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AFGHANISTAN


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #275 on: July 18, 2017, 09:07:09 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Could mercenaries end America's longest war?

Nothing else has worked in Afghanistan.

By RICHARD COHEN | 7:32PM EDT - Monday, July 17, 2017

U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, on July 7th. — Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters.
U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, on July 7th. — Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters.

SHORTLY AFTER the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, I differed with a friend who said I was wrong to support an invasion of Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda and punish the Taliban. I said the United States had no choice but to make the terrorists and their Afghan hosts pay for what they had done. I insisted I was right. That, amazingly, was almost 16 years ago. I never expected to be right for so long.

Afghanistan has become the war without end. The United States cannot win it and cannot afford to lose it. The country consumes American wealth and lives. More than 2,300 American soldiers have died there. Some $828 billion has been spent there. Generals who once commanded there are deep into their retirement, and soldiers who fought there as youths are approaching middle age. Kipling's Brits could not control the country; neither could the Russians nor, come to think of it, can the Afghans. Afghanistan is not a country. It's a chronic disease.

The Trump administration, like the several that preceded it — George W. Bush twice and Barack Obama twice — is mulling a new approach. This time, there will be no certain date when American involvement will end — a bit of Obama-era silliness that, in effect, told the Taliban to hold on, be patient, and the Yanks will leave. President Trump has reportedly left decisions on troop levels to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general and a man of such reckless courage that he refused to fawn over Trump at a Cabinet meeting. Somewhere a medal awaits.

Mattis, however, is reportedly cool to a plan developed by Erik Prince that would entail turning over a substantial part of the Afghanistan effort to “contracted European professional soldiers” — what you and I call mercenaries. The term has an odious connotation, but there is no avoiding it. Prince is referring to British, French, Spanish and other Europeans who are experienced soldiers. They would not, as is now the case with Americans, be rotated out of the country after a period of time to the effect that, in a sense, the United States is always starting anew. These contract soldiers would get about $600 a day to command Afghan troops and be embedded with them — much as U.S. Special Operations forces now are. Trouble is, the United States has a limited number of those forces.

I took the phrase “contracted European professional soldiers” from an op-ed Prince wrote for The Wall Street Journal. It seems the president read it and was intrigued. Good. The plan has its virtues, the most obvious one being that nothing else has worked — and more of the same is going to produce more of the same. The plan also has its difficulties, one of them being its provenance. Prince is the founder of the highly controversial security firm Blackwater, which he has since sold. While he owned it, though, some of its employees opened fire in Baghdad's Nisour Square, killing 17 civilians and wounding more than 20.

If Prince remains controversial, he also remains influential. He's a former Navy SEAL who has entry to the White House and the CIA, and his sister is Betsy DeVos, the education secretary. Like his sister, Prince is rich and indefatigable. He has been peddling his Afghanistan plan for more than a year, and while it is frequently described with the pejorative term “for profit”, it has, as Prince contends, a pedigree. “Contract Europeans” were used by the British East India Company to rule India for more than 100 years.

Prince's references to colonial rule are admiring. He has even revived the term “viceroy” to describe the person who would direct American policy in Afghanistan. By his count, the United States has had 17 military commanders in the past 15 years — not counting ambassadors, CIA station chiefs and, of course, the inevitable special representatives, such as Richard Holbrooke, whose genius and energy were wasted by Obama. All that would stop. The viceroy would run things.

The war in Afghanistan is the longest in American history. A loss would allow the country to revert to a terrorist haven. A win would require a commitment in manpower that the United States is not willing to make. In almost 16 years, the fight in Afghanistan has gone from noble cause to onerous obligation. I don't know if Prince has the answer, but he has come up with one way to sustain the fight at less cost in American lives and treasure. Will it work? I don't know, but nothing else has.


• Richard Cohen writes a weekly political column for The Washington Post.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • The Washington Post's View: Trump is right to leave Afghanistan troop levels up to the Pentagon

 • Katrina vanden Heuvel: The U.S. will never win the war in Afghanistan

 • Stephen J. Hadley, Andrew Wilder and Scott Worden: Four steps to winning peace in Afghanistan

 • John McCain and Lindsey Graham: Why we need more forces to end the stalemate in Afghanistan

 • Josh Rogin: Selling Trump a new Afghanistan commitment


https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/could-mercenaries-end-americas-longest-war/2017/07/17/9ff2bca6-6b1a-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html
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« Reply #276 on: July 18, 2017, 09:12:09 pm »


Sixteen years, eh?

