Sunday, July 23, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

JET/IA Patch Explainer

In my travels through Afghanistan I frequently came across a number of Air Force personnel wearing the "JET/IA" shoulder patch. For a few years I just wondered what the "JET/IA" stood for. Finally I started asking. Most of the Air Force dudes just didn't know. One Air Force guy finally offered up "Joint Expeditionary Tasking / Individual Augmentee". Well . . . . that tells me a lot. So it is good to read this recent news release explaining the "JET/IA" shoulder patch. Read "JET/IA Airmen support partners, Afghanistan", DVIDS, July 22, 2017.

Nawa District, Helmand Province Now Under Government Control

One of the districts that continues to change hands over time in Helmand province has . . . once again . . . been 'retaken' by Afghan security forces. Operation Maiwand Four conducted by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) - assisted by Marine advisors and coalition air support - cleared the Nawa district of enemy presence and expanded the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The district, located very close to the provincial capital has been under the control of the Taliban for the past nine months. The district center was captured by the Taliban in October 2016. To assist the Afghan security forces the Marines launched an expeditionary advising package or EAP. This EAP from the Marines' Task Force Southwest provided advisory, air, battle tracking, intelligence, and fires integration assistance.

Of course, the term 'district control' is a very vague term. From a government (and Resolute Support) viewpoint if an element of the ANP or ANA occupies the administrative center of the district (usually a small number of one-story buildings enclosed within a concrete wall) then the district is under government control. From the Taliban perspective, the district is controlled if the Taliban can roam freely day or night throughout the entire district (except for those four or five buildings where 30 ANP are hunkered down). Learn more about the different interpretations of district control in Afghanistan.


Speculative reports indicate that the ANDSF have already started the planning process for Operation Maiwand Five to take place in the summer of 2018 which will recapture the district center, clear the Nawa district center of enemy presence, and expand the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The early planning process has outlined future coordination with various Afghan government ministries for the future government occupation of Nawa district governmental buildings in 2018. Coalition air support is being coordinated to move Nawa district government officials by C-130 transport and then by helicopter from their Kabul villas to the district center for a press conference proclaiming victory and a return of Afghan governance to the troubled district. The district government representatives will then immediately return to Kabul for extended talks with senior officials of various Afghan ministries about establishing funding mechanisms that are not hampered by the 'red tape' associated with bureaucratic and restrictive regulations meant to diminish corruption.

The Afghan Government Media & Information Center (GMIC) has their 16 July 2018 press release already scripted and posted on their website. Essentially it will say that the Afghan governmental ministries will soon resume public services, open schools, and that the ANDSF will restore freedom of movement on the roads and the confidence of the Afghan people in their government and security forces.

Not to be outdone the PAO for Task Force Southwest has already crafted the press release for Operation Maiwand Five's successful outcome projected for mid-July 2018. He has posted it in his 'Continuity Book' for his replacements' replacement to utilize in mid-summer 2018. It will read sometime like this:
"We have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police. The ability of the ANDSF to conduct cross-pillar operations of battalion-size and larger provides proof of the abilities of the ANDSF to defend their nation. Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand." 

(Okay, a little satire there in the last five paragraphs, couldn't help myself).

Additional Reading:

"Marines aid Afghan forces in recapture of strategic district", Military Times, July 17, 2017.

"Afghan forces liberate district in central Helmand", Long War Journal, July 17, 2017.

"ANDSF retakes Nawa district center during operation Maiwand Four", DVIDS, July 17, 2017.

New Commanding General for CSTC-A

U.S. Army Major General Robin Fontes is now the commander of the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A). She assumed command on July 15, 2017. Read some news reports on the new commander responsible for working with senior Afghan leadership in the security force assistance mission. The outgoing CSTC-A commander, MG Kaiser, says gender issues remains one of the biggest challenges but he believes progress will be made under MG Robin Fontes. The TwitterSphere is alive with robust statements about how the new commander is the highest ranking female general officer in Afghanistan.

"First Female Commanding General at Resolute Support, Afghanistan", DVIDS, July 15, 2017.

"New Commander is Highest-Ranking Woman Officer in Afghanistan",, July 16, 2017.

Commentary on Afghan Conflict

"Old Wine in a New Bottle". Michael Kugelman writes about Trump's Afghanistan strategy. Says a troop surge of advisors that isn't tied to a broader overall strategy is folly. He recommends four major steps going forward. Kugelman is the Asia program deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "Trump's Afghanistan Strategy Is Simply Old Wine in a New Bottle", The National Interest, July 16, 2017.

Podcast on China's Role. The huge neighbor to the east of Afghanistan and Pakistan would like to see some stability in the region. So it is attempting to (behind the scenes) broker an agreement between the two nations (AfPak). But its not working too well. Listen to a 40-minute podcast where some observers comment on the topic - Abubakar Siddique of Gandhara Blog, Sune Engle Rasmussen of The Guardian, and Hameed Hakimi of the Chatham House think tank. See "Gandhara Podcast: China and Afghanistan, Pakistan Cooperation", Gandhara, July 19, 2017.

So What's the Plan? Everyone is waiting for the Trump administration to roll out the new 'Afghan war strategy' . . . waiting, waiting, waiting . . . . Fred Kaplan explains what's going on behind the scenes in "Making Afghanistan Great Again", Slate Magazine, July 2017.

Amnesty for War Criminals. A mixed result. Amnesty is a long-accepted practice to end conflicts and solidify peace agreements. Afghanistan is a good (or bad) example of the use of amnesty to bring warring or hostile organizations together to forge a government. But it is a problematic solution. Read more in "Afghanistan: Choosing Peace Over Justice", by Neha Dwivedi, The Diplomat, July 20, 2017.

Contracted Private Army to Fix Afghanistan? Streve Bannon and Jared Kushner, trusted advisors of Trump's White House, recently floated an idea of using a contracted military force to solve Afghanistan's never-ending conflict. They met with the head of DynCorp (Stephen Feinberg) and the former head of Blackwater (Erik Prince) for discussions on this topic. Sean McFate, as senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council - and former military contractor - tells us why this may not be a really good idea in "The Blackwater 2.0 Plan for Afghanistan", The Atlantic Council, July 17, 2017.

Afghan Security News

German JTAC advisor training ANA on air support procedures
in TAAC North (Photo Resolute Support July 2017)

What's Been Going On the Last 17 Years? President Trump had lunch with military personnel to come up with new ideas for the fight in Afghanistan. Seems he is wondering what's been going on for the last 17 years. Hmmmm. How about checking in with Mattis or McMaster? Read more in "Trump seeking new ideas on Afghanistan from service members", Military Times, July 18, 2017.

