asking for powers of Provost Marshall and declaring that ‘If I get them, rely on my bringing the army to its senses in two days’. In 1854, chief commissioner John Lawrence was touring the Trans-Indus frontier. Captain Young husband commanded the body of frontier police which formed his escort. Suddenly, a very angry Nicholson appeared. Behind him came his orderly, leading a gold-laced, scarlet-coated jamadar of chuprassies (native assistants). He told Lawrence that the scoundrel was taking commission for the supplies brought into this camp. Nicholson then announced that “I am going to flog him. You have no objection, have you?” The jamadar was publicly flogged and the people of that district knew that the new Sherrif in town was just who will not tolerate the greed and tyranny of even his own. This was the reason that John Nicholson was not popular with his brother officers. Same is true to some extent about the John Nicholson of twenty first century.

John Nicholson recruited local Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims and Pathans for military and police duties. He earned their respect and admiration and was not averse to taking risks. When present day John Nicholson was commanding 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 10th Mountain Division in eastern Afghanistan, he was not very risk averse. He established several Forward Operation Bases (FOBs) and Combat Out Posts (COPs) and coordinated with locals. Muhammad Hayat Khan was orderly of John Nicholson. His father Fateh Khan had served Nicholson and died on the side of his master during attack on Margalla tower in 1848. Hayat was serving with Peshawar police when mutiny broke out and throughout the campaigns he remained with Nicholson. He was with Nicholson at the time of latter’s death. In nineteenth century India, loyalty was personal. Hayat family produced many army officers. Lieutenant General ® Ahsan Azhar Hayat of Pakistan army belongs to that family. Present day John Nicholson doesn’t have the luxury of having such loyal natives. In twenty first century, the nature of loyalty is changed. Many patriotic Afghans left the life of comfort in North America and Europe to make a difference and many died in Afghanistan.

04-03-2016, 10:45 AM
Part 2:
John Nicholson of twenty first century is appointed in a war theatre at a challenging time. In one generation, United States saw defeat of two field armies and there are many reasons for that. Army marches and retreat on the orders of political masters. American public was tired of two prolonged wars and the bill was put on credit card. In view of economic recession and negative public opinion, no political leader could sell the war, therefore President Obama pulled back military from both theatres.

All kinds of passengers climb on when the war train leaves the station. Passenger list usually includes patriots, true believers, idealists, opportunists, thieves, carpet baggers, charlatans, jugglers and fortune tellers. John’s job is now essentially to keep a lid on violence to an extent that it does not disrupt routine function of Afghanistan government. The role of soldiers in this exercise is limited to training, logistical and air support and intelligence. The most difficult task which John will share with his diplomatic colleagues is to mediate between rival Afghan ruling elite. He will need patience of Job to perform this task. He may ponder over the advice of T. E. Lawrence that “It is their war and you are to help them not to win it for them”. In dealing with local Afghans, he may ponder over the statement of John Nicholson of nineteenth century, "Never remove a native official unless you know that you can replace him by a better one, otherwise you will get an equally stupid or corrupt man, minus the experience of his predecessor.

08-27-2016, 11:10 AM
Sometimes news from Afghanistan is reported, mainly about Kabul and sometimes Helmand Province - which is rarely IMHO good news.

Now Professor Paul Rogers latest review of the Afghan security situation includes one surprise and one long expected:https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-war-dynamic? (https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-war-dynamic?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5761008418-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-5761008418-407365113)

So it was this week with a report at the bottom of an inside page of a leading military journal (http://www.janes.com/article/63067/b-52-bombers-re-join-us-campaign-in-afghanistan): “B-52 bombers rejoin US campaign in Afghanistan”. .....but has now been absent from the scene for a decade as other bombers, including the B-1B, took its place. Now the B-52, with its heavy payload of ordnance, is back at the centre of the United States's air campaign. Since April, deployed (https://www.airforcetimes.com/articles/b-52s-arrive-in-qatar-to-join-bombing-campaign-against-isis) from the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, B-52s have conducted more than 325 strikes in almost 270 sorties, using over 1,300 weapons.The cited journal article is partly available:http://www.janes.com/article/63067/b-52-bombers-re-join-us-campaign-in-afghanistan