Sixteen years of dead Jesuslanders being airfreighted home in bodybags.

America's perpetual war is a good thing....it is continuing to suck billions out of the American economy.
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« Reply #277 on: July 19, 2017, 04:03:13 am »

Yup...Oh...bummer.....cost  how many American lives in Afghanistan during his reign..thanks demented left🙄
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« Reply #278 on: January 28, 2018, 07:57:53 pm »


Hilarious.....Dubya's “war on terror” in Afghanistan turned into America's GREAT QUAGMIRE; it continued as America's perpetual war under Obama; and now it is Donald J. Trump's perpetual, never-ending war, sucking oxygen out of the American economy. President Dumb is all “piss & wind” when he spouts that he is going to end the war in Afghanistan. It will still be America's perpetual war during the terms of the 46th president, the 47th president, the 48th president, and so-on, until the dumb Jesuslanders admit they cannot win and go home with their tails between their legs like the Soviet Union did after their military adventure in Afghanistan.



from The New York Times....

‘It's a Massacre’: Blast in Kabul Deepens Toll of a Long War

At least 95 were killed and 158 others were wounded when a car bomber
drove an ambulance past two checkpoints and detonated explosives.


By MUJIB MASHAL and JAWAD SUKHANYAR | Saturday, January 27, 2018

A bomb placed inside an ambulance exploded on a busy Kabul street on Saturday, killing at least 95 people and injuring at least 158 others. The explosion comes a week after another attack shook the city. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.
A bomb placed inside an ambulance exploded on a busy Kabul street on Saturday, killing at least 95 people and injuring at least 158 others.
The explosion comes a week after another attack shook the city. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.


KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The Taliban drove an ambulance packed with explosives into a crowded Kabul street on Saturday, setting off an enormous blast that killed at least 95 people and injured 158 others, adding to the grim toll in what has been one of the most violent stretches of the long war, Afghan officials said.

The attack came days after a 15-hour siege by militants at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul that left 22 dead, including 14 foreigners.

On Saturday, hospitals overflowed with the wounded, and forensic workers at the morgue struggled to identify the dead.

The casualties were another reminder of how badly Afghanistan is bleeding. Over the past year, about 10,000 of the country's security forces have been killed and more than 16,000 others wounded, according to a senior Afghan government official. The Taliban losses are believed to be about the same.

And about 10 civilians were killed every day on average over the first nine months of 2017, data from the United Nations suggests.

The surge in violence across the country, particularly deadly attacks that have shut down large parts of Afghan cities, comes as the government is in disarray.


Injured Afghans ran from the scene of the blast, stepping over the dead and the wounded. Kabul's hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of injured people. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.
Injured Afghans ran from the scene of the blast, stepping over the dead and the wounded. Kabul's hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of injured people.
 — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.


President Ashraf Ghani has struggled to build consensus and has recently found himself in a protracted showdown with a regional strongman, a dispute that has taken up much of the administration's energy. The strongman, Atta Muhammad Noor, a powerful governor, was fired by the president but has refused to leave his post, raising fears that escalating political tensions could further undermine the country's fragile security.

The recent carnage is also tied, analysts said, to President Trump's decision last month to increase pressure on Pakistan, long seen as supporting the Taliban as a proxy force in Afghanistan. Mr. Trump made a gamble to try to tilt the war in Afghanistan toward a resolution, holding back security aid to Pakistan for what he called the country's “lies and deceit”.

At the time of the announcement, many Afghan officials feared an immediate escalation in violence in retaliation and wondered whether their shaky government could absorb the blows.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump issued a statement denouncing the attack. “I condemn the despicable car bombing attack in Kabul today that has left scores of innocent civilians dead and hundreds injured,” he said. “The Taliban's cruelty will not prevail. The United States is committed to a secure Afghanistan that is free from terrorists who would target Americans, our allies, and anyone who does not share their wicked ideology.”

In last weekend's attack, Taliban militants barged into the highly guarded Intercontinental Hotel, battling security forces in an hours-long siege. At least 14 of their victims were foreign citizens, including Americans, and nine were pilots and flight crew members from Ukraine and Venezuela who worked for a private Afghan airline, Kam Air.

At the time of Saturday's attack, General Joseph L. Votel, the commander of the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the region, was in Kabul. He met with Mr. Ghani, and officials aware of the discussion said Pakistan was much of the focus.


Officials feared that the death toll could rise. The Taliban claimed responsibility. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.
Officials feared that the death toll could rise. The Taliban claimed responsibility. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.