Heavy ANDSF Losses in Gereshk. The Afghan security forces lost 19 members in Gereshk district on July 20, 2017. The attack involved the use of three captured military vehicles as VBIEDs.

Taliban Leader's Son Carries out Suicide Attack. Some Afghan media reports say that the son of Hibatullah carried out a suicide attack on Thursday when he drove an explosive-laden Humvee into an ANDSF post in Gereshk. Radio Free Europe, July 22, 2017. Afghan government sources are questioning the claim.

Civilians Abducted. The Taliban abducted over 70 civilians in southern Kandahar on Saturday, 22 July. Some civilians were killed. 30 have been released. The civilians were traveling north on the road to Uruzgan.

Pakistan Funds Blocked? The DoD has blocked the disbursement to Pakistan of over $300 million. The purpose of the funds was to reimburse the country for its fight against terrorist groups. It seems the Pentagon feels that Pakistan has not taken 'sufficient action' against the Haqqani Network. You think? Read an article entitled "Pentagon Stops $300 Million Payment to Pakistan, Citing Terrorist Fight", Foreign Policy, July 21, 2017.

ALP Hit Hard in Badakhshan Province. Afghan Local Police (ALP) units were ambushed in remote areas of the province with as many as 30 casualties. Local residents are lodging protests with the central government saying not enough is being done to protect the ALP.

Errant Bombing by Coalition. A US air strike killed as many as 16 Afghan National Police in Gereshk district. The security post was captured by the Taliban earlier but then retaken by Afghan security forces. It was then that the airstrike occurred - reportedly a drone strike. The incident is under investigation. See "Errant US Drone Strike Kills 15 Afghan Troops", Voice of America, July 22, 2017.

Black Hawk Training for Afghan Pilots. It appears that Afghan pilots will begin training on their UH-60 helicopters in the fall of 2017. See a news report in Military Times, July 20, 2017.

Australian SAS Under Scrutiny? Or Just a Cheap Shot. Recent reports by an Australian news media outlet about the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan area being questioned. Read "Australia's Special Forces Deserve Respect - Not Cheap Shots", Small Wars Journal, July 17, 2017.

Taliban Showcasing the FN SCAR. A recent video released by the Taliban appears to show insurgents carrying a rifle used by U.S. SOF. The videos shows a Taliban fighter with a Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) with an AN/PEQ 5 laser and Surefire mounted. See "How Did Taliban Fighters Get Their Hands on US Special Operations Gear?", Task and Purpose, July 18, 2017.

Afghan Governance News

Dostum Denied Landing at MeS? News reports from Afghanistan seem to say that one of Afghanistan's two Vice Presidents tried to land at MeS airport (originating from Turkey) but had some difficulties - either technical aircraft problems or denied permission to land. The NATO-led Resolute Support headquarters says that the German-led Train, Advise, and Assist Command - North (TAAC-North) had nothing to do with the plane diversion. Dostum has been in Turkey for the last several weeks. See "NATO rejects involvement in forced diversion of Afghan vice president's plane"Khama Press, July 18, 2017.

New Political Party. A new political party has been launched by former members of the Jombesh - an Uzbek ethnic-based party of northern Afghanistan. The party leader of the 'old' Jombesh is Vice President Dostum who is currently on 'medical leave' in Turkey (or, evading arrest for kidnapping charges or, sent into 'exile' by the Afghan government). Read "Defying Dostum: A new Jombesh and the struggle for leadership over Afghanistan's Uzbeks", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), July 19, 2017.

News Snippets

Former TAAC-South Cdr Promoted. Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the former commander of Train, Advise, and Assist - South, has been selected to command the 36th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army National Guard. He was recently promoted to MG. See "The 36th Division holds Change of Command at Texas State Capitol", DVIDS, July 15, 2017.

Ambassador to Afghanistan Nominated - Finally. John Bass, currently the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, has been nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. The post has been vacant for several months. Bass has also seen service in Iraq - so he is somewhat familiar with nations in the midst of conflict. Bass has been the ambassador to Turkey since fall 2014. He is a career Senior Foreign Service officer. See "White House to Nominate John Bass As U.S. Envoy to Afghanistan", Radio Free Europe, July 21, 2017. View his official bio at DoS.

ANDSF and the "New" APPS. The Afghan Personnel and Pay System is an automated system that generates payroll information for the Ministry of Finance while integrating authorizations, personnel record management and payroll functions into one system for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. According to a press release by RS HQs . . . this is a new system. I don't know; seems like we have been rolling out this new system for about three years now. I could be wrong. Read "ANDSF gets new personnel, pay system", Resolute Support, July 21, 2017. Read more about the Afghan Personnel and Pay System.

More Troops to Afghanistan? Maybe Not? It is hard to get a read on President Trump as he is so unpredictable. A recent quote by Trump during a visit to the Pentagon is revealing. When asked if he would send more troops to Afghanistan he replied "We'll see. And we're doing very well against ISIS. ISIS is falling fast." Ummmm. Not sure what to say about that . . . so I will just leave it right there. For more see "Trump suggests that more U.S. troops might not be needed in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, July 20, 2017.

Afghan Girls Robotics Team. They won the silver in the U.S. in the First Global robotics competition. Lots of press coverage on this. Congratulations! The girls initially had some perplexing visa problems (denied twice by the State Department for no apparent reason - of course) but that got fixed.

'Fatemiyoun Division' - Iran's Afghan Shi'a in Syria. Iran has sent thousands of Afghan Shi'a to fight on its behalf in support of the Assad regime. Many of them are on the front lines after undergoing minimal training and the unit has suffered extremely high losses. Read more in "Iran Aims to Boost Prestige of Beleaguered Afghan Proxy Force in Syria", Radio Free Europe, July 15, 2017.

3rd ID HQs to Deploy. About 250 Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia are heading to Afghanistan. Many of the Soldiers will work at Bagram Air Field where they will function as the U.S. forces national support element in Afghanistan. Read more in "About 250 3rd ID Soldiers prepare for Afghanistan", Savannah Now, July 21, 2017.

SOSi Lands Another Afghan Contract. SOS International has won a $9 million contract to provide information dissemination and counter-misinformation services to Resolute Support. Read more in a news release by GOVCONWIRE, July 21, 2017.