The second is more complicated and very political in the region, not that India's role has not been silent and there is an old, closed thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=3166

Now he reports:
The Afghans also have equipment problems, made worse by a shortage of spares for their Russian-made equipment, which US sanctions against Russia make it hard (http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/weapons/2016/08/11/india-afghanistan-nicholson-russia-us-sanctions/88556746/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%208.12.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief) to replace. The US has turned to India, formerly a major importer of Russian military hardware, to help meet the gap. That may make sense to the Pentagon, but in turn it feeds suspicion in Pakistan that closer Indian-Afghan ties will threaten (http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/Dont-let-India-use-your-soil-against-us-Pakistan-tells-Afghanistan/2016/08/25/article3596804.ece) Islamabad's position in the country.The cited journal article:http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/weapons/2016/08/11/india-afghanistan-nicholson-russia-us-sanctions/88556746/? (http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/weapons/2016/08/11/india-afghanistan-nicholson-russia-us-sanctions/88556746/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%208.12.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief)

08-28-2016, 11:56 PM


02-20-2017, 08:14 AM
After the end of ISAF and for many a change of role (to advise & assist) we now have the request for 3more troops, from NATO & USA, as indicated by General Nicholson.

I was struck by this Afghan veteran's article, with this sentence:
But one can virtually guarantee that by repeating the military strategies we’ve used since 9/11, our efforts will fail.Link:https://warisboring.com/how-to-lose-the-war-in-afghanistan-a16ab6336f95#.fseu4opt9

Or does this call mean more contractors?
The vast majority of those troops have returned home; there are 8,400 troops in country now (plus 26,000 military contractors, 9,474 of whom are U.S. citizens).Link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/being-honest-about-us-military-strategy-in-afghanistan

Can there be a 'victory' or is a 'stalemate' enough - for the USA? As another observer remarked in 2015 are we 'losing' or 'lost'. Horribly fitting is Ahmed Rashid's remark:Afghanistan is probably worse off today than when foreign forces intervened in 2001 (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/Afghanistan is probably worse off today than when foreign forces intervened in 2001)

There are 300 threads in this arena and some IIRC have debated the issues involved. Perhaps President Trump and his advisers have better answer.

02-28-2017, 09:56 AM
Hat tip to WoTR for this article, which rightly asks:
a more fundamental question deserves serious scrutiny: Could a renewed U.S. commitment of additional troops help turn a corner in Afghanistan?

03-08-2017, 07:20 PM
More than 30 people have been killed after attackers dressed as doctors stormed the largest military hospital in Kabul, Afghan officials say.
Militants armed with guns and grenades gained entry after one detonated explosives at a hospital gate and then opened fire on staff and patients.
Commandos who landed on the Sardar Daud hospital roof killed all four attackers after several hours of fighting.


04-14-2017, 04:32 AM
This CENTCOM spokesman's comments are insane and so is the fact that he was granted anonymity to make them http://thehill.com/policy/defense/328781-why-the-us-dropped-the-mother-of-all-bombs-in-afghanistan#…

THIS is exactly just how naïve this CENTCOM is...in VN the NVA/VC had underground bunkers that resisted shelling's and direct bombing that were destroyed by B52 strikes. of 15tons on three oases that virtually killed most inside those bunkers by blast waves...the same thing is just as easily done in AFG against caves..actually in the end far more effective than a single bomb...

This shows me that you have a leadership generation that tends to agree with Trumpo's thinking and that is dangerous....there must be a true civilian control of the military not vice versa....

ALSO explains just how they can overlook the simple facts that they have been arming and training and providing CAs and SOF support to multiple US named terrorist groups inside Syria..the Communist Kurdish PKK...Iranian Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia Hezbollah....

04-14-2017, 08:12 AM
Not exactly sure just what/who a single 11 ton bomb is suppose to impress.....

