Sunday, November 20, 2016

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter for Nov 20, 2016

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

Temporary Break in Blogging & Publishing eNewsletter

Unfortunately there will be a temporary break in posting on the Afghan War News Blog and in the publishing of the Afghan War Blog Weekly eNewsletter. I will be traveling overseas for several weeks and will have limited access to the Internet.

Best regards, Staff at Afghan War News Blog

Afghan Islamist Groups and Choosing Violence

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has published a paper that explores the use of violence by Islamist groups to oppose government authority in Afghanistan. The paper traces the history of Islamist violence since the early 1960s. Read "Islamist Groups in Afghanistan and the Strategic Choice of Violence", by Arian Sharifi, USIP, November 14, 2016.

Update on Nov 12th Suicide Bomber Attack at BAF on Veterans Day

BAF Suicide Bombing Update. The Resolute Support Headquarters has released a news report providing an update on the suicide bomber attack that took place on Veterans Day. The bomber caused four deaths and 17 casualties. Five of the casualties have been returned to duty; 12 are now at the Landstuhl medical facility in Germany receiving advanced treatment. One news report (Gandhara Blog / Radio Free Europe, Nov 14, 2016) is reporting that Afghan officials say the suicide bomber was an ex-Taliban who joined the peace process in 2008 and then got a job as a local worker at the Bagram Air Base (BAF). According to Taliban statements the worker had been planning his attack on the base for the past four months.

U.S. Embassy Closed for One Day. A day after the suicide bombing at Bagram Air Field the U.S. Embassy in Kabul shut down for one day as a "temporary precautionary measure".  Read more in a news report by USA Today, November 13, 2016.

Afghan Security News Update

MD 530 Helicopter of the Afghan Air Force (AAF)

Kunduz - Battle Prompts Increase in U.S. Support. The recent Taliban offenses (and success) in Kunduz, Farah, Uruzgan, and Helmand provinces has generated an aggressive response by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In line with the increased authorities granted the Operation Sentinel Freedom mission the U.S. has increased air combat sorties and increasingly deployed its U.S. Army Special Forces to assist (and combat) the resurgent Taliban forces. The United States (and its NATO and Partner nation allies) is facing a stark choice: risk losing more district centers and possibly a provincial capital or commit to more U.S. SOF into the fight supported by U.S. aircraft providing close air support. Read more on this topic in "A New U.S. Front in Afghanistan?"The Wall Street Journal, November 2016.

Video of Afghan Timeline. An eight minute video traces the 15-year history of the Afghan conflict starting from October 7, 2001 when the U.S. and British militaries began a bombing campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan.  A lot of footage of combat action. Watch The Afghanistan War: A Timeline, Task & Purpose, October 10, 2016.

Sling Load Operations. This news article describes the importance of conducting sling load operations in Afghanistan. (Fort Hood Sentinel, Nov 17, 2016).

ISIS Survives in Afghanistan. Despite attacks from the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), the Taliban, and U.S. drones the Islamic State in Afghanistan remains a force to be reckoned with. Although its presence is diminished it still maintains a resilient stronghold in eastern Afghanistan. Read more in "ISIS in Afghanistan: Their peak is over, but they are not finished"The Guardian, November 18, 2016.

Pakistan Accused of Supporting the Taliban. In late-breaking news we hear that Pakistan has been supporting the Taliban. Really? Didn't know. The former Afghan intelligence chief has accused Pakistan of providing military support to the Taliban. Read more in a news report by Voice of America, November 11, 2016.

Kabul Bombing Wednesday, November 16th. A suicide bomber driving a vehicle blew up near an Afghan defense vehicle in Kabul killing four and injuring at least 11 others. (Gandhara Blog / RFE, Nov 16, 2016).

Prisoners Rescued. Afghan Special Forces from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) rescued civilians who were being kept in a Taliban prison in Greshk district of Helmand province. (Khaama Press, November 16, 2016).

Germany Staying the Course. The German cabinet has approved the plan to keep almost one thousand soldiers in Afghanistan until the end of 2017. (Khaama Press, Nov 17, 2016).

U.S. Helicopter Shot Down? Nope, Probably Not. Both the Islamic State and the Taliban have claimed to have taken down a helicopter in the central Afghan province of Ghor on November 15th. The Resolute Support HQs says it didn't happen. Read more in "Taliban, Islamic State both claim to have shot down helicopter in central Afghanistan", The Long War Journal, November 14, 2016.