Justice and Human Rights. Dr. Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, provides her perspective on what has gone wrong in Afghanistan and has recommendations on what the international community needs to do next. See "Afghanistan: This War Cannot Be Won With Bombs", Deutsche Welle, July 18, 2017.

Poppies - Not Just the Taliban. Many observers believe that the poppy trade in Afghanistan is controlled largely by the Taliban - not so much. Franz J. Marty, a freelance journalist in Afghanistan, writes up on who the poppy growers are in "Afghanistan's Opium Trade: A Free Market of Racketeers", The Diplomat, July 19, 2017.

MSF Back in Kunduz. Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has reopened a small medical clinic in Kunduz. The new clinic is not at the same location as the trauma center destroyed by a USAF AC-130 in 2015. (Radio Free Europe, July 22, 2017).

UN Report: Increase in Civilian Deaths. Civilian loss of life in Afghanistan due to the conflict has risen when compared to last year. Read "UN reports increase in Afghanistan civilian deaths", Deutshe Welle, July 17, 2017.

Catch Up on the News about Afghanistan!

You can receive the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter by email. It should arrive in your e-mail inbox at 0500 U.S. East coast time or just after lunch (1330) in Kabul every Sunday. It is easy to subscribe. To submit your subscription request go to and enter your email in the "Follow by Email" dialogue box at the top of the right hand column. The only info needed is your email. No personal data, no forms to fill out, and no passwords needed. You will receive a confirmation email asking you if you want to subscribe. Just confirm and you are done. It is also easy to unsubscribe. At the bottom of the newsletter click "unsubscribe" and you will be automatically unsubscribed.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - July 16, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

Advisors and the Afghan Security Institutions

Members of the TAAC-West medical staff and Police Advisory Team (PAT)
provide medical training to female members of the Afghan National Police (ANP)
 in Herat, Afghanistan. (Photo TAAC-West 2017).
The mission in Afghanistan is basically two parts. Part one is the train, advise and assist (TAA) mission and Part two is the counterterrorism mission. The majority of the NATO, partner nation, and U.S. troops are engaged in the TAA mission. Below are some recent news reports about the troops doing the TAA mission.

Advisors Needed at Tactical Level. Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine (both from the Center for a New American Security) list some lessons learned and provide some recommendations for the Trump administration on the Afghan conflict. Of the six or so lessons learned one seems key: providing more advisors at the tactical level (battalion) who are former U.S. battalion commanders and who have received MORE than two-weeks of training for their advising role. Read more in "The Afghan War is Not Lost"The National Interest, July 11, 2017.

Podcast about Advisors and the Insider Threat. The Modern War Institute of West Point has published a podcast by a U.S. Army NCO that experienced an insider attack (Green-on-Blue) at an Afghan police station. Listen to The Spear - An Insider Attack in Afghanistan, July 12, 2017.

Marines Back in Helmand Province. Two years ago the Marines left Helmand province after having spent millions of dollars in development projects and clearing much of the province of Taliban fighters. In two years the Afghan government and security forces managed to squander the hard-earned achievements of the Marines. Now the Marines are back again - at a significantly reduced force level to conduct the 'train, advise, and assist' mission. Read "Back in Afghan Hot Spot, U.S. Marines Chase Diminished Goals"The New York Times, July 14, 2017.

Marines 'Fly to Advise' the 505th Zone National Police. Marines from Task Force Southwest flew to the capital of Helmand province to spend some time with the Afghan National Police. See "Fly-to-Advise: Marines with Task Force Southwest visit the Provincial Headquarters"RS HQ, July 11, 2017.

AAF and TAAC-Air. Personnel from the 'Train, Advise, and Assist Command - Air' (TAAC-Air) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF) conducted a bilateral casualty evacuation mission and an aerial re-supply training exercise in July. See a news report by DVIDS, July 11, 2017.

Commentary on Afghanistan

"Corruption, in the end, is the principal threat to our long-term objectives in Afghanistan".

General (Ret) John Allen, former ISAF commander, June 2017 in a Brookings interview.
Political and Electoral Reform Needed. To end the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan the political institutions of the country need to be revamped and the electoral process reformed. Less control over the province and districts by the central government is needed. Read more in "The Key to Ending Afghanistan's Long War - It's Politics, Stupid", The Hill Opinion, July 9, 2017.

Pakistan and the Haqqani Network. One of the most effective insurgent groups in the Afghan conflict is the Haqqani Network. It has sanctuaries in Pakistan and receives strong support from Pakistan's spy agency - the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI. Rahmatullah Nabil (former Director of the Afghan National Directorate of Security or NDS) and Melissa Skorka - an advisor on the COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) for several years have written an article on this topic entitled "The Terror Problem From Pakistan", The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2017.

Stopping the Taliban (via Pakistan). The Taliban are better financed, equipped and supported than ever and the results on the battlefields of Afghanistan are proof of that. Pakistan plays a big role in the resurgent Taliban. Read more in "Calling Pakistan's Bluff: The Right Way to Stop the Taliban"Foreign Affairs, July 14, 2017.

Five Experts on Afghanistan and Policy Options. John Allen (Gen Ret), Vanda Felbab-Brown, Tanvi Madan, Michael O'Hanlon, and Bruce Riedel all have something to say about Afghanistan and the way forward. Read Rightsizing Expectations: US Policy Options for Afghanistan, Foreign Policy at Brookings, July 2017. A 25-page report about evolving objectives, endurring challenges, and U.S. policy options.

Reintegration - Not Reconciliation. If the Taliban wanted peace they would be sitting at the negotiation table right now. Notice the empty chair? That's because they are winning on the battlefield. If the leaders of the Taliban can't be reconciled then perhaps the foot soldiers can be reintegrated? Probably not, as the conditions are not quite right for a successful reintegration program. Read more in "With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation", The National Interest, July 12, 2017.

India Should be Wary of U.S. Afghan Policy. India has become the most reliable regional partner for Afghanistan but the United States will likely demand more of India. But . . . India should be aware of "What Trump's Afghanistan Policy Means for India", The Diplomat, July 15, 2017.

China in Afghanistan - Not in a Big Way Yet. Vinay Kaura, an assistant professor at Sardar Patel University (India), has contributed a column to the Middle East Institute about China's participation in the Afghan conflict. He says that China has a vested interest in a stable Afghanistan. China has it's own security problems (its western province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan), regional stability (especially the Pakistan-India dilemna), and economic objectives ("One Belt, One Road", "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor", and mining concessions in Afghanistan). However, thus far it has managed to stay above the fray in Afghanistan. Read more in "China Makes Diplomatic Play in Afghanistan", Middle East Institute, July 12, 2017.