Anger at the Afghan government for its dysfunction and ineffectiveness in the face of violence was palpable on the streets.

At the site of the explosion, an old man, his clothes stained with blood, sat on the ground and wailed. He cursed the two leaders of the Afghan government — President Ghani and his coalition partner, Abdullah Abdullah — for the security lapses. He said his son was dead.

“May God punish you, may Allah punish you both,” the old man repeated. “There is nothing left for me anymore — come kill me and my family, too.”

Saturday's explosion occurred on a guarded street that leads to an old Interior Ministry building and several embassies. Many ministry departments still have offices there, and visitors line up every day for routine business.

“I saw a flame that blinded my eyes, then I went unconscious,” said Nazeer Ahmad, 45, who suffered a head wound. “When I opened my eyes, I saw bodies lying on the ground.”

“It's a massacre,” said Dejan Panic, the coordinator in Afghanistan for the Italian aid group Emergency, which runs a nearby trauma center. At least 131 people were brought to the group's Kabul hospital.


Medical staff treated the wounded at the Jamhuriat Hospital in Afghanistan. — Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Medical staff treated the wounded at the Jamhuriat Hospital in Afghanistan. — Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Baseer Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police, said the bomber drove past the first checkpoint, at the entrance to the street. The police had allowed it to pass because it was an ambulance, and one of the city's main hospitals was just beyond the checkpoint.

“Police stopped the vehicle at the second checkpoint,” Mr. Mujahid said. “Then he tried to drive in from the wrong lane. Again, the police tried to stop him. But he detonated the explosive-laden vehicle.”

At Malalai maternity hospital, near the carnage, health workers said the explosion had briefly interrupted their work, and jolted patients out of their beds. Then, the staff continued to bring new life into a violent world.

“It has become normal in Afghanistan,” a midwife said. “Every day, we hear these kind of sounds.”

Others at the hospital were deeply affected. Abdul Khaliq, who anxiously waited in the hospital yard, said his sister-in-law had given birth through cesarean section just days ago.

“During the suicide attack, she was at the hospital and now she is shocked. She doesn't want to breast-feed her baby,” Mr. Khaliq said. “Her doctor is trying to convince her that everything is O.K., but she cries and says nothing.”


Many of the buildings and shops on the streets in the Afghan capital were shattered, their windows blown out. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.
Many of the buildings and shops on the streets in the Afghan capital were shattered, their windows blown out. — Photograph: Andrew Quilty/The New York Times.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, condemned the attack as “nothing short of an atrocity” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“I am particularly disturbed by credible reports that the attackers used a vehicle painted to look like an ambulance, including bearing the distinctive medical emblem, in clear violation of international humanitarian law,” Mr. Yamamoto said.

Later in the day, family members lined up outside the morgue at the Kabul forensic medical department, trying to identify their loved ones. The staff could not draw a list of the victims because most were unidentifiable, or did not carry any documentation.

After the remains were cleaned, the staff lined them up in the yard outside and allowed family members to walk around and identify them. Once remains were identified, the morgue staff would write the name on the forehead, or on the chest if the head was missing.

For some, though, the search continued.

“My cousin was a police officer; he was the person who stopped the ambulance laden with explosives,” said Attaul Haq, 36, who waited outside the morgue. “He was 28, he had a son and a daughter.”


FIVE OF THE DEADLIEST TERRORIST ATTACKS ON AFGHAN CIVILIANS IN 2017

On successive weekends in January this year, Kabul was struck by two major terrorist attacks that killed at least 117 people. The last half of 2017 saw five attacks that left 37 or more dead.

  • 150 Killed, May 2017: In Kabul, a truck bombing near the German embassy was the deadliest attack since 2001.

  • At least 67, and as many as 88 killed, October 2017: Two suicide bombings within hours, both targeting mosques, one in Kabul and the other in Ghor Province.

  • 41 killed, December 2017: Bombing at a Shiite cultural center in Kabul that also housed a news agency, Afghan Voice Agency.

  • At least 40 killed, possibly more than 50 killed, August 2017: Suicide bombers targeted a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

  • 37 killed, August 2017: Suicide bombers targeted a Shiite mosque in Herat, killing the father of an Afghan female robotics team.

__________________________________________________________________________

Fatima Faizi, Fahim Abed and Charles O’Malley contributed reporting.

• Mujib Mashal is The New York Times senior correspondent in Afghanistan. Before joining the paper, he wrote for magazines such as The Atlantic, Harper's, TIME and others. He began his journalism career as an intern with The Times's bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010, before moving on to work for Al Jazeera English in Doha and then pursued magazine writing. He returned to The Times as a senior correspondent in October 2016. Born in Kabul, he received a degree in history from Columbia University.