Latvian's Assisted in Defense of German Consulate in MeS. Three combat air controllers from Latvia assisted in the defending of the German compound in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan during an attack a few weeks ago. (Public Broadcasting of Latvia, Nov 15, 2016).

Afghanistan - HeForShe Campaign - Video

The gender equality solidarity campaign, HeForShe, was launched in Afghanistan in June 2015 under the slogan "A Brave Man Stands for Women". This documentary brings together the voices of men and women supporting the campaign; sharing their personal experiences of standing up and speaking out for gender equality in Afghanistan.


Balochistan - Set to Explode? The Pakistan province of Balochistan just to the south of Afghanistan is a powderkeg. There are a host of human rights, security, economic and other issues that set this province up for continued strife and perhaps open warfare. Read more in "Greater Balochistan: A Quiet Frontier Set to Explode", Eurasia Review, November 16, 2016.

What's Going On? Annabelle Quince, writing for the Rear Vision - an Australian news show, ponders the situation in Afghanistan. She provides an assessment of the current strength of the Taliban, notes that the Afghan armed forces are extremely corrupt and demoralized, and wonders on the future of Afghanistan. Read "What is going on in Afghanistan and why is the US still involved?", ABC News (Australia), November 15, 2016.

Afghan Governance News

The National Unity Government (NUG) has struggled to provide good governance at the national and sub-national level. Most observers would say that NUG has failed over the past two years. Its ministries are lacking good leadership and the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) are still burdened with too many general officers who are inept, incompetent, and very corrupt. When the NUG does agree on ministerial level appointments the Afghan parliament steps in to stir the pot. So we have a national government with legitimacy problems, a sub-national government system that does not deliver the needed government services, ministries that are lacking good leaders, and a parliament with a grudge. This past week the Afghan parliament dismissed six ministers and is reviewing several more. Certainly a recipe for disaster. Read more in "Afghan Parliament Goes on a Firing Spree", The Diplomat, by Catherine Putz, November 15, 2016.

Gender Issues in the Afghan National Police (ANP)

The international community (NATO, donor nations, United Nations, etc.) has been pushing the Afghan government and senior officers at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI) to recruit and integrate females into the army and the police. These efforts have not attained the results desired and much work needs to be done to realize the 'quotas' established by the international community. For their part, Afghan senior military and police members have a cultural aversion to women serving - although their 'spokesmen' say all the right things for international community consumption. The Afghan National Police (ANP) is doing much better in this regard than the Afghan National Army (ANA). (photo credit: Resolute Support HQs, 14 Nov 2016, 4 ANP female officers at graduation from C-IED course).

Afghan War News Snippets

Female Journalists at Risk in Afghanistan. According to a recent news report "Afghanistan is Deemed Most Insecure Place for Female Journalists", Ariana News, November 14, 2016. Read more about the insecurity of Afghan journalists at the website of Reporters Without Borders.

Refugees Forced Back to Afghanistan. "After America's Longest War, Refugees Face Forced Return to Afghanistan", Lima Charlie News, by J. David Thompson, November 17, 2016.

Cash instead of Food, Tents, and Blankets. Some humanitarian organizations are looking at dispensing cash instead of material goods to the needy in Afghanistan. Read "The increasingly popular way to aid the needy in war-torn nations: Give cash", The Los Angeles Times, November 11, 2016.

Laura Bush Honored. Former First Lady Laura Bush was recently honored for her work on behalf of Afghan women. The International Republican Institute presented her with an award. (IRI, Nov 15, 2016).

UN General Assembly Supports Afghanistan. The United Nations unanimously adopted its annual resolution in support of the Government of Afghanistan. Of concern is the rise in civilian casualties and influence of violent extremists. Read more in a news release by the United Nations (17 Nov 2016).

$85 Million for a Kabul Hotel (that didn't open!). A hotel, built but not finished, is located right across from the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. It was to have more than 200 rooms, a conference center, and attached apartments. The plans to build the hotel were announced with great fanfare by the U.S. Embassy in 2009 . . . but . . . some things went very wrong. The money was funneled through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) - an agency run by the U.S. government to uses money to finance development projects overseas. A recent government watchdog report found that there was "troubling management practices and lax oversight". Hmmmm. The unfinished hotel is right across the street from the U.S. Embassy - how could you not be providing proper oversight? Read more in "How $85 Million Failed to Build a Swanky Hotel in Kabul"National Public Radio, November 17, 2016.

Trump and Afghanistan. Some believe that the Trump administration will want to fix Afghanistan right away - and in the process apply quick solutions that may not work. Observers believe that the Afghan conflict will only be solved with long-term strategies. Read "Trump's easy solutions won't work in Afghanistan", Deutsche Welle, November 17, 2016.