More Troops for Afghanistan? Why? Dan Depetris writes that investing more time, money, and lives in a country where corruption, violence and patronage determine who wins and who loses is fruitless. Read his thoughts in "Commentary: Steve Bannon is Right on Afghanistan", Reuters, July 9, 2017.

Obtaining Political Stability for Afghanistan. The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) has published a 20-page report by Alex Thier and Scott Worden entitled Political Stability in Afghanistan: A 2020 Vision and Roadmap, July 10, 2017.

Afghanistan, Logistics, and the Tyranny of Geography. Maintaining and logistically re-supplying a military force in a remote, land-locked country surrounded by nations not so friendly to the U.S. poses a daunting challenge. While Pakistan supports the Haqqani Network and other Taliban insurgent groups by providing sanctuaries and other means of support it also allows the U.S. to fly over its territory, use its seaports, and ground lines of communication to supply its troops and feed the war machine in Afghanistan. The U.S. is not on friendly terms with Iran and our relationship with Russia is problematic. Barnett R. Rubin, Director of the Afghanistan Regional Project, provides the details of this topic in "Afghanistan and Considerations of Supply", War on the Rocks, July 11, 2017.

Security News on Afghanistan

ISIS-K Emir Killed on July 11th. U.S. forces killed Abu Sayed, the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria - Khorasan Province in a strike on the group's headquarters in Kunar province, Afghanistan on July 11th.Two previous leaders of the group were killed in July 2016 and April 2017. IS-K continues to find sanctuary in remote areas of the Kunar and Nangarhar province despite being heavily targeted by U.S. drones, U.S. SOF, and Afghan SOF. Read a statement by DoD, July 14, 2017. See also "Pentagon: US Forces Kill ISIS Leader in Afghanistan", Military Times, July 14, 2017.

Ex-Special Forces Officer appointed as Deputy Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia. Dr. Joseph Felter - former U.S. Special Forces (SF) and Foreign Area Officer (FAO) has a new job. He was a former commander of West Point's Combating Terrorism Center and the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) in Afghanistan. Read more in "Joseph Felter Appointed as Deputy Secretary of Defense", SOF News, July 14, 2017.

Two U.S. Service Members Wounded on July 7th. According to a statement by a spokesman for Resolute Support two service members were wounded in Nangarhar province and medically evacuated out of theater for treatment.

A Contracting Option? The White House political advisors (in this case Bannon and Kushner) are exploring options for the Trump administration to navigate a way out of the morass in Afghanistan. Two successful businessmen from the DynCorp and Blackwater era provided their insight and made some recommendations on utilizing contractors on a larger scale in Afghanistan. Read "Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan", The New York Times, July 10, 2017.

New Afghan Strategy? Not Quite Yet. The re-vamped Afghan war strategy review by the Department of Defense isn't quite ready for prime time. SecDef Jim Mattis says it is underway and wouldn't provide a finish date as indicated in a recent statement - "You know me, I don't give timelines". Got to love "Chaos". See "Jim Mattis: New Afghanistan strategy isn't finished yet", Washington Examiner, July 15, 2017.

Retaking Nawa District (Helmand)? It appears that units of the 215th ANA Corps are on an offensive to re-capture a district in southwestern Afghanistan from the Taliban.

Taliban Threatening Kunduz . . . Again. In 2015 the Taliban took and held Kunduz city in northern Afghanistan for two weeks. In 2016 they once again attack Kunduz - taking hold for a short time parts of the city. This fighting season (2017) the Taliban have once again attempted (and may still continue to attempt) to take the provincial capital. However, recent improvements on the Afghan security forces to work together and leadership difficulties of the Taliban have contributed to a less than successful effort. Read more in "New Taleban Attacks in Kunduz: Less coordinated, still well-placed to threaten the city", Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 9, 2017.

Videos on Afghanistan

Video on UH-60s for AAF. The Deputy Commander of the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A), MG Neil Thurgood, does a good job in explaining the need for an increase in the number of rotary-wing aircraft for the Afghan Air Force (AAF). Of concern is the move to supply the Afghan Air Force (an organization with poor maintenance skills) with the very complicated and maintenance-intensive UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. What is good for the politicians and businessmen (Sirkorsky) of Connecticut isn't necessaryily good for the Afghan Air Force. Watch the 3-minute long video produced by Resolute Support Headquarters published on July 10, 2017.

Video Explanation of CSTC-A. This one-minute long video by Resolute Support Headquarters published on July 11, 2017 explains the role of the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A). Major General Richard Kaiser - the Commanding General of CSTC-A - provides an explanation of how CSTC-A helps the Afghan security institutions.

Peace Process and Participation of Women. Resolute Support has released a video (July 13, 2017) featuring Maria Bashar - an activist for human rights who believes that a peace and reconciliation process cannot be successful if half of the population is left out of it.

Afghan War Blog Snippets

"Stocktake" Meeting. Each week members of NATO's RS HQs and coalition nations discuss the progress of the Afghan Anti-corruption Criminal Justice Center (ACJC) in a meeting know as the "Stocktake". Read "Resolute Support Counter-corruption professionals discuss ACJC Progress", DVIDS, July 7, 2017.

Role of Elders in Afghan Society. A short article posted on the website of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) provides insight in the role that the community elders play in resolving disputes at the local level. (UNAMA, July 13,2017).

UNOCHA Report on Afghanistan. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has published Issue 65 (1-30 June 2017) of the Afghanistan Humanitarian Bulletin.

Afghan Fiction. A excerpt from a book about war in Afghanistan. "Crossing the River No Name", The New Yorker, Jun 12, 2017.

Pakistan and Afghan Border Security. Pakistan is building a fence along part of its porous border with Afghanistan. The nearly 2,600-kilometer border is largely unguarded making it impossible to control illegeal cross-border movement. Of course, the demarcation of the border is disputed by Pakistan and Afghanistan - so there's that. Read more in "Pakistan Takes Unilateral Steps Toward Afghan Border Security", Voice of America, July 15, 2017.

Assistance Needed by Afghans Fleeing IS-K Fighting. Afghans leaving the areas where fighting is continuing between the government security forces and fighters of the Islamic State - Khorsan find that government assistance is not abundant. Read "Afghan Families Displaced by IS Claim Lack of Assistance", Voice of America, July 14, 2017.