From 2003, worth noting MOAB has been seen as a PSYOPS tool.

Twitter needs to Stop being weird about the 11-ton MOAB. For some perspective, here is a B-52 starting to drop 81 1,000 pound bombs.

Now a three B52 flight "arch light strike" gets everyone's attention.......and that for miles.......even the North Vietnamese Army had a high respect of an "arch light strike".....as did the Iraqi Army in Kuwait....

Was caught once inside the danger close range of an arch light drop and the ground had three foot high waves rippling for minutes much like a major earthquake...now that get's your attention....

WOW...a whole 36 killed.....and that works out to be exactly 611.11 pounds of explosive per killed IS fighter.....NOW if we look at the cost factor THEN Trump used roughly 104M USDs per killed IS fighter....

Sounds like a great "win" for Trump's show.....

I am counting 36 as the report says AT least...well it could have been far fewer actually....

US military's largest non-nuclear bomb killed at least 36 militants of the Islamic State group, Afghan officials say

Not so sure that figure is even correct unless one did immediate BDA on the ground afterwards.....

US President Donald Trump had earlier called the mission "very, very successful."

AFG Sources "We don't know anything about the casualties so far, but since it is a Daesh (IS) stronghold we think a lot of Daesh fighters may have been killed."

04-14-2017, 09:21 AM
The threads in this arena have been reviewed and seven threads, several with high views, have been merged here and the title changed to reflect the continuing debate over a US and allied role in Afghanistan.

The catalyst was the big bomb being used on an ISIS outpost; so several posts elsewhere will appear here soon.

04-14-2017, 01:56 PM
The threads in this arena have been reviewed and seven threads, several with high views, have been merged here and the title changed to reflect the continuing debate over a US and allied role in Afghanistan.

The catalyst was the big bomb being used on an ISIS outpost; so several posts elsewhere will appear here soon.

Are you going to merge my thread/post on Afghnistan in 2017 and RE: Russian-Taliban relations?

04-14-2017, 02:24 PM
Are you going to merge my thread/post on Afghnistan in 2017 and RE: Russian-Taliban relations?


No, as I have moved it to this thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=21569 which covers non-NATO and other neighbours role in Afghanistan.

SWJ Blog
04-22-2017, 08:45 AM
Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Afghan Army Base, Kill More Than 100 (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/taliban-fighters-infiltrate-afghan-army-base-kill-more-than-100)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/taliban-fighters-infiltrate-afghan-army-base-kill-more-than-100) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

05-11-2017, 06:05 PM
By Javid Ahmad for the Modern War Institute at WestPoint: https://mwi.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Dress-Like-Allies-Kill-Like-Enemies.pdf

Executive Summary

Insider attacks—attacks by insurgents posing as Afghan police or military personnel against local or international forces—have become an important threat to the American and NATO personnel in Afghanistan. “We’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign. But we are not willing to be murdered for it,” as Gen. John R. Allen, then commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, put it in 2012. Since 2007, insider attacks have resulted in the death of at least 157 NATO personnel and 557 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The attacks have affected the public narrative of
the Afghan war in the United States and partner countries and have sown a degree of distrust between NATO troops and ANDSF as they struggle to fight a common enemy. Despite the last sixteen years of engagement in Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO partners still fumble when trying to communicate with Afghans.

This report makes two claims:

• First, it argues that insider attacks are an outcome of cultural friction. Often attacks are the product of a perceived insult, a cultural gaffe, or a small misstep that in the minds of certain Afghan forces take on much greater significance.

• Second, the report claims that increasingly after 2011, insider attacks became the preferred warfighting tactic of the Taliban, an organization that understood well how to apply limited resources for maximum effect. In fact, despite a reputation for cultural myopia, the Taliban’s use of insider attacks reveals that the group understood US military and political culture and domestic sensitivities far better than some imagined. Using ANDSF personnel to attack American and NATO personnel was in effect a “cultural weapon” that targeted two weakness in the US civil-military apparatus: a deep aversion to casualties and the need to believe in benevolent narratives about why Americans fight.