Germany to Repatriate Afghans. Some 12,500 Afghans have had their asylum applications rejected by Germany and will soon be on their way back to Afghanistan. It is estimated that about 5 percent of the 1/4 million Afghans who have reached Germany may be forced to leave. Read more in "Germany to repatriate about 12,000 Afghans"Deutsche Welle, November 17, 2016.

Where are the Visas? Thousands of Afghans served as interpreters for U.S. military forces across Afghanistan for a number of years. Many were promised Visas as a reward for their service in dangerous times. Now they are being hunted down by insurgents and they can't escape Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress and Department of State have fallen short in this respect. Read more in "Where are the Visas for the Afghans Who Helped American GIs?", The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2016.

Afghan Ambassador to UN Speaks to General Assembly

The Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations - H. E. Mahmoud Saikal - delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly during an assembly meeting regarding "The Situation in Afghanistan". The event took place on November 18, 2016. Watch his 30-minute presentation at the link below.

CERP - Was it Effective?

The RAND Corporation has published a paper that assesses the effectiveness of the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Afghanistan. The study was focused on the time frame of 2010-2013 when CERP was used to support tactical operations in the Afghan counterinsurgency campaign. The paper describes CERP's origins, history, and existing research on the utility of CERP in Afghanistan. Over 200 military personnel who were associated with CERP were interviewed. Some believe that CERP played an important and productive role; while others criticized the program as holding back Afghan governmental institutions from developing.

MAAS - Helping F-16 Pilots Stop on the Bagram Runway in Emergencies

If you are an F-16 Falcon pilot experiencing an emergency during a take off or landing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan - how do you stop from careening down the runway (i.e. brake failure)? You can get help from the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron! The 544th ECES sets up the Mobile Aircraft Arresting System (MAAS) on the runway at Bagram Airfield for exactly this type of event. The MAAS is a barrier used to catch the arresting hook of fighter aircraft in case of malfunction upon landing or take off. Watch a video on this topic by the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

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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, November 13, 2016

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - Nov 13, 2016

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

Suicide Bomber Kills 4 at Bagram Air Base

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack on Saturday, November 12th, at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan that killed 4 and wounded many others. The insurgent dressed as a laborer and gained entry to the air base. Two U.S. service members and two U.S. contractors were killed. At least 17 U.S. service members and one Polish soldier were wounded in the attack.

Read more:

"Afghanistan suicide bomb kills at least four at Bagram airbase", The Guardian, November 12, 2016.
"4 Killed in Bagram Airfield Explosion", DoD News Release, November 12, 2016.


Congressman Adam Kinzinger, representing the 16th District of Illinois, writes about our conflict in Afghanistan and why we must stay the course in assisting that nation in the fight against the Taliban and other terrorists. Read "Why the future of Afghanistan still matters", The Hill, November 8, 2016.

Trump and Afghanistan

President-Elect Donald Trump is taking center stage in American politics. However, the world is watching and has much at stake. This is especially true for Afghanistan - and those countries currently taking part in the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. Not much was said about Afghanistan during the campaign for the presidency by either of the two presidential candidates - Trump or Clinton. There is very little known about Trump's foreign policy views - other than he is plainly lacking in any depth in this area. Hopefully his choice of advisors and cabinet heads will offset this lack of foreign policy knowledge. Some observers have ventured into the void and have attempted to discern what a Trump administration means for Afghanistan and these news articles and reports are found below:

"People That Hate Us: What can Afghans expect from President Trump?", Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), November 11, 2016.

"Afghan Taliban Urges President-Elect Trump to Withdraw U.S. Troops",,  November 10, 2016.

Afghan Security News Update

Uruzgan Governor Pleads for Australian Help. The province where the Australian training and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan was centered is in a dire situation. The Taliban are steadily making progress and have the Afghan government security forces on the defensive. Of late, the provincial capital - Tarin Kot - has been threatened by the insurgents. Deaths and desertions have taken their toll on the ANP and ANA. The provincial governor is urging the Australians to return to the province with combat troops and helicopters. Read more in "Afghan Governor pleads for Australian help as soldiers defect to Taliban", ABC News, November 7, 2016.

UN Investigating Airstrikes. The United Nations says it is investigating U.S. airstrikes that killed over 30 civilians. The United States is conducting its own investigation. The airstrikes were targeting senior members of the Taliban. Afghan security authorities say the civilians were most likely family members of the slain Taliban leaders. Read more in "U.N. says investigating Afghanistan air strike deaths", Reuters, November 6, 2016.