Afghanistan's Opium Industry. The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) has published an article about the world's leading producer of opium (that would be Afghanistan). Read "AAN Q&A: An established industry - Basic facts about Afghanistan's opium-driven economy", AAN, July 11, 2017.

Afghan Girls Robotics Team. Twice rejected for U.S. visas, the all-girls finally arrived in Washington, D.C. early on Saturday (15 Jul) morning to compete in an international robotics competition. The U.S. State Department had to undergo an 'intervention' to realize the young ladies were not terrorists. We shall see if they all get back on the plane to return home! See "Allowed in by Trump, Afghan girls robotics team lands in DC", AP News, July 15, 2017.

Social Media and the Taliban. The use of information operations (IO) in a counterinsurgency conflict is paramount to gaining the populations support for both the insurgents and counterinsurgents. Initially the Taliban restricted its IO efforts to speeches in villages, night letters, and meetings. However, over the past 16 years of the current stage in the Afghan conflict the Taliban have become more savy. Read "Taliban Propaganda Meets the Digital Age", Gandhara, July 10, 2017. Read more about the importance of social media in the Afghan conflict.

Stay Abreast of the Afghan War News!

You can receive the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter by email. It should arrive in your e-mail inbox at 0500 U.S. East coast time or just after lunch (1330) in Kabul every Sunday. It is easy to subscribe. To submit your subscription request go to and enter your email in the "Follow by Email" dialogue box at the top of the right hand column. The only info needed is your email. No personal data, no forms to fill out, and no passwords needed. You will receive a confirmation email asking you if you want to subscribe. Just confirm and you are done. It is also easy to unsubscribe. At the bottom of the newsletter click "unsubscribe" and you will be automatically unsubscribed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - July 9, 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

Commentary on Pakistan's Role in Afghanistan

Pakistan has been in the news the past few weeks. Afghanistan conflict observers are noting the 4,000 increase in U.S. personnel and a few more thousand from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the strategy review being undertaken by the U.S. Department of Defense (with a little help from the White House?). A question many raise is what will be the outcome of this increase in troop levels. Certainly it will help in the train, advise, and assist effort and in an incremental fashion raise the effectiveness of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) . . . but . . .

The primary factors of the Taliban's effectiveness against the ANDSF is not the lack of advisors. It has more to do with a corrupt and ineffective Afghan government (at all levels), security institutions with inept and corrupt senior leadership, and insurgents with support from and sanctuary in Pakistan. Many observers look to this last point (Pakistan) as the primary factor in the continuance of this long conflict. Listed below is some recent analysis and commentary on the Pakistan issue from the past week.

"Pakistan's Proxy Strategy". Daniel Markey - Academic Director, Global Policy Program at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies - provides his perspective in "Pakistan's Proxy Strategy Principal Cause of Mistrust for U.S.", The Cipher Brief, July 6, 2017.

Pakistan - Key to Winning in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban leadership lives in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar. Financial incentives from the United States to Pakistan have done little to change Pakistan's support of the Taliban. The incentive-based approach is not working. Read more in an article by Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington. He was also Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. "To Win Afghanistan, Get Tough on Pakistan"The New York Times, July 6, 2017.

One-Time Ally. Pakistan, at one time, was a key ally in the fight against the Soviet occupation and later - after 9/11 - in the fight against terrorism. But . . . the times have changed. Amid accusations that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban the country is moving closer to China and Russia. Read more in "Once a US ally, Pakistan Now Looks to China, Russia", Voice of America, July 8, 2017.

Pakistan as a Counter-Terrorist Ally? Hmmmm. Bennett Seftel writes about the misgivings Afghan War observers have about Pakistan. Read more in "Murky U.S.-Pakistan Relationship Defined by Afghan War"The Cipher Brief, July 6, 2017.

Pakistan - Not an Ally. Robert Cassidy, a retired U.S. Army officer with four tours in Afghanistan, provides his perspective of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan comes under his scrutiny in this article. Read "DoD Report: Pakistan is Reason for Afghanistan Stalemate"Real Clear Defense, July 3,2017.

U.S. Army Casualty in Helmand Province - July 3, 2017

The United States Department of Defense released the name of a U.S. Army casualty who died on Monday, July 3, 2017 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Private First Class Hansen B. Kirkpatrick, 19, of Wasilla, Arkansas died from wounds received during an indirect fire attack. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division based at Fort Bliss, Texas. Two other service members were wounded in the incident. Read the press release at "DoD Identifies Army Casualty", DoD, July 5, 2017.

Task Force Southeast Advising Mission

A convoy of the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps readies for an
operation in southeast Afghanistan. (Photo 203rd PAO, May 25, 2017)

Advising Platform Lightning in Gardez, Afghanistan is the home of Task Force Southeast. The advisors at Task Force Southeast have the Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) mission for the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps and the 303rd Afghanistan National Police Zone Headquarters.

Task Force Southeast is a subordinate command of Resolute Support Headquarters based in Kabul. The forces (203rd and 303rd) it advises is responsible for the security of an area the size of South Carolina in southeastern Afghanistan.

The 203rd Corps is comprised of four brigades with a total of 34 kandaks (battalions). It has over 20,000 personnel assigned in the provinces of Wardak, Logar, Khost, Paktiya, Paktika, Ghazni, and Bamyan.

The 303rd Police Zone Headquarters oversees the activities and operations of the Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan Border Police (ABP), Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), and Afghan Local Police (ALP). The Police Zone has over 25,000 personnel assigned.

Read more about the mission of Task Force Southeast in "Task Force Southeast - Who We TAA, 203rd Corps and 303rd Police Zone", DVIDS, July 3, 2017.

Commentary on Afghanistan

Haidari on Peace in Afghanistan. The Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan has wrote an opinion peace outlining  the path to peace in Afghanistan. He enumerates four key points to achieve Afghan stability. Read "For Peace in Afghanistan, Listen to Afghans", The Diplomat, June 28, 2017.

Diplomatic Effort Needed. The U.S. needs the increase in military advisors but it also needs to employ it's diplomatic tools to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting insurgents and on the National Unity Government (NUG) to institute reforms, curb corruption, and work together to govern Afghanistan. See "Deadly Afghanistan: Trump's Imbroglio", Huffington Post, July 7, 2017.