This report explains the scope of the insider threat and its underlying causes, conceptualizes the cultural context of the insider attacks, and examines their impact on the Afghan mission strategy and its implications for future US engagement in Afghanistan.

Moderator adds: the main thread on this theme has been closed, it is:Green on Blue: causes and responses (merged thread) (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/Green on Blue: causes and responses (merged thread))

06-21-2017, 04:25 PM
By Christine Fair at War On The Rocks: https://warontherocks.com/2017/06/pakistans-anxieties-are-incurable-so-stop-trying-to-cure-them/


For the last 16 years, the Washington policy community has debated how the United States should deal with its problematic partner in its war in Afghanistan: Pakistan. During the Obama administration, there was a growing consensus that Pakistan was the problem, even if there was no agreement on how to manage it. Despite disagreements, at the end of the Obama administration, there was a grudging acknowledgment that the Washington needed to show some real stick while pulling back on the carrots. In apparent protest to this growing conviction that a more coercive suite of policies is needed, on June 16, Steve Hadley and Moeed Yusuf argued in The New York Times that any successful U.S. strategy in Afghanistan requires the “United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties,” which center around India and its neuralgic fantasies about India’s imagined pernicious role in Afghanistan. Both men should know better. This argument is not only flawed — it is deadly. Not only can the United States not address Pakistani anxieties, but U.S. efforts to do so have undermined vital U.S. interests in the region.


Pakistan created its own anxieties with India by invading Kashmir and refusing to abide by UNSCR 47

Bush (George W.) tried to appease Musharraf in order to secure stability in Afghanistan, yet the Pakistanis increased their support for the Taliban during this period

Afghanistan’s opposition to Pakistan’s inclusion in the UNGA and claims on Pashtun and Balochi areas of northern Pakistan helped spur the latter to use Islamist terrorists to stage cross-border subversion and guerrilla warfare against Afghanistan

Pakistan only received a slap on the wrist when $300 million of $1 billion in military funding was withheld by the U.S.

Pakistan needs to be held accountable for its support of the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists, which have attacked India, the U.S. and American interests

07-11-2017, 08:08 PM
WoTR have rightly asked how can the USA and allies campaign in Afghanistan when all the best routes to supply the war pass through less than friendly nations: Iran, Pakistan and the 'stans.

There is a closed thread on the issues (closed in 2013):Supply routes to Afghanistan (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/Supply routes to Afghanistan)

Oddly I cannot recall any public commentary on the requirement for overflying Pakistan, for combat missions; whether from bases in the region (Diego Garcia and Qatar for starters) or from aircraft carriers.

07-28-2017, 01:16 PM
Another commentary by Professor Paul Rogers, which after a week of violence and takes an optimistic outlook, if goodwill and more prevails:
The main conclusion of In Afghanistan: more is not the answer (http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers_and_reports/afghanistan_more_not_answer) (5 July 2017) is that the stalemate may hold, providing Nato states continue to maintain support. But there is little evidence that inserting several thousand more troops, as Trump may do, will have any substantive effec (https://opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/trump-s-wars-more-to-come)t. A potentially much more effective strategy would be an effort by multiple parties, including Nato states, Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, India, and of course Afghanistan itself. The required focus would be an integrated commitment to working together, with the aim of negotiating (https://www.usip.org/blog/2017/07/afghanistan-strategy-put-peace-talks-fore) towards de-escalation.Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-despairthen-imagine?

SWJ Blog
11-11-2017, 09:18 PM
Iran Sent Them to Syria. Now Afghan Fighters Are a Worry at Home. (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/iran-sent-them-to-syria-now-afghan-fighters-are-a-worry-at-home)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/iran-sent-them-to-syria-now-afghan-fighters-are-a-worry-at-home) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

12-03-2017, 08:08 PM
The Islamic State terror group beheaded 15 of its own fighters Thursday due to infighting in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, while a suicide attack in another part of the country left at least eight people dead.
The fighters were executed in the Surkh Ab bazaar of Achin district along the country's border with Pakistan after infighting in the group, a spokesman for the provincial governor, Attaullah Khogyani, told Reuters.
There were no further details and the local branch of the terror group did not publicly announce the killings.