COMRS Visits Georgia. The country of Georgia has been a staunch ally of the United States and the many other nations participating in the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. The Resolute Support commander - General John Nicholson - recently visited Georgia to discuss issues pertaining to the country's engagement in the RS mission. Read more in "US Commander of NATO Resolute Support Mission Visits Georgia", Georgia Today, November 7, 2016.

RS Senior Enlisted visits Bagram Units. Command Sergeant Major (CSM) David Clark visited units based at Bagram Air Field. (DVIDS, Nov 6, 2016).

C-RAM Units Exchange Responsibility. One Air Defense Artillery unit is headed home while another has taken its place at Bagram Air Field. The Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) mission provides critical early warning and takes steps to defeat the insurgent's rockets, artillery, and mortars that fire onto the air field and base. Read "Air Defense Artillery Transfer of Authority Ceremony", DVIDS, November 5, 2016.

Paper - Islamic State in Afghanistan. Casey Garret Johnson, writing for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has penned a 16-page report that details the structure, composition, and growth of the Islamic State's so-called Khorasan province.The report is the result of more than sixty interviews with residents of Nangarhar - and provincial and national Afghan security officials. Read The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, USIP, November 3, 2016.

Afghan Personnel and Pay System (APPS) - a Difficult Program to Implement

The Afghan government and military is extremely corrupt. Transparency International conducts yearly assessments of the most corrupt nations in the world - and Afghanistan has consistently ranked in the top three - along with Somalia and North Korea (good company there I must say). So it is no surprise that the pay system for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is inefficient and and riddled with corruption. Many senior and mid-level police and army officers are padding their pockets with money from the pay of police and soldiers who work for them. In addition to tapping into the pay of existing soldiers and police many Afghan commanders are pocketing the pay of ghost soldiers and police in Afghanistan.

The fact that the Afghan personnel and pay system is corrupt is not new - this is common knowledge and many unsuccessful attempts have been made to try and correct the systems by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and now Resolute Support (after January 2015). See SIGAR 15-54 Audit Report (April 2015). The advisors and staff of RS HQs Essential Function 4 are struggling with this important yet frustrating task.

The Afghan Personnel and Pay System (APPS) is a new program (not sure how new it really is to be truthful) designed to standardize pay for the Afghan National Army, provide biometric identification for all soldiers, and reduce the potential for any corruption in the Afghan pay system. The APPS is supposed to leverage the (not fully implemented) Afghan Human Resource Management System (AHRIMS) that was introduced a few years back.

It takes dedicated and knowledgeable advisors and staff to assist the Afghan army in the implementation of the APPS. One such staff member is Anthony D. Parton - a U.S. Department of the Army civilian employee. Read his story on his job working for the implementation of APPS at Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul in "Pearisburg native helps to improve reliability of Afghan army pay system", The Roanoke Times, November 11, 2016.

Security Update for Northern Afghanistan

Attack on German MeS Consulate. A suicide bomber rammed his truck into the German consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan killing and wounding civilians in the area on Thursday, November 10, 2016. The consulate suffered major damage to its outside perimeter wall - leaving a huge crater in the ground and overturning nearby cars in the street. No German or Afghan members of the consulate staff were killed or harmed. Twenty members of the German staff were evacuated to Camp Marmal (nearby MeS). Read more in "Afghanistan: Fatal attack on German consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif", BBC News, November 11, 2016.

Video on North Afghanistan and Central Asia. In July 2016 the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a 90-minute presentation and discussion on the security situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the Central Asia states across the northern border of Afghanistan. There is growing instability in Afghanistan and this includes the formerly peaceful areas of North Afghanistan.

Afghan News Snippets

Remembering Afghan Elections of 2009. An American military officer assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gardez in Paktia province remembers the Afghan 2009 presidential elections in "American Export: Elections", The Atlantic, November 7, 2016.

How to Advise. The Resolute Support mission is to "Train, Advise, and Assist" the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) and the Afghan Security Institutions (ASIs). The U.S. has had over 15 years of experience in advising in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One such advisor - with advisory experience in both countries - provides his thoughts on how to advise in "My Lesson From 'The Long War'", Small Wars Journal, November 8, 2016.

Canada Remembers Fallen Service Members. 158 men and women died while serving in Afghanistan with Canadian Forces. On November 11th Canada remembered these individuals in a ceremony in Edmunton. See "Ceremony at Ainsworth Dyer Bridge remembers those who died in Afghanistan", Edmonton Journal, November 11, 2016.