• Jawad Sukhanyar is a reporter for The New York Times in Afghanistan.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • Grounded and Gutted, Main Afghan Airline Struggles After Taliban Attack

 • Deadly ISIS Attack Hits an Aid Group, Save the Children, in Afghanistan

 • Siege at Kabul Hotel Caps a Violent 24 Hours in Afghanistan


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/world/asia/afghanistan-kabul-attack.html
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« Reply #279 on: January 29, 2018, 09:39:16 pm »


from The New York Times....

We Can't Win in Afghanistan Because We Don't Know Why We're There

By STEVE COLL | Sunday, January 26, 2018

American soldiers in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2010. — Photograph: Damon Winter/The New York Times.
American soldiers in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2010. — Photograph: Damon Winter/The New York Times.

“THE United States is not losing in Afghanistan, but it is not winning either, and that is not good enough,” reads the opening sentence of a top-secret review of the war in Afghanistan commissioned by President George W. Bush in 2008, according to multiple participants in that review. Subsequent classified reviews of the American strategy in the war have repeated that conclusion.

The Trump administration undertook the latest rethinking of the war in August. President Trump's advisers again reviewed its causes: opium, corruption, ethnic factionalism and, above all, the support and sanctuary provided to the Taliban by Pakistan, through the covert action arm of its powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

Why is this problem so hard? Why, since the September 11 attacks, has the United States been unable to prevent Pakistan, a notional ally that has received billions of dollars in aid, from succoring the Taliban at such a high cost in American lives and Afghan misery?

One major reason is American war aims in Afghanistan have been, and remain, riddled with contradictions and illusions that Inter-Services Intelligence can exploit. President Bush, President Barack Obama and President Trump have all offered convoluted, incomplete or unconvincing answers to essential questions: Why are we in Afghanistan? What interests justify our sacrifices? How will the war end?

Mr. Trump is departing from his predecessors by getting tougher on Pakistan. His administration is withholding as much as $1.3 billion worth of annual aid to Pakistan until it does more to pressure the Taliban. Unfortunately, the record of using threats and sanctions to change Pakistan's conduct is a dismal one, and the influence and leverage of the United States in Pakistan is shrinking.

Mr. Trump is not the first president to struggle over how to align goals with reality. In 2009, as President Obama escalated combat troop levels in Afghanistan, his advisers identified only two vital American interests in the war, according to participants, the kinds of interests that might justify sending soldiers into battle.

One was the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. The second was the terrorist threat posed by Al Qaeda “and its affiliates.” Neither problem really existed in Afghanistan; they resided over the border, in Pakistan. After 2002, Al Qaeda's most lethal operators largely fled to Pakistan. Mr. Obama's strategists nonetheless rationalized their escalation on the grounds that if Afghanistan fell into chaos, Al Qaeda would return — a plausible fear but an indirect and even speculative reason to send American men and women to war.

President Obama and his strategists also debated whether the Afghan Taliban posed the same threat to the United States that Al Qaeda did. Mr. Obama did not think so; he wanted a laser focus on Al Qaeda. Some Pentagon commanders did want to fight the Taliban. But the national security cabinet, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, recognized that a United States-led war against the Taliban could not be won, at least not fast enough or at an acceptable cost. The Taliban were part of Afghanistan's “political fabric”, Mr. Gates noted accurately.

The Obama strategists decided to try to “degrade” the Taliban and “reverse its momentum,” according to participants, while building up Afghan security forces to take charge. The language was vague and subjective because the goals were, too. The idea was to buy time and give the Afghan government a chance.

The leaders of Inter-Services Intelligence understood that they could wait Washington out. Mr. Obama made this obvious when he announced in 2009 that American troops would start withdrawing and handing off the war to Afghan forces in 2011. Pakistan's generals, led then by the Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former director of the spy agency, privately told American and NATO military leaders that they would fail. “Given the number of troops you have and the time constraints, you won't be able to do it,” General Kayani said, according to a participant in the meeting.

He meant that the American-led effort against the Taliban would not be decisive and that Afghan forces would never cohere enough to win. General Kayani wanted a less ambitious plan aimed at clearing radicals out of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Considering Inter-Services Intelligence's role in the conflict, however, his prediction of American failure could be heard as much as a threat as a forecast. Pakistan's objective has been to prevent Afghanistan's violence from spilling over its border and to prevent India from gaining influence in a neighboring country.

Apart from the convoluted policies of the United States, there are other reasons the Pakistani spy agency's approach has prevailed despite American frustration and periodic threats. Because keeping Pakistan's nuclear bombs out of the wrong hands has long been a top priority for the United States and Europe, it follows that Pakistan's overall stability is crucial. Yet the more violent the Afghan war became after 2001, the more it destabilized Pakistan.

After Al Qaeda took refuge in Pakistan, it collaborated with local radicals. Starting in 2007, those networks turned against the Pakistani state and touched off the worst years of domestic terrorism Pakistan has ever known. Suicide and car bombings rocked major cities, and tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians, security personnel and insurgents died. The country has paid a steep price for Inter-Services Intelligence's coddling of groups like the Taliban for decades.

Only since 2016 has Pakistan somewhat restored domestic security; last year was the least deadly since 2005, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a research project, yet more than 500 Pakistani civilians perished in terrorist attacks.

The thinking of the United States and the European governments has been consistent, if rarely enunciated in public: To keep Pakistan stable and its nuclear arms under control, there is a limit to how much outside pressure can be brought to bear on the country.

President Obama authorized the C.I.A. to attack Al Qaeda with armed drones in Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghan border. And of course, Mr. Obama authorized a daring SEAL raid inside Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, without asking permission. But the larger terrorist infrastructure — the Afghan Taliban's leadership and many other violent groups nurtured and tolerated by Inter-Services Intelligence — remains unscathed, operating from Lahore to Karachi to Quetta to Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

In effect, Pakistan's strategy of nuclear deterrence, conceived to keep India's military at bay, has also deterred the United States. The United States has so feared the risks of violent disarray in Pakistan that it has tolerated interference by Inter-Services Intelligence in Afghanistan since 2001 that it otherwise would most likely not have accepted.

It is understandable that Afghan leaders and American generals express fury over the spy agency's complicity in Afghanistan's violence, including in the deaths of American soldiers. Through the first nine months of 2017, the United Nations reported the deaths of 2,640 civilians, including nearly 700 children, a toll similar to that of the same period last year. Most of the civilian deaths are caused by the Taliban and other anti-government guerrillas. This month the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul that killed at least 22 people, including Americans.

There are alternatives to accepting the status quo. If sanctions against Inter-Services Intelligence or Pakistan's military were combined with serious diplomacy to engage China, which is by far Pakistan's most important ally, as well as other regional powers, there might be a path to improvement.

China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran share an interest with the United States in preventing the Islamic State, which has established a foothold in eastern Afghanistan, from expanding. China has long protected Pakistan from outside pressure on terrorism and nuclear proliferation issues, but it has an interest in a more stable region where there is a reduced need for an American combat presence.

For years, almost every American general dispatched to command the Afghan war has conceded that the conflict must ultimately end with a political settlement, supported by regional powers, and that there is no purely military solution possible against the Taliban. Nonetheless, the United States continues to prioritize military action over diplomacy. Stalemated civil wars like Afghanistan's can last a very long time. They end only through negotiations with the enemy.

The Obama administration tried talking in secret to the Taliban and made some progress but was undone by the contradictions in its own strategy and by Inter-Services Intelligence, which wanted a hand in any deal, even though the Taliban's leadership preferred to be free from Pakistan's influence. Many Afghan government officials and former Taliban leaders have tried on their own to talk their way to peace during the past decade; some have been assassinated by hard-liners.

For the United States, an alternative to pursuing difficult and uncertain negotiations would be to give up and leave, but the most likely result of a unilateral military pullout now would be more violence and rising influence for the Taliban and the Islamic State.

The most rational course is one for which President Trump would seem poorly suited: to work closely with allies, prioritize high-level diplomacy, be smart in pressuring the Inter-Services Intelligence and accept that in Afghanistan, a starting point for any international policy is humility.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Steve Coll is the author of the forthcoming Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/sunday/united-states-afghanistan-win.html
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« Reply #280 on: January 31, 2018, 01:35:11 pm »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times....

Militant attacks rise with U.S. surge in Afghanistan

The Taliban is displaying its strength.

By SHASHANK BENGALI and SULTAN FAIZY | Wednesday, January 30, 2018

Men carry the coffin of a victim of the fake-ambulance attack in Kabul. — Photograph: Rahmat Gul/Associated Press.
Men carry the coffin of a victim of the fake-ambulance attack in Kabul. — Photograph: Rahmat Gul/Associated Press.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — With U.S. troops surging into Afghanistan, Taliban militants challenged a new and inexperienced U.S. president with an escalating campaign of bombings that illustrated the difficulties of winning the war.

The year was 2009, the president was Barack Obama and the cheap and devastating Taliban tactic was the roadside bomb, which quickly became the No.1 killer of both U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan civilians.

Nearly a decade later, with President Trump renewing the war effort by sending thousands more troops and expanding their combat mission, Afghanistan is experiencing another grim increase in insurgent violence with three major attacks in Kabul that killed at least 136 people within a span of 10 days.

The latest came on Monday when five militants attacked an Afghan army unit guarding the country's main military academy, killing at least 11 soldiers and wounding 16 others, officials said.

The attack in Kabul, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, began before dawn and sparked a gun battle that continued for several hours. The capital's weary residents awoke to more carnage on a day that had been declared a holiday to mourn victims of the last bombing — less than 48 hours earlier, when a Taliban assailant blew up a car bomb disguised as an ambulance outside a hospital, killing at least 103 people.

“It's similar to what happened during the Obama surge, that instead of confronting NATO forces on the battlefield they opted for these low-cost terrorist attacks, and they have been very effective,” said Haroun Mir, a political analyst in Kabul.

“It is becoming obvious that the insurgents, with three or four attackers, are capable of paralyzing the capital,” Mir said.

Every attack now seems to come more quickly than Afghans can recover from the one before. A week before the hospital bombing, a handful of Taliban gunmen raided the Intercontinental Hotel, a landmark in the capital, and killed 22 people, including four U.S. citizens.

The last time Afghanistan endured a week this deadly was barely three months ago, when more than 200 soldiers and civilians were killed, including at least 50 in an Islamic State-claimed attack on a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

Violence in Afghanistan used to take a breather in winter, when cold conditions made it more difficult for insurgents to move back and forth across the border from their havens in Pakistan. But 16 years after the U.S.-led military invasion toppled the Taliban, the increasingly unrelenting pace of bombings has damaged Afghans' faith in their government and raised questions about Trump's strategy to stifle the militants.

In boosting the U.S. troop presence to 15,000 from 11,000 and giving U.S. commanders greater authority to strike militants, Trump implicitly endorsed the idea that Taliban insurgents could be defeated on the battlefield — or at least weakened enough that they would be forced to negotiate a truce with the Kabul government.

But that strategy hinges on the performance of Afghan security forces — trained and equipped largely by the U.S. at a cost of about $70 billion since 2002 — who have proved woefully incapable of stopping devastating attacks against supposedly well-guarded targets. The ambulance attacker got past a security checkpoint by claiming he was ferrying a wounded patient; the Intercontinental siege went on for 15 hours and required U.S. troops to respond to assist the Afghans.

The Taliban has shown little regard for civilian lives; analysts say its goal is to weaken the resolve of Afghanistan's foreign backers, mainly the United States, by showing it can strike anywhere and at any time.

“Time is with the Taliban,” Mir said. “They know that Trump is in office for four years, and two years from now there will be another election and another political debate about whether the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan or not. These kinds of attacks show their strength while avoiding confrontation — that's their strategy to overcome the U.S. surge.”

Trump said on Monday that the worsening violence made negotiating with the Taliban a distant prospect.

“Innocent people are being killed left and right, bombing in the middle of children, in the middle of families, bombing, killing all over Afghanistan,” Trump said. “So we don't want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time, but it's going to be a long time.”


Afghans carry away a body after a car bomb disguised as an ambulance exploded Saturday in Kabul, killing at least 103. The capital has experienced three major attacks that killed at least 136 people in 10 days. — Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Afghans carry away a body after a car bomb disguised as an ambulance exploded Saturday in Kabul, killing at least 103. The capital has experienced
three major attacks that killed at least 136 people in 10 days. — Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command who was in Kabul at the time of the ambulance attack, told reporters that the increasing violence “does not impact our commitment to Afghanistan” and that victory was “absolutely” possible.

Since the end of 2014, when the U.S.-led coalition shifted to more of an advisory role and gave Afghan forces responsibility for security, the annual number of “security incidents” recorded by the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan has risen by more than 10%, according to an analysis published on Monday by Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network.

“All parties to the conflict — the Taliban, the Afghan and the U.S. government — are almost entirely focused on the war … and achieving military advantage,” Ruttig wrote.

Under Obama's surge, the number of U.S. troops rose to nearly 100,000 from fewer than 40,000, and the pace of fighting rose at the same time.

“What happened during Obama's surge of 2010 to 2012 could be repeated, that we see a mutually reinforcing spiral of escalation of the conflict,” Ruttig wrote.

The recent attacks also point to a bloody tussle between the Taliban — Afghanistan's largest insurgent group — and supporters of Islamic State, who U.S. officials say number less than 1,000 in pockets of eastern and northern Afghanistan. The tit-for-tat bombings by members of the rival militant groups, Ruttig said in an interview, reflect “something of a competition over who, on the insurgents' side, dominates the war theater.”

In interviews, many Afghans blamed President Ashraf Ghani's 3-year-old government, which they argued is preoccupied with political squabbles and too slow to stamp out corruption that has hollowed out the army and police.

In a news conference on Sunday, top security officials did little to reassure Afghans about their response. Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak blamed intelligence lapses and insurgent spies in the Afghan forces. Intelligence chief Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai said, “Some incidents really cannot be stopped.”

Abdullah Hasanzadah, a 24-year-old who said he lost a friend in the ambulance attack, said he didn't blame individual soldiers or police for the security failures.

“It's a major concern that the leadership is corrupt, and it's their weaknesses that jeopardize our lives,” Hasanzadah said.

Remote parts of Afghanistan have long been outside government control. The Taliban maintains “shadow governors” in many outlying areas, where they collect taxes and settle disputes. As of October the government controlled or held sway over only 57% of the country's 407 districts, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. watchdog.

U.S. officials say the statistics are misleading because most insurgent-controlled districts are sparsely populated, and their strategy has been to provide security in cities and towns where most Afghans live.

But that isn't working, not even to safeguard supposedly fortified military installations. In the last 12 months, militants have infiltrated a major base outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and killed more than 100 soldiers — a stunning breach that prompted the resignations of Afghanistan's defense minister and army chief — and killed about 50 people at Kabul's main military hospital.

With military targets so often attacked, many civilians said they feel even more vulnerable. Some Kabul residents said they were avoiding crowds and busy streets, restricting their movements and returning home before nightfall.

Omid Azimi, a 19-year-old high school graduate, said he prays each time he leaves the house. He has also begun carrying a piece of paper in his wallet on which he's written a relative's phone number.

“In case I get killed or wounded,” he said, “it would be easy for people to inform my family.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Special correspondent Sultan Faizy reported from Kabul and L.A. Times staff writer Shashank Bengali from Mumbai, India.

• Shashank Bengali is the Los Angeles Times' South Asia correspondent, covering a stretch of countries from Iran to Myanmar. He joined the L.A. Times in 2012 as a national security reporter in the Washington bureau. He has reported from more than 50 countries since beginning his career with McClatchy Newspapers, where he served as a foreign correspondent in Africa and the Middle East.In 2016, he shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Los Angeles Times staff for coverage of the mass shootingin San Bernardino, California. Originally from Cerritos, California, Shashank holds degrees in journalism and French from USC and a master's in public policy from Harvard. He lives with his wifein Mumbai, India.

• Sultan Faizy is a special correspondent to the Los Angeles Times, based in Kabul, Afghanistan. He previously reported for Associated Press and presented for National Public Radio.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=0ebfa6e9-cdbe-43e1-a18a-751c5abe6570
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« Reply #281 on: January 31, 2018, 02:46:31 pm »


Remember when America funded and supplied weapons to the Mujahideen who were fighting against the warmongering invaders from the Soviet Union?

Well, the Mujahideen morphed into the Taliban, who have been fighting against the warmongering invaders from America since the early years of this century.

America's perpetual, never-ending war which is going to eventually end with the Jesuslanders withdrawing from Afghanistan with their tails between their legs.

Just like what happened to the Soviet Union. Except that the Soviet Union had the smarts to get out while they still could.

The Americans/Jesuslanders still think they can win in Afghanistan. Poor dumb, stupid suckers …… I guess the quagmire is going to continue for many more years yet.

See: Remember when America funded the Taliban against the USSR?
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« Reply #282 on: January 31, 2018, 03:50:09 pm »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times....

What Tet taught the U.S.

By M.L. CAVANAUGH | Wednesday, January 30, 2018

Members of a North Vietnamese female combat unit at the grave of a comrade killed during the Tet Offensive, which began on January 31st, 1968. The North lost in the fighting, but the carnage turned the U.S. public against the Vietnam War. — Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Members of a North Vietnamese female combat unit at the grave of a comrade killed during the Tet Offensive, which began on January 31st, 1968. The North
lost in the fighting, but the carnage turned the U.S. public against the Vietnam War. — Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


FIFTY YEARS AGO, the stunning Tet Offensive shattered the American war effort in Vietnam. But its impact wasn't limited to Vietnam — it created a shadow that has darkened American military strategy ever since.

On January 31st, 1968, 84,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked 100 cities across U.S.-backed South Vietnam, including the key targets of Hue, Da Nang and Saigon. They aimed to spark a widespread uprising, which didn't happen.

Instead, North Vietnam stumbled into a costly war-winning strategy. Costly because more than half its attacking forces were killed, wounded or captured. Winning because the carnage forced Americans to confront the reality of the war: a savage, endless conflict that contradicted official talking points.

The U.S. commander, Army General William Westmoreland, famously focused on enemy body counts in a strategy designed to kill North Vietnamese troops “at a rate as high as their capacity to put men into the field.” Just before Tet, Westmoreland was “absolutely certain” the U.S. was winning. After Tet, he called it “a striking military defeat for the enemy.”

The media was skeptical. On February 8th, The New York Times opined “neither side can win.” And on February 27th, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, back in the U.S. after a reporting trip to Vietnam, delivered a commentary to more than 20 million viewers: “We are mired in stalemate,” he said. “The only rational way out … will be to negotiate, not as victors …” American public support soon withered. President Nixon replaced President Lyndon Johnson. Eventually, the United States withdrew from South Vietnam, which subsequently fell to the North in 1975.

Tet validated a Japanese concept. Toward the end of World War II, when the American military was dominant, Hiromichi Yahara, a Japanese army colonel serving on the island of Okinawa, forged a strategy to win against such military superiority. Yahara saw that direct assaults against overwhelming American forces wouldn't work. Instead, he aimed to punish his adversary through attrition, to inflict a terrible price on the enemy no matter the cost to his own soldiers. His plan was guided by this precept: “If a poor man fights with the same tactics as a rich man, he is sure to lose.”

Yahara used intense bunker- and cave-fighting to bleed America's will to fight. It yielded painful results: The battle for Okinawa in 1945 resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties and helped dissuade the U.S. from invading and occupying Japan. Still, the war too far gone, Japan would surrender — the last time a nation formally surrendered to the American military.

What didn't work for Japan succeeded in Vietnam after Tet. And since then, weaker adversaries have adopted strategies with common features against stronger forces. Don't try to win; make your opponent lose. Attack will; not strength. Leverage chaos; inflict pain for gain. Bring down the pillars of power, even if it costs you everything.

Davids” have won a majority of wars against “Goliaths” since 1945. A 2010 Rand Corporation study found that of 30 insurgencies around the globe since 1978, only eight were clear victories for the governments over the rebels.

The American “Goliath” has also fared poorly. In 1993, warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid bloodied the U.S., turning public opinion against American involvement in Somalia; U.S. forces withdrew. Osama bin Laden saw what had happened and devised a plan, as he described it in 2004, “to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.” The 9/11 attack cost Al Qaeda $500,000; it ultimately forced America to spend nearly $5 trillion in its long-term response. Initial victories in Afghanistan and Iraq have settled into slogs and become the longest wars in American history.

Even the successful Gulf War is a rule-proving exception. When the U.S. fights in open deserts against uniformed soldiers, precise firepower works and America tends to win. But that's not where this nation's toughest enemies choose to fight.

Our sharpest adversaries, following Yahara's precept and Tet's example, prefer to fight in cities like Kabul, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani now describes as “under siege.” Our enemies confront us in densely populated urban areas because they know these features negate American technological advantages, particularly air strikes.

So how does Goliath win against such enemies?

Despite the fact that a few stubborn military officers still believe we can just kill enough of the enemy to win, there's a better way. Going forward, America's best strategy is smart attrition warfare: Use multiple, precise military means to remove the bad guys from the field, including traditional strikes, but combine that with non-lethal approaches such as co-option, alliance-building and other inducements to support local good guys and generate gains.

We shouldn't kid ourselves that war will ever be bloodless, but we must also recognize that strategic success has never been strictly limited to killing the enemy. And it never will be.

When the Gulf War ended, President George H.W. Bush claimed America had “kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!” That statement was premature. Hopefully, with smarter military strategies, we finally will.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Army Major M.L. Cavanaugh is a non-resident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point and co-edited the forthcoming book, with Max Brooks, Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict.

http://enewspaper.latimes.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=7bd8e367-66ab-4ce4-99f3-54dc72a419d7
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