The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Update for Thursday, October 15, 2015

It looks like this blog will be around for a while, as President Obama announces U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan, and will engage in combat against al Qaeda. [Apparently bombing Taliban and hospitals is not "combat."] The current force level of 9,800 will be maintained through "most of next year," with a reduction to 5,000 to follow. However, no date for full withdrawal is proposed.

Oh, about those "non-combat" drone strikes. The Intercept has another leaker who provides details on the drone war. [Warning: Annoying GIF at the link that may cause an epileptic seizure.] For those who prefer a summary, The Hill hits the high points:

According to documents leaked to The Intercept, the Operation Haymaker campaign killed 219 people between January 2012 and February 2013, but only 35 were the intended targets. 
During one five-month stretch of the campaign, nearly nine out of 10 people who died in airstrikes were not direct targets, The Intercept reported. 
All 200 deaths, however, were declared "EKIA," or “enemy killed in action," even though there was no definitive evidence they were enemy targets. 
“If there is no evidence that proves a person killed in a strike was either not a [military-age male], or was a MAM but not an unlawful enemy combatant, then there is no question,” said the source who leaked the documents to The Intercept. “They label them EKIA. 
“Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” the source continued. When “a drone strike kills more than one person, there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate. … So it’s a phenomenal gamble.”
Collateral damage, don't you know.

And MSF has a new complaint, that a U.S. tank forced its way into the bombed out Kunduz hospital, evidently in order to investigate. However, 

MSF was not informed in advance and did not give permission for the intrusion. "The incident violated an agreement with investigators that MSF "would be given notice before each step of the procedure involving the organization's personnel and assets."
"Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear," it said in a statement, adding that an MSF team had arrived at the hospital earlier in the day.

MSF has also raised the death toll from the bombing to 24, saying that 2 missing staff members are presumed dead.

Tom Engelhart on the massive failure of intelligence that led to the Kunduz debacle.

NYT's Allisa Rubin on the Taliban's war on women in Kunduz. "In a methodical campaign, the Taliban relentlessly hounded women with any sort of public profile, looted a high school and destroyed the offices of many of the organizations that protected and supported women in Kunduz." Many leaders of women's programs and causes in Kunduz will not return due to threats.


Anonymous said...

There are no US aircraftcarriers in the middle East.Any thoughts on this?

he USA has pulled the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) out of the Persian Gulf and that, for the first time in many years, no US aircraft carrier will be patrolling these waters. In fact, there are currently no US aircraft carriers anywhere near the Middle-East.

Cervantes said...

The Theodore Roosevelt is currently in the north Arabian sea, on the way out of the area. The Harry S. Truman is said to be slated for deployment to the M.E. this year, with no date announced.

However, the U.S. has several air bases in the region, so there's no particular need for aircraft carriers. Air operations in the Middle East are carried out from al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait and al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. also now has use of Incirlik in Turkey.

The Ronald Reagan is now home ported in Japan, and the George Washington is in the Southeast Pacific. The rest of them are in drydock or homeport in the U.S., including the Stennis and Vinson which are on the West Coast. According to USNI news, the navy is catching up with deferred maintenance on the carrier fleet. "The emerging Optimized Fleet Response Plan would set a goal of seven-month carrier deployments as a part of a 36-month cycle to allow the crew, ships and aircraft of the CSG enough time to reset between deployments."

I suspect they just aren't worried about a couple of month gap before the Truman gets there as long as they can keep bombing from Qatar.

Cervantes said...

Here's more on the reduced carrier deployment schedule.

How to Stop Snoring: Cures, Remedies, Tips & Guide said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for that reply regarding the aircraftcarriers. I thought that maybe it had something to do with the recent Russian activity in Syria.Seems the Russians are going to set up a permanent military base their.

Cervantes said...

Yes, but the U.S. is definitely not interested in any military confrontation with Russia. Remember the U.S. already has several permanent military bases in the region, and the Russians already have a naval base in Syria, plus which of course they are already fairly close by anyway. When the Truman arrives the U.S. posture will be back to status quo.