"New Silk Road". A few years ago Europe yawned when it heard the news of a rebuilding of the "silk road" connecting Asia to the Middle East and Europe. Now times have changed. "Europe Finally Wakes Up to the New Silk Road, And this Could be Big",, November 10, 2016.

"No-Show Teachers". A recent news article informs us that the United States is providing bundles of money for teachers in Afghanistan who do not show up for work. "Afghan Watchdog: U.S. Pays Millions for No-Show Teachers, Students", NBC News, November 10, 2016.

Water Politics and Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan are, in a big way, dependent upon Afghanistan for some of its water. The Afghan rivers, running downhill from its mountain snows, eventually flow into either Iran or Afghanistan. The relationship in the region is sometimes contentious over the amount of water leaving Afghanistan. Learn more in "Afghanistan's Water-Sharing Puzzle", The Diplomat, November 11, 2016.

Female Computer Programmers. In the western Afghan city of Herat female computer programmers are learning to code and are working in this fledgling industry. Learn about "Code to Inspire" - a coding school set up for women in November 2015 in "Meet Afghanistan's female coders who are defying gender stereotypes", The Guardian, November 7, 2016.

Refugees, Migrants, and IDPs in Afghanistan

The European refugee crisis is straining the resources of European nations (especially those of Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Finland). The resettlement processes carried out in the last few years have afforded refugees the ability to leave insecurity, violence, conflict, and economic suffering behind. However, Europe has reached the breaking point and is no longer hospitable to the huge influx of refugees from north Africa, the Middle East, and (of course) Afghanistan. Read more in The Roots of Europe's Refugee Crisis, by Carnegie Europe, October 2015.

Afghanistan - Difference between Refugees and IDPs

Mr. M. Ashraf Haidari is the Director-General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. In a recent online article he explains the difference between Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). There are now more than 1.2 million IDPs across Afghanistan living under dire conditions. He advocates that increased aid be provided for the IDPs by the various international humanitarian and aid groups. He further states that these aid groups should initiate collaboration with Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation and the National Disaster Management Authority to ease the plight of the IDPs. Read his article Need to end discrepancy between refugees and IDPs, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), November 5, 2016.

Subscribe to the Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter

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, November 6, 2016

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - Nov 6, 2016

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

Special Forces Soldiers KIA in Afghanistan Nov 3, 2016

Two Special Forces Soldiers KIA in Kunduz Battle. Two members of the 10th Special Forces Group died of wounds received during an engagement with the Taliban near the northern city of Kunduz, Afghanistan on November 3, 2016. CPT Andrew Byers and SFC Ryan Gloyer were based at Fort Carson, Colorado - the home base of the 10th SFGA.

Uruzgan Province Under Attack

One of the embattled regions in Afghanistan is the central province of Uruzgan. The Taliban have been focusing on this province for a good part of the summer fighting season. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have lost several bases in the province. One of these bases was a compound for a battalion of the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) - a SWAT-like unit of the Ministry of Interior (MoI). Over 70 ANCOP members surrendered their base to the Taliban. In one week three Afghan Army posts have surrendered to the Taliban. Over twenty police outposts have been abandoned and some Afghan police have joined the Taliban.

The Afghan Army has suffered from heavy casualties, decreased recruitment and problems with retention. The Taliban have focused on Uruzgan province over the past few months; while also going on the offensive in Helmand and Kunduz provinces.

News stories of the fighting in Uruzgan province:
"Taliban Gain Ground in Afghanistan as Soldiers Surrender Their Posts", by Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, The New York Times, October 30, 2016.

Aerostats - Providing Force Protection & Intel to the ANA

Photo by Resolute Support Headquarters
At one time in Afghanistan - when there were over 800 large bases and small outposts spread across the country side - one could continually see large white balloons floating overhead. The balloons - more accurately called areostats - had cameras on board that could pan across the ground below out to quite a few miles to observe for enemy activity. Now there are very few aerostats flying. Some are lofted overhead by the United States military at its few remaining bases in Afghanistan (Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Bagram Air Field, and a few others). What many observers don't realize is that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is now operating its own aerostats (bought and paid for by the U.S. of course).