Security News about Afghanistan

AAF Pilot prepares a resupply airdrop from a C-208
(photo Tech Sgt Veronica Pierce, June 28, 2017)

AAF Training Up on Airdrops. Afghan Air Force crews are learning how to resupply air drops from their Cessna 208 aircraft. Read more in "Afghan Air Force delivers first operational airdrop"DVIDS, June 28, 2017.

Update on Marines in Helmand. The U.S. Marines arrived in Helmand province a few months back - replacing a U.S. Army element (Task Force Forge) in the 'train, advise, and assist' mission. There are high expectations that the Marines return to this dangerous province will set things right with the 215th ANA Corps and 505 Police Zone HQs. That sentiment, of course, deserves a big "Hmmmm". It is highly unlikely that any progress will be made at all. Unless, of course, the Marines trot out the worn story line of how the Afghan Army and police conducted combined operations to mount a multi-day operation to launch a resupply convoy to a beleaguered district center that has been surrounded by Taliban fighters for months. So, what is the latest update? Read "Amid possible surge, Marines help Afghans 'shape the battlefield'", Marine Corps Times, July 3, 2017.

U.S. Senator Worries on 'Diplomatic Vacuum'. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is worried that key State Department posts are unfilled at a time when the U.S. needs a 'whole-of-government' approach to the 16-year long conflict in Afghanistan. See "Elizabeth Warren, back from first trip to Afghanistan, says, 'I'm not there on a troop increase'", The Washington Post, July 6, 2017.

Inside Story on U.S. Troop Increase. Despite President Trump saying that SECDEF Mattis will decide troop level increases for Afghanistan it appears that it is not necessarily so. Read "Memo Reveals Trump Isn't Telling the Full Story on Afghan Troop Levels", Task & Purpose, July 6, 2017.

U.S. Senators Visit Afghanistan. Five United States Senators recently visited Afghanistan. One (Sen Warren) said that 'political patience' in the U.S. on Afghanistan is wearing thin. Sen McCain decries the lack of an overall strategy. Other senators want something done about the sanctuaries the Taliban enjoy in Pakistan. Read more in "US still has no path to peace in Afghanistan, bipartisan senators say", The Guardian, July 4, 2017.

Lithuania Forces Rotating. The Lithuanian Armed Forces are rotating their personnel in Afghanistan. The personnel are assigned to Kabul and to Train, Advise, Assist Command - West (TAAC-West) in Herat (western Afghanistan). See "Lithuania troops to leave for multinational operations areas in Afghanistan and Iraq", The Baltic Times, July 4, 2017.

Conventional Troops in TAA at Tactical Level. For the past few years the only U.S. troops advising at the tactical level were special operations forces (and the aviation advisors with the AAF). But with the decrease in security and a resilient Taliban U.S. conventional troops are finding themselves in the tactical fight. Read more in "Death of U.S. soldier in Afghanistan highlights the evolving role of conventional combat troops there", The Washington Post, July 5, 2017.

Turkey Taking a Leading Role in Afghanistan. Turkey has been contributing to overall effort to stabilize Afghanistan ever since 2002. It maintains a sizable contingent of military forces in the Kabul region and heads up Train, Advise, and Assist Command - Capitol. Read more in "Is Turkey's Erdogan seeking a leading role in Afghanistan?", Deutsche Welle, July 7, 2017.

Casualty Reporting by RS HQs. Resolute Support HQs in Afghanistan will no longer issue an initial statement within hours of a US combat death. Instead, deaths will be announced by DoD 24 hours after family members have been notified. The policy change is intended to prevent the accidental release of a fallen US service member's name before Next of Kin (NOK) notification. See "The War in Afghanistan Just Got Harder to Follow in Real Time", BuzzFeed News, July 5, 2017.

Villagers Armed in Tora Bora Region. The National Directorate of Security (NDS) has armed local villagers in a remote district of eastern Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains. The local militia group has been formed to aid in the fight against Islamic State fighters. 300 villagers from the Pachiragam district have been armed and equipped (and presumably will be paid salaries as well). The district is within the 201st Afghan National Army Corps area of responsibility but it has not been successful in defending the area against Taliban or Islamic State influence or control. Read more in "Afghan Government Arms Villages to Fight IS in Tora Bora", Voice of America, July 7, 2017.

Report on Security - Afghanistan and Central Asia. Ivan Safranchuk has authored a 42-page report entitled Afghanistan and Its Central Asian Neighbors: Toward Dividing Insecurity, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), June 2017.

Videos & Podcasts about Afghanistan

RSM: for the Future of Afghanistan. SHAPE NATO has just published (July 5, 2017) a one-minute long video that explains the transition of the international participation in the Afghan conflict as completing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at the end of 2014 with the new, follow-on, NATO-led mission called Resolute support launched on January 1, 2015.

Bagram FAST Team. A video by Senior Airman Joshua Crawley of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan depicts the duties and responsibilities of a "Fly Away Security Team" that defends aircraft at less secure airfields.

Podcast - Ben Jones on Afghanistan. Ben Jones is a contributor to a new book called Our Latest, Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan and provides some info on the book. He wrote a chapter on the transition from U.S. lead in security to Afghan lead in security. Listen to "In the Moment . . . Lessons from Afghanistan",, July 6, 2017.

Afghan War News Snippets

More Visas for Interpreters. A U.S. Senate committee has approved 4,000 more Visas for Afghans who worked for the U.S. military as interpreters or support staff. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is designed to help Afghans who assisted the U.S. in the Afghan conflict to immigrate to the United States. See "U.S. Senate Committee Approves 4,000 More Special Visas for Afghans", Gandhara, June 29, 2017.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan? None. Despite having over 8,400 U.S. troops engaged in the Afghan conflict supporting a corrupt and dysfunctional Afghan government the Trump administration has yet to nominate a U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan over six months into its time in office. See "Lack of US Ambassador to Afghanistan Draws Criticism", Voice of America, July 7, 2017.

China's Silk Road - More Than an "Economic Highway". China is making quite an ado about its "Silk Road" connecting China with the rest of the Eurasia continent in an economic belt. Afghanistan is playing a small part in the overall plan. Slowly, and under the radar, China is positioning naval and ground forces at strategic locations around the world. There are current plans to position elements of the People's Liberation Army Marine Corps (PLAMC) in Djibouti and Pakistan. Could we see some Chinese military in Afghanistan at some point in the future? Sounds far-fetched but . . . Read more in "The Muscle Behind China's New Silk Road Is Over the Horizon", Reconnecting Asia, June 26, 2017.

Norwegian Refugee Council. The NRC is busy in Afghanistan helping Afghans to learn a livelihood so they can support their families. Read "New hope for young Afghans", Norwegian Refugee Council, July 7, 2017.

Afghan Procurement Reform. The Afghan government is changing how it conducts its procurement process. Read more in an article by The Diplomat, July 8, 2017.

Afghanistan's 'Hill of Widows'. Read about "Zanabad" - the city of women that is home to a cluster of women who have eked out independence after being widowed. Read "Afghanistan's 'hill of widows' live in a world apart", Daily Mail, June 22, 2017.

Keep Up on the News About Afghanistan!

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - 2 July 2017

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

Taliban Update

Taliban Ideology. The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) is highly respected for its detailed reporting on the situation in Afghanistan. The AAN has released a report entitled Ideology in the Afghan Taliban, dated 29 June 2017. The report states that the Taleban's ideology has transformed over the past two decades. While the movement started out as a 'traditionalist' Islam - it has now moved closer to forms of political Islam espoused in the Arab world. The 45-page report can be read online or downloaded.

Taliban vs IS-K in Nuristan. The remote province of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan is the stage for fighting between the Islamic State - Khorasan and Taliban elements. See "Afghan Governor Says Taliban Fighting IS in Eastern Province", Gandhara, June 28, 2017.

NATO Troop Increase for Afghanistan

NATO to Up Troop Levels. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated during a recent news conference that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will increase its troop levels for the 'train, advise, and assist' mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has completed a trip to Europe where he consulted with NATO allies on the requirement for more advisors in Afghanistan. Naturally, the Europeans will be dong the "Train, Advise, and Assist" mission and will not be involved in any combat role. Although . . . it is quite possible some of its special operations forces (SOF) units could get a little close to the frontlines. Read "NATO agrees on Afghanistan troop increase", Stars & Stripes, June 29, 2017. See also "European allies and Washington tiptoe around new troops for 'Resolute Support'", Jane's 360, June 30, 2017.


Peace with Honor? Lawrence Freedman, a professor of war studies at King's College London, provides his perspective of victory and defeat in Afghanistan. He believes that America's ". . . definition of peace needs to be defined down." Read "Can There Be Peace With Honor in Afghanistan?", Foreign Policy, June 26, 2017.

Importance of Educating Afghanistan's Youth. Rahmatullah Arman writes that widespread illiteracy undercuts security and development in "Educating Afghanistan's Youth Is the Only True Solution to Terrorism", Defense One, June 27, 2017.

9 Priorities for Peace. A recently held workshop brought together 23 experts from the Afghan government, media, and other organizations to explore the challenges, priorities, and opportunities for building peace in Afghanistan. Read the report entitled "Nine Priorities for Peace in Afghanistan", Conciliation Resources, June 2017.

Afghan Conflict Options - Losing or Not Losing. James Dobbins, a former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, comments on the options for the new administration in "Trump's Options for Afghanistan: Losing or Not Losing", RAND Corporation, June 23, 2017.

U.S. Military Can't Fix Mess Alone. James Cunningham, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Israel, and the United Nations - and currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council - weighs in on the Afghan problem. "There is no guarantee that America can 'win' in Afghanistan, but it is quite clear that it can lose". read "I Was U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. The Military Can't Fix This Mess Alone", The National Interest, June 29, 2017.

Avoiding Perpetual War in Afghanistan. Daniel L. Davis, a retired U.S. Army officer, provides his thoughts on how to avoid 'the long stay' in Afghanistan in "A New Afghanistan Strategy Must Avoid Perpetual War", The National Interest, June 28, 2017.

Haidari on Peace in Afghanistan. The Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan has wrote an opinion peace outlining  the path to peace in Afghanistan. He enumerates four key points to achieve Afghan stability. Read "For Peace in Afghanistan, Listen to Afghans", The Diplomat, June 28, 2017.

Security News 20170702

Afghan Special Services Force (ASSF) Soldier
Afghan Special Security Force (ASSF) - Photo by Lt Cmdr Kathryn Gray, RS HQs, June 26, 2017

Helmand Leadership Change. The police chief of Helmand province - General Kentooz - was removed after being in the job for a year. He was previously removed as head of the major crime task force at the Ministry of Interior (MoI). Many of the senior leaders of the MoI and MoD who are removed for cause (corruption, ineffectiveness, ineptness, etc.) are simply moved on to other positions until the Resolute Support HQs folks monitoring (supposedly) Afghan leadership catch on. Kentooz will, once again, resurface someplace else within the security ministries. The commander of the 215th ANA Corps was removed about a year ago - wonder where he is now working?

Advisor Training in Kabul. The Security Force Assistance (SFA) framework utilized by Resolute Support Headquarters to conduct the 'Train, Advise, and Assist' mission in Afghanistan is complicated and comprehensive. Those officers and NCOs who are designated to serve in key or high-level advisor roles may find themselves undergoing "Key Leader Training" at Camp RS prior to their Afghan deployment. This four-day training event ensures they are knowledgeable of the Afghan training mission. Read more in "Resolute Support trains its people, improving advisor training", DVIDS, June 26, 2017.

A Wasteful War. The U.S. has spent millions and millions of dollars supporting a corrupt government and inept military in Afghanistan. There seems to be no end to the wasteful practices of the U.S. military and the corruption of the Afghan government and its security institutions. Read more in "War and waste: Cautionary tales as U.S. ponders Afghan boost", PBS Newshour, June 25, 2017.

RS Cdr Visits AAF. General John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support, visited facilities of the Afghan Air Force. (DVIDS, June 23, 2017).

NATO to Support ANDSF 4-Year Roadmap. The MoD is quite happy with NATO's decision to send more advisors to Afghanistan. It seems NATO is firmly behind (if not the author?) of the MoD's 4-year Roadmap to professionalize the ANA. Some big changes in store. The Afghan Air Force will increase in size, the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command will double in size, and the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) will be transferred from the MoI to the MoD. Read "NATO's Support Crucial for MoD's Four-Year Plan: Waziri", Tolo News, July 1, 2017.

ALP Volunteers. Apparently working in the Afghan Local Police (ALP) is a good deal. In late June more than 700 Afghan citizens in Nangarhar attempted to join the police unit but there were not quite that many positions available. Some of those turned away from the ALP were picked up for service in an 'ad hoc' private militia force funded by the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Read more in "Resounding Afghan Pride in Nangarhar", DVIDS, June 27, 2017.

Failure of ANDSF. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are not quite up to the job of defeating the Taliban and other insurgents. In fact, the Afghan government controls less territory in 2017 than it did in 2016 - currently estimated at 60%. Read more in "Decoding Afghan Security Forces' Failures", The Diplomat, June 23, 2017.

Report: Lessons Learned from Stabilization Initiatives in Afghanistan. RAND Corporation, 2017. 44-page document provides a systematic review of existing research.

UK's SAS and SBS to Afghanistan. A recent news report indicates the the UK is uplifting its total number of personnel assigned to Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. Read "SAS and SBS sent to help Afghan Army", The Times, June 29, 2017.

Gen Dunford Visits Afghanistan. The U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Joe Dunford, made an unannounced visit to discuss the future strategy for Afghanistan and the game plan for a likely U.S. troop increase. (Gandhara, June 26, 2017).

Afghan War News Snippets

More Visas for Interpreters. A U.S. Senate committee has approved 4,000 more Visas for Afghans who worked for the U.S. military as interpreters or support staff. The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program is designed to help Afghans who assisted the U.S. in the Afghan conflict to immigrate to the United States. See "U.S. Senate Committee Approves 4,000 More Special Visas for Afghans", Gandhara, June 29, 2017.

Key Leader Training for RS HQs Advisors. The Resolute Support Headquarters conducts a 4-day training course for those military personnel who are assigned to be advisors to the MoD or MoI. One day the 'newcomer's briefing day' - learning the aspects of living and working in Afghanistan on Camp RS in Kabul. A second day is Guardian Angel training - ensuring that you are aware of and know how to respond to an insider threat or green-on-blue incident. Two days is spent on learning how RS HQs conducts its Security Force Assistance (SFA) mission and how the RS HQs staff works within the 8 Essential Functions framework. Read more in "Resolute Support trains its people, improving advisor training", U.S. Central Command, June 26, 2017.

Logistics Advising in Afghanistan. The current coalition mission in Afghanistan is to train, advise, and assist (TAA) the Afghan police and military. From a logistics standpoint, creating a self-sustaining afghan military is an important step forward to ensure the Afghans can independently secure their borders and provide for internal security. A logistics advisor, to be effective, must understand that the Western military logistics framework and culture is not a good fit for Afghanistan's military or culture. Read more in "Moving forward with logistics advising in Afghanistan",, May 1, 2017.

Report: Islamic State in Afghanistan. Abdul Basit has penned a 21-page article entitled "IS Penetration in Afghanistan-Pakistan: Assessment, Impact and Implications", Perspectives on Terrorism, Volume 11, No 3, June 2017. IS is now competing with al-Qaeda and the Taliban over recruitment, resources, and the loyalties of local militant groups. This has complicated the militant landscape, contributed to the Sunni-Shia conflict, and adds complexity to the effort of the Afghan government and its coalition partners.

Air Force Cross Awarded. An airman was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during the 2002 Operation Anaconda that took place in the Takur Gar area of Afghanistan. TSgt Keary Miller provided critical medical care to 10 wounded U.S. service members under dangerous conditions. Read more in "Survival on Takur Gar", Air Force Magazine, August 2017.

Bowe Bergdahl Trial Update. Bergdahl's long, drawn-out trial is proceeding ahead. A military judge made a key ruling saying that prosecutors can try the soldier on the charge of endangering his comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. See "Bowe Bergdahl case: Judge lets rare misbehavior charge proceed", Army Times, June 30, 2107.

BBC Podcast on Silk Road. This 40-minute long podcast is entitled "Silk Routes: Two Thousand Years of Trading". The economic highway from China, across Central Asia and Afghanistan, to Iran.

China's Silk Road in Afghanistan is a Bumpy Ride. The Chinese have made some important steps forward in providing investments in some key sectors of the Afghan - most notable is the mining sector. However, the return on investment is disappointing due to the deteriorating security situation. Read more in "Difficult Trek on Silk Road in Afghanistan", Asia Sentinel, June 29, 2017.

Afghans Fighting for Assad in Syria. Iran, over the past several years, has pressed into service citizens of Afghanistan to fight for the Assad regime in Syria. There are an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 Afghans fighting in the Syrian conflict. Read "How Iran Recruited Afghan Refugees to Fight Assad's War", The New York Times, June 30, 2017.

General Dunford Visits Afghanistan. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (and former ISAF commander) visited Kabul and Helmand province to gain ground truth on the Afghan conflict. See "Dunford arrives in Afghanistan as Marines work to rekindle relations in Helmand", Military Times, June 26,2017.

Video of Guardian Angel Training. Australian troops in Afghanistan are conducting the train, advise, and assist mission. This entails advisors and trainers visiting Afghan police and Army installations and garrisons. With the constant threat of insurgent attacks as well as the insider threat the need exists for a force protection element to accompany the advisors on their missions. Watch a short video about Australian soldiers assigned the "Guardian Angel" task of keeping their fellow Aussie soldiers safe in Guardian Angels Protecting Australian Soldiers in Afghanistan, Perth Now, June 27, 2017.

Keep Up to Date on Afghan News!

You can receive the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter by email. It should arrive in your e-mail inbox at 0500 U.S. East coast time or just after lunch (1330) in Kabul every Sunday. It is easy to subscribe. To submit your subscription request go to and enter your email in the "Follow by Email" dialogue box at the top of the right hand column. The only info needed is your email. No personal data, no forms to fill out, and no passwords needed. You will receive a confirmation email asking you if you want to subscribe. Just confirm and you are done. It is also easy to unsubscribe. At the bottom of the newsletter click "unsubscribe" and you will be automatically unsubscribed.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - 20170625

Welcome to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter. Articles are posted online on the blog and sent out via email newsletter on Sunday morning. We welcome comments, ideas for stories, contributions, and guest writers! Visit our website at, follow us on Twitter at @AfghanWarBlog, and on LinkedIn at

DoD 1225 Report on Afghanistan - June 2017

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has published its bi-annual report on the situation in Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress requires the DoD to submit a report twice a year on how things are going in the 16-year long conflict. The report is entitled Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The current 102-page report was published in June 2017.

Topics include "Strategy and Objectives", "Threat Assessment", "Overview of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces", "Ministry of Defense and Afghan National Army", "Ministry of Interior and Afghan National Police", "Financing the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces", "Indicators of Effectiveness for the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior", and "Acronyms".