Tuesday, December 22, 2015

AFG Slow Slide

Because it tends to put me in a funk, I try not to write too much about the latest in AFG. Mostly because it is going more or less as we thought it would if we signaled retreat - which we did when President Obama gave his West Point speech in DEC 09.

It is taking a bit longer that I thought, but it is getting there. The Taliban have been following Red Most Likely COA; they are being patient and husbanding their forces for the expected civil war that will follow once USA/NATO forces become ineffective.

They will continue to attack, pressure, and take advantage of openings when they see them. They will let us leave, but they will kick us in the tail as we go.

I was thinking it was time to catch up with the front porch after our most recent losses.
A suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into a joint convoy of U.S., NATO and Afghan forces on Monday, blowing himself up and killing six Americans, a brutal sign of deteriorating security in a region where Western troops are trying to help locals overtake the Taliban.

The explosion marked the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan since an October helicopter crash, and the worst attack on Americans since six died in a July 2012 roadside bombing, according to the website iCasualties.
Why? Because they can - and because the need to continue to have us bleed.

Via our friend Bill Roggio at LongWarJournal;
The Taliban overran a strategic district in Helmand the same day the deputy governor warned that the southern Afghan province was in danger of collapsing. Sangin District fell to the Taliban despite the involvement of US and British special operations forces as well as US air support in the province.

Afghan officials confirmed that the Taliban overran the Sangin district center and seized control of all of its administrative buildings and the police headquarters over the past 24 hours, Pajhwok Afghan News reported. An estimated 150 Afghan policemen retreated from the district center to a different area and remained surrounded by the Taliban. A member of Afghanistan’s parliament told the news agency that all police and military bases in Sangin are now under the Taliban’s control.

The Taliban has targeted Sangin for takeover since mid-2014. By August 2014, the situation in the district had deteriorated so dramatically that the Afghan military was negotiating with the Taliban to avoid being ejected from its administrative center. Last month, 65 Afghan soldiers and several of their officers in Sangin laid down their weapons and surrendered to the Taliban after their outpost was besieged for weeks without receiving reinforcements or supplies.

The Taliban seized control of Sangin the same day that Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, Helmand’s deputy governor, issued a plea for President Ashraf Ghani to take immediate action in the province. Rasulyar made his dramatic statement in a post on Facebook.

“Your Excellency, Helmand is standing on the brink and there is a serious need for you to come,” Rasulyar wrote, according to Reuters.

Rasulyar also issued a scathing indictment of the Afghan government, the military, and the international coalition, all of which have failed to support Helmand’s troops and policemen in the field.

“We don’t provide food and ammunition to our forces on time, do not evacuate our wounded and martyred soldiers from the battle field, and foreign forces only watch the situation from their bases and don’t provide support,” he wrote.

Rasulyar claimed 44 soldiers and policemen were killed in the fighting in Sangin, and another 90 were killed during recent fighting in Gereshk, a town in Nahr-i-Sarraj district that is in danger of falling to the Taliban. He explained that such high casualties are commonplace.
It gets worse. Though they are doing well, the Taliban are probably looking at the need for a branch plan because there is an unexpected by-product from other fecklessness via the US national security decision making leadership.
Islamic State militants are gaining a foothold in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, stoking concern among U.S. military leaders and fundamentally changing the nature of the insurgency here, top defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday made an unannounced visit to this remote base, one of the primary U.S. military outposts in eastern Afghanistan and one of the few slated to remain open indefinitely in this war-torn nation.

Carter came to talk with some of the 500 U.S. troops deployed here and to meet with senior military leaders for an up-close update on the mission during the wintertime fighting lull. It was one of his last stops on a week-long trip across the U.S. Central Command area of operations, where he is talking to commanders on the ground about progress in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Carter warned that Afghanistan faces many extremist and insurgent threats that include the Taliban, the remnants of al-Qaida, and most recently the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, ISIL or D’aesh.

“They are trying to create little nests wherever they feel there is an opportunity,” Carter said of ISIS. “We have some information that suggests they seem to find an opportunity here in Nangarhar. That is really good information to have because it will allow us to focus our efforts on what they are doing in Nangarhar and make sure they don’t have a nest here.”
SECDEF is giving you happy talk ... seriously, that is the positive spin. There is more info out there;
Malaika, vigorous in her late 50s, is one of three women who decided to stay behind to try to keep their homes.

“The poor woman is guarding the windows and the planks of the two rooms that remain,” her husband, Mullah Jan, said last month. Mr. Jan was held by the militants for two months until he paid them $500 ransom. “We had 10 goats and one cow. They took all of it.”

Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders, spoke on Wednesday in Geneva.Obama Issues Rare Apology Over Bombing of Doctors Without Borders Hospital in AfghanistanOCT. 7, 2015
When reports began emerging last year that some Afghan militants had shifted their allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the government and international response remained measured. Experts noted that in Afghanistan, the Islamic State represented more of a splintering of the Taliban than a major expansion of the core group out of Syria and Iraq.
But even as the Taliban are winning major victories against the government this year, including a 15-day takeover of Kunduz, they are not exerting monolithic control. The Islamic State has made major inroads in turf battles against Taliban commanders, particularly in places in Nangarhar Province like the Maamand Valley. And the result, rather than weakening the overall insurgency, has mostly been to inflict more chaos and misery for Afghan civilians.

The people in eastern Afghanistan were not sure what to make of it at first. To them, the shaggy-haired militants were largely the same old Taliban under a new black flag.

But one big difference soon became obvious: The fighters were suddenly flush with cash. Rumors circulated that they were paying a signing bonus of $400 to $500,...
So much that we did - and the core of the very doable "Shape Clear Hold Build" strategy that we had set up was all designed to avoid what is now happening.
The provincial deputy director for the Refugees and Repatriation Ministry, Ewaz Khan Basharat, said initial data showed that more than 17,000 families in Nangarhar had been displaced by the new group’s violence. Other officials and tribal elders estimate that the number is much higher.

Some of the worst atrocities have been reported in Achin District, where the Maamand Valley and Malaika’s village, Bagh, are.

The raiders demanded that villagers in the district submit a list of widows and unmarried girls. In some parts, they declared that marriages that had happened under government recognition were suddenly invalid, according to Zaiullah Amaray, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial council. At first, women were allowed to leave the house in burqas, but then were told not to leave at all.

“They said, ‘If anyone has young women or widows, we want to marry them off,’ ” recalled Aslam Jan, 60, who finally fled Achin this summer after decades of weathering every intrusion to come through. “The Russians invaded, I didn’t leave my home. The Americans invaded, I didn’t leave,” he said. “We had held up through everything. But we couldn’t give up our children.”
We are at the point that it would have been better had we done nothing. All that was gained was thrown away and now we will just sit here and watch all the blood and treasure that we and our allies invested just fade in to fetid, pink mist.
Early one evening in Bagh, Islamic State fighters marched dozens of elders up a mountain, where most of them remained captive for two months on charges of helping the Taliban and trying to rally a fight against the Islamic State. About two weeks in, 10 of them — including Malaika’s brother-in-law, Mohamed Younus — were taken to a lush hillside. More fighters arrived on horseback and began digging a large trench that was lined with explosives. The prisoners, hands tied and eyes covered, were herded in.

Their last moments, and the aftermath of the explosion that killed them, were captured by the militants’ video cameras from at least three angles. Two fighters can be seen igniting a long fuse at each of its ends before running out of the frame. A huge blast sends flesh and dirt flying against the camera lenses.

The Islamic State brutality in Achin was so extreme that some local Taliban commanders surrendered to the government, and some moved their families to displacement camps in government-controlled areas.

One man there, Laal Zaman, 55, said he had been with the Taliban “from the beginning.” But he insisted that his cell of the insurgency remained local, his guns strictly aimed against foreign forces. Even as he fought the international coalition, he said, four of his sons served in the Afghan Army in the country’s south.

Now, Mr. Zaman says he is doubly a target for the Islamic State: for being Taliban, and for having sons who are soldiers.
What can be done at this point?

I don't think much. There has been zero leadership of any substance to make progress since DEC 09. How could there? Any national will was left to die on the vine. There isn't any left. 

Even if the next President wanted to do something to repair the damage done, it would take at least 6-months to work a plan. That is the summer of '17. Get what you needed on on the ground to execute that plan, another year; that is the summer of '18. You need at least two fighting seasons to see if your initial plan is working; that is the summer of '20 when you can make Rev.1 of your plan based on observations of the two fighting seasons. That is optimistic ... and that would only be to see if you could halt the decay that has been in place since DEC 09.

In '05-09 we thought that it would be a decade long process to get AFG on its feet if we stuck with the plan. We stuck with it less than half of that. 

We are now worse off after six years of a slow retreat. Our allies have no stomach to do much of anything. The American people have used up their well of good will.

What can be done? As always, it starts at the POLMIL level. What is the direction and guidance? Right now it seems to be to hold it together until it is the next President's problem.

Someone tell me where they read something else.

As I have been saying for the last half decade; somewhere there is a young man or woman who will be this generation's H.R. McMaster. H.R. McMaster actual is busy in the belly of the beast ... so he can't do it.

There is a story here that will make the parade of shame from Vietnam look like a Pantheon of Honor. I do not think it will be done at an American university though - and it probably will not be done by an American - but there is a PhD and a book deal to be made on this horror show. 

I have hope for that story to be told, and I wait.

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