It took a while for the military intelligence professionals in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and then Resolute Support HQs to figure out that the Afghan National Army would need a capability like the aerostat. One wonders what the intel weanies were thinking about during those long years from 2002 to 2013 or so before plans to field aerostats to the ANA were formulated. For more on this topic read the paragraph below:

"All in all, my impression is that the Pentagon's near complete lack of emphasis on building an intelligence collection and analytic capability for the Afghan military and police is nothing short of pitiful. If the White House and the Pentagon are REALLY serious about giving the Afghan military and police the means to stand on their own and operate independently, this budget does not come close to doing it. The Afghan military and police must have their own well trained and equipped intelligence units if they are to have any chance of performing their missions after U.S. combat forces withdraw next year. Otherwise, the ANA and ANP will remain completely dependent on the U.S. for this vital combat enabler for the foreseeable future."  Paragraph from Little Spending on Intelligence Support for Afghan Military in New Budget, Matthew A. Aid, June 1, 2013.
But enough about that - the ANA is now flying its own balloons - although independent news sources provide a dismal accounting on the early efforts to keep them aloft, maintain them, and actually use the balloons for preventing attacks.

Don't despair! We now have a 'good news story' on how successful the Afghan security forces are in using the aerostats brought to you courtesy of a press release by Resolute Support headquarters. Read "With silent guardians, Afghan soldiers protect Kabul", Resolute Support News, November 5, 2016.

Helmand Province Update

Helmand province has been the scene of a heavy onslaught by Taliban forces over the past several months. Most of the districts in the province are held by the insurgents. The provincial capital, Laskar Gah, has been surrounded by the Taliban and government troops have been on the defensive for most of the Summer Campaign 2016. However, one high-ranking government security official believes that the government forces will soon go back on the offensive and push the Taliban out from the recently gained territory. Read more in "Afghan Security Chief Vows To Reclaim Territory From the Taliban", Gandhara Blog (Radio Free Europe), November 1, 2016.


U.S. Counterterrorism Policy in Central Asia. An informative paper has been published takes a good look at the threat that foreign fighters posed to Central Asian regimes and provides recommendations for U.S. counterterrorism policy in the region. Published in Strategic Perspectives 21 on October 29, 2016 this tract by four authors is provided by the Center for Strategic Research, Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University (U.S.). Read "The Return of Foreign Fighters to Central Asia: Implications for U.S. Counterterrorism Policy".

Proxy War in Northern Afghanistan? Ajmal Sohail writes about "The beginning of a new chapter of proxy war in Afghanistan", Modern Diplomacy, November 4, 2016. A unique and different perspective on the U.S. and European involvement in Afghanistan.

Learning from the Vietnam War. One writer, Bill Distler, provides an alternative perspective to our involvement in the Afghan War. He believes we are applying lessons learned in the long-ago conflict to the Afghan conflict. His perspective is certainly not mainstream (and his numbers on how many contractors present in the past and now seem skewed). Read "Finally 'Winning' the Viet Nam War - in Afghanistan", Common Dreams, October 30, 2016.

Afghan Security News

Kunduz CIVCAS Event. An airstrike took place during the recent attack on a Taliban position in Kunduz city where two American Special Forces Soldiers died. The airstrike hit a building(s) where senior Taliban leaders were in - and also some civilians (many children). Some estimates say over 30 civilians were killed. Read more in "U.S. general pledges investigation on Afghan air strike casualties", Reuters, November 5, 2016. See also "NATO and government forces are increasingly responsible for Afghan civilian deaths", The Washington Post, November 3, 2016.

Australian Woman Kidnapped. According to some initial reports (Tolo News) an Australian woman employed by an NGO was kidnapped at gunpoint on Saturday night (5 Nov 2016) in Kabul.

Hand-Holding at FOB Gamberi. Learn a little bit about what it is like to be an advisor to the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps in eastern Afghanistan. See "Texas troops aiding effort to advise Afghan military", My San Antonio, October 31, 2016.

Senior al-Qaida Ldr Killed by Airstrike. The US says that Farouq al-Qahtani, who had long-standing ties with Osama bin Laden, was killed in a precision air strike in October. (The Guardian, November 4, 2016).

ALP, Uprisings, and Militias. In the northern province of Takhar there is a mix of armed groups that exist in addition to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Read more in "Afghanistan tries to clean up its militias, both legal and illegal",  LA Times, October 31, 2016.

Green-On-Green Attacks are Up. The occurrence of attacks by members of the Afghan security forces against other members of the Afghan army or police is rising. Read "Wave of Afghan-on-Afghan Insider Attacks Hits Afghan Army",,  October 31, 2016.

Army NCO Considered for MoH. An Army non-commissioned officer is being considered for the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in eastern Afghanistan in 2012. