Who’s On The Offensive?

While the ISAF has delayed its much publicized Kandahar offensive, once again, the Taliban aren’t waiting around on the defensive. The Taliban continue to attack the ISAF, and they’re attacking them where they live, in broad daylight.

Afghan Taliban attacks NATO airfield, wounding two troops

Afghan Taliban-linked militants launched a bold daytime attack on a NATO airfield outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, setting off a car bomb and firing light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in a battle that killed at least eight militants and wounded two coalition personnel.

The attack comes at a delicate time for the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), just days before US General David Petraeus arrives to assume command after the ouster of US General Stanley McChrystal for insubordination. Coalition casualties are also climbing: as The Christian Science Monitor reported, June has been the deadliest month of the nine-year war for coalition troops, with 101 soldiers killed.

Wednesday’s battle began when a car bomb went off at the entrance to Jalalabad airfield, 78 miles east of the Afghan capital of Kabul near the border with Pakistan. The explosion was followed by a 30-minute gun battle with militants, says the Associated Press. Eight attackers were killed and two coalition personnel were wounded, including one Afghan soldier and one international soldier.

The New York Times reports that the attack was similar in style to the attack on Bagram Air Base in May, when a suicide bomber driving a car detonated his explosives at a gate to the base, clearing the way for Taliban fighters to enter the complex.

The BBC reports that militants attacked the Jalalabad base from multiple directions in what it calls “a commando-style raid,” a more sophisticated tactic that the Taliban has increasingly relied on to deliver heavier civilian and military casualties.

See also:
US, Afghans repel attack against major base
NATO Forces Repel Taliban Attack on Airbase
Eight Taliban fighters killed in failed raid on Nato base
Taliban suicide bombers launch attack on Afghanistan super base
Taliban suicide bombers attack NATO base in Afghanistan
Taliban Attack NATO Base in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban attack Afghan airfield
Taliban attack Afghanistan Nato base near Jalalabad
When Taliban Attack

Although, so far, the Taliban haven’t been able to cause any substantial damage or casualties or successfully breach the perimeter of any of the major ISAF bases that they’ve brazenly attacked recently, they have shown sophistication in planning the attacks and they’ve been extremely persistent. All it will take is for the Taliban to breach the perimeter of just one of these bases and get their militants inside to cause a lot of mayhem and score a huge propaganda victory, along the lines of the Viet Cong getting inside the wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. Tactically, it was nothing, strategically, it meant everything, in terms of propaganda.

/all I can say is that it’s a good thing that the Taliban don’t have access to any air power, they’re giving our coalition forces enough trouble on the ground

A Glimpse Into The Future Of Afghanistan?

If this is an example of what’s going to happen when the NATO coalition starts to withdraw, we may as well give up and leave now, because the Afghan government is apparently no match for the Taliban.

Taliban seize border town as Afghan forces retreat

Taliban forces spearheading a spring offensive seized a remote town near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan Saturday as Afghan government forces retreated, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

After a week of intense fighting, hundreds of Taliban fighters overwhelmed local government forces, who said they were making a “tactical retreat” from Barg-e-Matal to spare civilians from getting caught in the crossfire.

Taliban fighters seized control of Barg-e-Matal nearly a year after they briefly seized the isolated Nuristan district center last summer but were driven out by U.S. and Afghan forces.

This time, hundreds of Afghan fighters defending the town fled early Saturday morning when they began to run out of ammunition and supplies. The U.S.-led coalition provided limited air support and ran a few supply runs for the Afghan government forces, but didn’t offer significant aid, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

“We could not resist,” said Haji Mohammed Ismaile, a former Barg-e-Matal district governor, in a telephone interview with McClatchy as he joined hundreds of fleeing Afghan fighters. “There was no support from the government or the (international military) coalition.”

“We could hear them on the radio calling us to surrender and telling us that if we lay down our weapons they would not kill us,” said Ismaile. “But we did not surrender because they would slaughter us.”

The Taliban assault is the latest in the militants’ expanding spring offensive on a number of fronts, while U.S.-led forces are trying to train Afghan forces and mounting an offensive in southern Afghanistan that some officials say lacks sufficient troops.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, a prominent member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that the fall of Barg-e-Matal to the Taliban should be a cautionary lesson for Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, about relying on shaky Afghan forces to defend the country without outside help.

“Things are very fragile, and our fear is that if you withdraw from those places without building up a force that is responsible to the central government, then you can’t hold those districts,” said Nadery.

See also:
Afghan police vacate district in E Afghanistan
Taliban Fighters Seize District in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban take control of district in Nuristan
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistani border
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistan border
Taliban Push Afghan Police Out of Valley
Taliban seize town in east Afghanistan
Taliban claim capturing Nuristan’s Barg-e-Mattal district

And Obama plans on starting to withdraw from Afghanistan next year? We’ve had nine years to stand up and train Afghan military and police forces and they still can’t defend or supply themselves. What miracle in the next twelve months is going to magically enable the Afghan government to fend for itself?

/or are we getting ready to throw Afghanistan under the Taliban bus?

The Afghanistan War Explained, A PowerPoint Too Far

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”
General Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO force commander

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander

Afghanistan Stability/COIN Dynamics

Wow, what a way to fight a war, whatever happened to just going out and killing the enemy?

See also:
Afghanistan PowerPoint slide: Generals left baffled by PowerPoint slide
Afghanistan: the PowerPoint solution
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint
American army declares war on Microsoft PowerPoint
The U.S. Military’s War On PowerPoint
Why the Military Declared War on Powerpoint
Can DOD really defeat PowerPoint?
PowerPoint backlash grinds onward
The Biggest Enemy In The War On Terror? PowerPoint
The PowerPoint Problem in the Military — and Science?
So what is the actual surge strategy?

/gee, imagine that, another insidious Microsoft software product spreading human misery across the planet

You’ve Got To Get Out To Get In

“Retreat Hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.”
(Attributed to Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC, Korea, December 1950.)

Afghanistan war: US leaves remote outpost of Korengal

It became known as “Enemy Central,” a small, isolated slice of eastern Afghanistan synonymous with violence, a dogged adversary and, increasingly, futility. More than 40 US soldiers have died there after being drawn into battles of attrition for questionable return. In the worst such incident, 16 American troops on a special forces mission were killed when their helicopter crashed under enemy fire.

Now the last US troops have pulled out of the Korengal valley on the grounds that they can be better used somewhere else. “This repositioning, in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, responds to the requirements of the new population-centric counterinsurgency strategy,” Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, joint commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement on NATO’s website. “The move does not prevent forces from rapidly responding, as necessary, to crises there in Korengal and in other parts of the region, as well.”

Part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy is to pull troops back from remote mountain outposts and concentrate them in the towns and villages where more of the Afghan population lives. By putting the emphasis on protecting civilians instead of killing Taliban fighters, he hopes to drive a wedge between the two, isolating and alienating the insurgents.

The withdrawal in Korengal – a short tributary valley so isolated that its inhabitants speak their own language – has been going on for months. Combat Outpost Vegas, high up in the valley, closed last year. But US military officials have said in the past that the strategy was delayed by a shortage of cargo helicopters, military bureaucracy, and Afghan politics.

And it is not just Korengal that is seeing American forces depart. The US footprint in nearby Nuristan Province – the mountain highlands that were the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s tale of imperial hubris, “The Man Who Would Be King,” has all but vanished, too. Two separate attacks in 2008 and 2009 saw a total of 17 US soldiers die when insurgents overran their outposts in remarkably similar circumstances.

The signs in Nuristan, though, are encouraging. Since the US pulled all its troops out of Kamdesh district, the scene of the most recent of these battles, Taliban-linked insurgents have been on the back foot as local communities and elders turn against them.

See also:
ISAF Units Realign in Eastern Afghanistan
American troops pull out of Korengal Valley as strategy shifts
US forces leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder
After the bloodshed, the leaving
US leave, Taliban claim victory
Korangal valley
Hi-Def Pics – One of the Heaviest Taliban Combat Areas: Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (15 photos)

Well, McChrystal wrote the U.S. book on counterinsurgency, so he certainly knows what he’s doing, given the terrain and number of troops available, we certainly can’t occupy every square inch of Afghanistan. Besides the bloody fighting for limited returns, it also appears that our very presence in the Korengal valley was counterproductive to positive relations with the local civilian population living in the area. Not only weren’t we accomplishing much militarily, we weren’t winning any hearts and minds either, better to redeploy our limited resources and try our luck somewhere else.

/all that said, it doesn’t mean the Taliban and the Lefty media won’t be doing a happy dance while spinning this withdrawal as a propaganda victory and an American defeat

Slouching Toward The Exit Door In Afghanistan

I’ve long suspected that, despite all of his hawkish bravado during the campaign about the necessity of winning in Afghanistan, Obama isn’t serious about achieving victory against al Qaeda and the Taliban at all.

The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has detailed his strategy and emphasized the urgency of the situation. McChrystal has called for 30-40,000 additional troops and clearly stated that we will most likely be defeated in Afghanistan without them. However, instead of immediately granting his field commander’s request, Obama is dithering and trial balloons concerning “alternate strategies” are being floated. With U.S. public support for the Afghan war waning, Obama’s got his finger in the political wind and the wind direction doesn’t bode well for American troops on the ground or United States security interests in the region.

Gates Doubts U.S.’s Afghan Strategy

President Barack Obama met with senior counselors for three hours Wednesday to launch his review of Afghan war strategy, amid indications that his defense secretary — the key link between the White House and the military — is among those undecided about the right approach.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Kabul, is advocating a manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on protecting the Afghan populace rather than hunting individual militants. He submitted a classified assessment over the weekend calling for up to 40,000 U.S. reinforcements.

Mr. Obama met with senior military officials, diplomats and Cabinet members Wednesday as part of the review, which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said was designed to “poke and prod” potential new approaches to the conflict.

The discussion focused on the political and security situation on the ground, according to an administration official, with military commanders detailing the gains made by the insurgency and top diplomats discussing the Afghan election results that were marred by fraud claims.

Mr. Obama focused his questioning on the current threat posed by al Qaeda and whether a resurgent Taliban would give al Qaeda leaders a new haven to regroup, the official said, which could indicate Mr. Obama is more concerned about the status of a threat to the U.S. than overall stability in Afghanistan.

In an interview Wednesday, a senior defense official said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates now worries that counterinsurgency might no longer be a viable approach for countering the Taliban violence roiling once-stable parts of north and west Afghanistan.

Mr. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, has emerged as one of Mr. Obama’s most trusted advisers, so his views carry significant weight in the deliberations.

“Even 40,000 more troops don’t give you enough boots on the ground to protect the Afghans if the north and west continue to deteriorate,” the official said. “That may argue for a different approach.”

A shift in Mr. Gates’s thinking would be particularly striking because he has long been a major advocate of counterinsurgency, which is credited with helping to sharply reduce Iraq’s once-unrelenting violence.

White House Eyeing Narrower War Effort

Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.

In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war, which President Obama has said is being fought to destroy al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and the ungoverned border areas of Pakistan.

McChrystal, commander of the 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama to quickly endorse his call for a change in military strategy and approve the additional resources he needs to retake the initiative from the resurgent Taliban.

But White House officials are resisting McChrystal’s call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, “A lot of assumptions — and I don’t want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions — were exposed to the light of day.”

Among them, according to three senior administration officials who attended the meeting, is McChrystal’s contention that the Taliban and al-Qaeda share the same strategic interests and that the return to power of the Taliban would automatically mean a new sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

See also:
Obama, war council review Afghanistan strategy
McChrystal Now Just One of Many Leaders as Obama Rethinks Afghan Strategy
Crucial talks begin on US Afghan strategy
Top UN envoy joins call for rethink of Afghan strategy
U.S. Afghan Strategy Hinges On Reliable Ally In Kabul
Senate blocks commander’s testimony before new Afghan strategy
Afghan Decision Expected in Matter of Weeks
Don’t rush Afghan decision, Kerry cautions president
Poll: 50% oppose U.S. surge in Afghanistan
Gunfight At The D.C. Corral
The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

/once we’re gone, how long will it be before the Taliban is back in control of Kabul, executing women in soccer stadiums?

Gunfight At The D.C. Corral

Check out candidate “Judgment to Lead” Obama, back in the day, talking smack at McCain and getting his Afghanistan hawk on, “taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan . . . I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be, this is a war we have to win . . . we cannot lose Afghanistan to a future of narco-terrorism . . . we need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones, in the Afghan border region”

Well, we’re about to find out if Obama really does have a commitment to winning in Afghanistan or if his campaign pronouncements were just so much more bull[expletive deleted] spewing out of his yap. Because, ruh roh, watch out, Obama’s Democrat fellow travelers in Congress are donning there chicken suits and getting ready to run their tidy whities up the flagpole.

Senate Armed Services Chairman: No More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan

The debate whether to send more combat troops to Afghanistan took a twist reminiscent of the Iraq conflict when the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday advised not sending any more U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan beyond those already approved by President Obama until more Afghan security forces are trained.

Speaking on the eighth anniversary of the date the United States was attacked by terrorists trained in Afghanistan, Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., also called for a shift in U.S. efforts toward more trainers, who could, in part, be supplied by NATO allies. He said he would like a plan for Afghanistan that would replicate the “Sons of Iraq” strategy to separate low and mid-level Taliban fighters in Afghanistan from the leadership of that terrorist group.

The Afghan Waver

Sometime soon, Mr. Obama will have to respond to Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal’s likely request to increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

This past Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the most explicit suggestion so far that Democrats may oppose any such request. “I don’t think there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan,” Speaker Pelosi said, “in the country or in Congress.”

Feingold wants timetable for moving U.S. troops out of Afghanistan

Sen. Russ Feingold on Monday ratcheted up criticism for President Barack Obama’s plan to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and began calling for a timetable to get the troops out of the country.

“After eight years, I am not convinced that simply pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well-thought-out strategy,” Feingold said during an editorial board meeting with the Appleton Post-Crescent.

See also:
Levin: Let’s train more Afghan forces
Senator Calls for More Afghan Forces, Not US Troops
Levin complicates Obama’s Afghan strategy
Congress wary of more US Afghanistan troops-Pelosi
Pelosi: Afghan surge lacks support
Doubt raised on troop boost in Afghanistan war
Feingold opposes Obama on troops to Afghanistan
Feingold questions Afghanistan military strategy
Democrats in Congress grow uneasy over Afghanistan

And if there wasn’t enough tension between Obama and the Democrats in Congress, now along comes the Afghanistan NATO/U.S. Commander, General Stanley McChrystal, to make the request for more troops. Caution, Democrat fratricide Xing, next several months.

Afghanistan: Gen. Stanley McChrystal Delivers Review of U.S. Operation

President Obama has already called for more than 20,000 additional troops in Afghanistan to more than 68,000 troops by year’s end. McChrystal’s assessment team had recommended as many as six more brigades, which could mean about 30,000 more troops.

McChrystal is expected to request more troops , although it is not known whether he will ask for as many, or even more than his assessment team recommended. Whatever the number, it will be hotly debated throughout Washington and could put the president in an uncomfortable position. Given Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the war, accusing the former president of failing to properly fund the war, it would be difficult for Obama to turn down the requests of a new commander who is tasked with turning things around. . . .

See also:
Officials: McChrystal to Request More Resources to Fight Taliban in Afghanistan
Request for more troops in Afghanistan likely, source says
More Troops Likely Needed in Afghanistan
Obama to Weigh Buildup Option in Afghan War
The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

/so, will Obama stick to his “we have to win” promise to protect the American people by following his military commanders’ advice and send more troops to Afghanistan, or will he “wee wee it up” and cave in to the bed wetting, cut and run Congressional Democrats, tuck his tail between his legs, and wave the white flag of surrender in Afghanistan?

The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

It’s bad enough that the Taliban is killing more U.S. and NATO soldiers than ever, using ever more sophisticated tactics, destroying NATO supply convoys at the vulnerable border choke points between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and generally intimidating and terrorizing the civilian population with suicide bombers and mutilations. Now there’s a new twist, the Taliban is using targeted suicide bombings to assasinate high ranking members of the Afghan military chain of command and civilian leadership.

Taliban Kill Spy Official, 22 Others

A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 23 people including Afghanistan’s deputy intelligence chief Wednesday, demonstrating the insurgency’s reach and its ability to hit a vulnerable Afghan government.

. . .

The slain official, Abdullah Laghmani, helped head the National Directorate of Security, which has been at the forefront of the anti-Taliban fight. Insurgent groups have long targeted Mr. Laghmani, according to Afghan intelligence agents.

Early Wednesday, Mr. Laghmani was emerging from a mosque in Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, about 60 miles east of Kabul, when a man approached and detonated explosives. The blast killed Mr. Laghmani and a number of senior provincial officials, according to Sayed Ahmad Safi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

How the bomber slipped past Mr. Laghmani’s security detail wasn’t clear, Mr. Safi said. Mr. Laghmani, who comes from Laghman, had been at the mosque to discuss security in the province with tribal elders, according to Mr. Safi. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group was responsible for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

The insurgents have repeatedly warned Afghans not to work with the government, and they’ve killed high- and low-ranking officials. In recent weeks, they’ve ambushed and wounded lawmakers traveling along a main road south of Kabul; killed a district governor in southern Afghanistan; and slain a number of election workers in the North.

President Karzai called Wednesday’s attack an attempt by the “enemy” to undermine the government. But other “brave and hardworking” Afghans would take the places of those slain, he said in a statement.

The attacks point to an insurgency that is packing a powerful punch as it expands beyond the Taliban stronghold in the south to the eastern border with Pakistan as well as other areas of Afghanistan. Once-peaceful provinces in Afghanistan now see regular insurgent attacks. In July and August, 153 foreign troops were killed, the deadliest two-month period since the war began in 2001.

See also:
Afghan intelligence chief Abdullah Laghmani killed in suicide attack
Afghan spy boss killed in Taliban suicide attack
Blast kills senior Afghan intelligence official
In Afghanistan, suicide bomber kills intelligence official at mosque
Suicide bomber kills 23 in Afghanistan
At least 23 die in Afghanistan blast -spokesman

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is calling for a change in strategy to counter the increasing Taliban threat.

Danger growing in Afghanistan

Nearly eight years on, the multinational endeavor to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan is in serious trouble. A recent security review conducted by the Afghan government and United Nations agencies indicated the Taliban either control or pose a high risk of attack in 40 percent of the country.

Casualties among Afghan civilians and the International Security Assistance Force — about half of which is American — are rising. August was the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces, as insurgent attacks and roadside bombs claimed 49 American lives.

President Obama has responded to the calls of military leaders to increase troop strength in Afghanistan, deploying an additional 21,000 troops in recent months. Another 4,000 are due before the end of the year.

But as with the surge in Iraq, success in Afghanistan isn’t merely a question of more boots on the ground. It’s also dependent on giving them the right leaders with the right strategy. And it’s dependent on our Afghan partners.

A new strategic assessment from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, calls for a revision of current strategy. The primary objective, he says, should be to earn the trust of the Afghan people and prepare them to take the lead in securing their country.

Temporarily taking towns and villages out from under control of the shadow government of the Taliban isn’t enough to earn the trust of the local population, McChrystal writes in a counterinsurgency document. Areas must be held and the local context changed “so people are more attracted to building and protecting their communities than destroying them.”

The biggest problem, however, may not be the size or strategy of the ISAF force. It may be the Afghan government.

McChrystal’s assessment assumes a timeline of several years before Afghan security forces and government institutions build up operational effectiveness. But mounting allegations of fraud and unexpectedly low voter turnout in last month’s presidential election along with continuing concerns about corruption and drug trafficking raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the government of President Hamid Karzai.

See also:
Afghanistan strategy must change, US commander McChrystal says
Gen. McChrystal calls for overhaul of Afghanistan war strategy
Report: McChrystal says US needs new Afghanistan strategy
Obama to Receive McChrystal Report Wednesday
Obama to get Afghan report on vacation
Obama using 5 measures to assess Afghan report
Top General in Afghanistan Looks to Replace Support Force With Combat Troops
EXCLUSIVE: General mulls more fighters in Afghanistan
Gates hints at US buildup in Afghanistan
Why McChrystal may not get more troops for Afghanistan
How long before Americans demand change in Afghanistan?

All I can say is that Obama had better be prepared to follow his military commander’s advice and do whatever is necessary to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, and he had better not be looking for the nearest exit door to cut and run through.

/giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban and al Qaeda on his Presidential watch, after eight years of sacrificing American blood and treasure to the conflict, will not look good on Obama’s historical resume