The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Update for Tuesday, January 29, 2019

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad says the U.S. and Taliban have agreed on the "draft of a framework" for a peace accord. While there has been a lot of excitement about this, I would have to say, don't hold your breath. For one thing, the Afghan government has had no part of this. For another, there is a pretty fundamental disagreement, which is that the Taliban are conditioning a ceasefire on a full withdrawal of U.S. troops, which obviously the U.S. will not agree to.

Afghan women are concerned about the preservation of gains women have made should the Taliban gain power in a peace deal.

Young, urban Afghans in general are concerned about reverses of social liberalization.

NATO pledges to remain with the U.S. in Afghanistan. Secretary General Stoltenberg also says that while NATO will not remain "longer than necessary," it will not allow Afghanistan to become a haven for international terrorists, which he describes as NATO's main objective in the country.

In an address to the nation, president Ghani asserts that the Afghan government must control the peace process.

New York Times reporters discuss the prospects for a peace agreement with various experts, who have concerns about the eventual outcome:

While current and former American diplomats and military officials voiced cautious optimism about the negotiations, they questioned whether the Taliban and the administration in Kabul would ever agree to a power-sharing arrangement, given that the Taliban still refuse even to speak to the government of President Ashraf Ghani. Some fear that the Taliban will seek to overthrow the government once the Americans are gone.

Do yuh think?

Many observers, including this one, see these developments as a concession of failure by the U.S. [Sooner or later you have to own up to it. -- C]

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Update for Thursday, January 24, 2019

DoD identifies U.S. service member killed in action in Afghanistan on Tuesday as Army Green Beret Sgt. First Class Joshua Beale of Carollton, VA. He was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was killed by small arms fire in Uruzgan province, "while on an operation to counter Taliban efforts." Note that we have been told publicly that U.S. forces are not engaged in combat operations against the Taliban, but only against IS and Al Qaeda, and that the U.S. has only an advise and assist mission against the Taliban. Evidently this is not true.

An air strike in Helmand province is said to kill 16 civilians, most of them women and children. It is not clear whether the operation was by Afghan or coalition forces, but one observer attributes it to the U.S.

Talks between U.S. and Taliban officials in Qatar entered a fourth day raising hopes for agreement on a cease fire and negotiations between the Taliban and the government.

Abdullah says the U.S. has reassured him that no final decision has been made on troop withdrawals and that any withdrawal will not affect combat capacity.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Update for Friday, January 18, 2019

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas, died Thursday at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany,Germany, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire during combat on Jan. 13, 2019, in Jawand District, Badghis Province, Afghanistan. Meddock was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

The 75th Ranger battalion is engaged in counter-terrorism activity, unlike most U.S. forces in Afghanistan which are on a train and advise mission.

Three of the four Americans killed in a suicide attack in Manjib, Syria on Wednesday have been identified. They are Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer; Shannon Kent, a sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66; and Scott Wirtz, an operations support specialist with the Defense Intelligence Agency. The fourth, a civilian contractor, has not been identified. Note that this shows that the usually publicized number of 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria is misleading. We now know that there are additional intelligence personnel and civilian contractors there. What is meant by a "contractor" in this case is unclear but the individual could be a mercenary.

The NY Times reports that Americans routinely visited a specific restaurant in Manjib, allowing the attackers (IS has claimed responsibility) to predict their whereabouts and plan the attack. They were eating in the restaurant when the attack occurred. Some 19 civilian bystanders also died.

Violent protests again occur in Basra.

U.S. Army War College issues a history of the engagement in Iraq. Excerpt:

The study highlights numerous failures during the 8-year conflict, including a lack of awareness among military leaders of the sectarian, social and political dynamics in the country that would fuel much of the violence. The critique, which is more than 1,000 pages long and contains hundreds of declassified documents, also says efforts to train Iraq’s military were insufficient and led to a force that was over-reliant on the U.S.
The decisions by commanders, often made in consensus, “seemed reasonable at the time they were made, but nonetheless added up over time to a failure to achieve our strategic objectives,” the study said. “Examining the reasoning behind these decisions and the systemic failures that produced them should be the first task in analyzing the Iraq War’s lessons.”
Of course, never going there in the first place would have been even better.