12-03-2017, 11:46 PM

01-30-2018, 01:06 PM
The Pentagon has barred an official watchdog from providing unclassified guideposts in his reports on the war, amid increasing violence in Kabul and signs that Afghan forces aren’t gaining ground against the Taliban despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to send more U.S. troops.

For the first time since 2009, the Defense Department didn’t let the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction release his assessments of Afghan force strength or of territory that’s held by the government, lost to the Taliban or contested, John Sopko said in his latest quarterly report.


01-31-2018, 01:58 PM
As AdamG's previous post the restrictions on SIGAR reporting has attracted attention and criticism. One part of the report concerns:
public data on specific districts in Afghanistan, such as the number of people living there, "controlled or influenced by the Afghan government or by the insurgents, or contested by both."Link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/new-us-watchdog-report-bleak-us-results-in-afghanistan

So the BBC World Service has a report whose title suggests why the restriction was made:
Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds (and the sub-title) Taliban fighters, whom US-led forces spent billions of dollars trying to defeat, are now openly active in 70% of AfghanistanThere are two maps on the Taliban's presence and a second for ISIS by district.



02-11-2018, 08:34 PM
Steve Coll has this article today, taken from his new book: Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016. It is sub-titled:
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is in its 17 th year, with no end in sight. We can see now, writes Steve Coll, that the framework of Canadian policy – security, reconstruction and active diplomacy – was the right one

Looking back enables him to write, harshly about today:
Today, in the American-led war's 17th year, U.S. and allied Afghan forces are still digging that hole in the ocean, hoping against all historical evidence that they can make enough progress on the battlefield to force the Taliban into a political settlement acceptable to most Afghans. The Trump administration has suspended aid to Pakistan in the hope that it will pressure the ISI to change course. The reaction in Pakistan since that announcement has been one of deep nationalist defiance......Instead, NATO failed to see what was coming out of Pakistan until it was too late and succumbed to hubristic American strategy dominated by a Pentagon that repeatedly overestimated its capacity to change the course of the war. In its blindness, the alliance failed the many Afghans who relied on its power and promises.
Link:https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canada-had-it-right-when-it-comes-to-afghanistan/article37917216/? (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canada-had-it-right-when-it-comes-to-afghanistan/article37917216/?utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links)

There is a closed thread on the Canadians in Afghanistan:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=1071

07-21-2018, 06:37 PM
This article is from 'Task & Purpose' and the author has written on SWJ before: General Bolduc, former CO SOCOM Africa. He opens with; his emphasis retained:

When I question and challenge our policy and strategy I acknowledge that our tactical level units have performed admirably, but our policymakers and senior general officers, as well as flag officers, have failed them. 2018 must be the year of change in our policy, strategy, leadership, and approach or we will never get off this road we have been on for the past 17 plus years. The missteps in Afghanistan and other places have been significant. Our senior civilians, policy makers and senior military leaders at the 4, 3, and 2-star level over three Administrations are responsible for the failures in policy, strategy and operational approach. We ignored the results even though numerous studies told us our approach was wrong.

(Later) Despite our senior leader’s efforts to portray the war as an American victory, the United States is not going to defeat the Taliban, other groups, and ISIS anytime soon.

From this distant armchair I cannot see the US establishment will meet his challenge. Since the UK has recently declared another 400 soldiers deploy to Kabul, we will be there too.

There are 131 comments and quite a civilised exchange too (I rarely read Task & Purpose).

07-28-2018, 09:53 AM
An article by a Forum member on National Interest website, that ends with:
If negotiations yield a long-term ceasefire and a window for a U.S. withdrawal, President Trump should leap at the chance to bring the remaining 14,000 American troops home. There are other actors in the region—Russia and Iran foremost among them—who have a vested interest in keeping the Taliban from dominating Afghanistan. If Afghanistan does revert to the control of a hostile theocracy, we retain the ability to return and punish or even overthrow a regime as quickly as we did in 2002. U.S. security policy in Afghanistan should be governed by “butcher and bolt,” not “you break it, you buy it.”

(https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/can-trump-get-america-out-afghanistan-26886)For the USA I see the issues of an exit is intensely political. This is in part due to this being a 'Long War', with all the sacrifices made and the belief the 9/11 attackers came from Afghanistan - not Hamburg and Saudi Arabia. Yes they were inspired and aided by AQ in Afghanistan.

Long ago there was the US exit from South Vietnam, under a Republican President.

It does seem strange that "butcher and bolt" is the best course. Which of course is what the British decided was the best policy in the Imperial era.

If you look at the Soviet exit that was negotiated and passed off without attacks. Few expected Najibullah to hang for years. Will the GIRoA stay at home or seek refuge abroad - not next door, further afield?

08-02-2018, 07:54 PM
A puzzling article on the private diplomacy underway between two Americans, one ex-US Army and a retired diplomat with the Taliban in Doha. Recently joined by a DoS official. Just why this in the public domain eludes me.

Bill Moore
08-24-2018, 07:24 PM
Bill Roggio pens a damning article on GEN Nicholson's grossly excessive rosy assessment on progress in Afghanistan. It isn't hard to believe that a General Officer would offer such a rosy assessment, since its frowned upon to admit failure, but it is from failure that we learn and adjust. As for the psychological aspect, in no way are we convincing the Taliban we're winning by simply stating we're winning. I would recommend readers focus on MG Bolduc's assessment, which is more intellectually honest than GEN Nicholson's recent comments.

We can have an enduring strategy in S. Asia to advance our national interests, but Americans only have so much tolerance for a snake oil sales pitch. I suspect GEN Miller will provide a more sober assessment and valid recommendations based on ground truth.


Analysis: Gen. Nicholson says US strategy in Afghanistan ‘is working,’ despite the facts

stonishingly, Nicholson described the Feb. 14 letter as one of two “peace offers,” when it is anything but. The other peace offer was by Afghan president Arshaf Ghani, which the Taliban has flatly ignored.

Nicholson’s reading of the two letters is wrong. In the first letter, the Taliban said the only acceptable outcome in Afghanistan is for the US to quit so it can restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of its government. In the second letter, from last week, Mullah Habaitullah again demanded the withdrawal of American forces and criticized religious gatherings for ruling that the conflict is a civil war between Afghans.

Several other correct statements/assessments, then:

Additionally, Nicholson discounted the Taliban’s mastery of rural areas and even wrongly claimed that attacks in these areas “fail.”

Except, the Taliban is able to hold ground, and routinely is successful in its operations in rural areas. The Taliban controls at least 48 of Afghanistan 407 districts and contests another 197, according to a study by FDD’s Long War Journal. Resolute Support claims the Taliban controls around 11 districts, but these numbers are unreliable. Recently, in Ghazni province, The New York Times discovered that the districts centers in five districts under Taliban control were moved to Ghazni City in order to hide the fact that they were indeed Taliban controlled. When challenged, he corrected his assessment and admitted the Taliban control most of the population.

More spin, or a just a different interpretation?

At the end of July, the Taliban assaulted the Islamic State Khorasan province’s stronghold in the province of Jawzjan. The Taliban completely routed the Islamic State, killing more than 200 fighters and capturing scores more. The remaining Islamic State fighters, more than 250 of them, then surrendered to the Afghan government.

Astonishingly, Nicholson cast this as a victory for the Afghan government.

08-24-2018, 07:45 PM

There also a critique of the current US strategy on Politico and the opening sentence is:
The troops waging America's 17-year-old war in Afghanistan are confronting a puzzle: What has become of the enemy who drew them there?

The author's Twitter has a long, penetrating expose of SOF operations targeting AQ which IMHO is worth a read. See @wesleysmorgan

09-22-2018, 10:21 AM
A "long read" in Newsweek on whether President Trump will end the Afghan intervention and how it might work out - as we approach the 17th anniversary of the US (and others) taking action pos-9/11.

10-04-2018, 05:50 PM
Real Clear Defence article that I personally cannot fault.

10-18-2018, 09:46 PM
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan somehow escaped unscathed from a bloody "insider attack" in the country Thursday that claimed the lives of three important local leaders and wounded a duo of Americans who had gathered for a high-level meeting at the Kandahar Province governor's mansion.

Officials said Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. general in the war-torn country, had been at the meeting but was unharmed, U.S. officials said. It was not immediately clear if Miller was in the room when the shooting began, with some local media reporting the general had left only minutes before.


12-31-2018, 06:44 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Sunday that withdrawing up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there would reduce the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal after more than 17 years of war.

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the U.S. has “basically traded away the biggest leverage point we have.” McChrystal’s comments were in response to reports that President Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to develop plans to withdraw thousands of American troops by next summer. Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis mentioned the order in his resignation letter. Mattis’ last day in the administration is Monday.

The U.S. and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but American and allied troops remain, conducting strikes on the Islamic State group and the Taliban and working to train and build the Afghan military.

“If you tell the Taliban that we are absolutely leaving on date certain, cutting down, weakening ourselves, their incentives to try to cut a deal drop dramatically,” McChrystal said on ABC’s “This Week.”

McChrystal also said he’s worried that the Afghan people will lose confidence in the U.S. as an ally that can be counted on.

“I think we probably rocked them,” said McChrystal, who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for about a year.

He also was critical of President Donald Trump personally, saying he doesn’t believe Trump tells the truth. The comment came when asked what he would say if he were asked to join the Trump administration.

“I think it’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it,” he said.

When asked if Trump is immoral, McChrystal responded: “I think he is.”

It’s not the first time he’s criticized a sitting president. President Barack Obama accepted McChrystal’s resignation in June 2010 after he made scathing remarks in a magazine article about administration officials, including about Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

McChrystal says that "withdrawing up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there would reduce the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal after more than 17 years of war."

Would like to hear from the experts among us on whether it is time to cut and run, or should we stay the course. I have very strong opinions on this but would like to hear from others before I ramble on...

01-04-2019, 06:15 PM
An 'exclusive' from The Cipher Brief after a NYT report (which I have not read). It is added here as some unusual insight is given on the operation of CIA-led and financed Afghan para-military forces.

A paragraph "taster":
In my experience, this contrasts with parts of the Afghan police and military. Generally, they are not as well paid, trained, or led, as their Afghan partners in the intelligence units, and may turn to corruption, extortion, or collusion; often merely to survive. In a case mentioned in the article, a CIA-trained unit allegedly killed the senior law enforcement officer in Kandahar in an effort to free a colleague that had been detained on criminal charges. Another perspective on that story may be that the soldier had been kidnapped by the police for extortion. When the CIA-trained unit arrived to negotiate his release, one of the nervous and poorly-trained police officers fired accidentally. In the exchange that followed, several police were killed and the strike force left without a wounded man. To consider that the cause of the soldier’s arrest may have been corruption, and the deaths of the police may have been the result of extremely poor judgement and marksmanship, even after years of training and investment, is a far greater embarrassment for (nearly) all concerned than a tidy narrative of rogue Afghans trained by knuckle-dragging CIA contractors.

01-11-2019, 05:52 PM
An article from mid-December 2018 which was circulated on Twitter today by CCW @ Oxford. I have seen a little of the information before, in places it is shocking. Here are a couple of "tasters":
in the 2010 legislative elections, 664 candidates ran for 33 lower house seats in Kabul Province. ... 21 of 33 candidates were elected with less than 1% of vote. Countrywide only 35% of Afghan voters voted for a winning candidate.
The Afghan government is not perceived as legitimate by the people, does a poor job of service delivery, and cannot close its borders and crack down on dissent and revolt through authoritarian repression. How, then, can it succeed?

01-16-2019, 01:22 PM
Two small, recent threads have been merged in today. Both referred to President Trump's view on Afghanistan and a comment by ret'd General McCrystal. They had just under 1800 views.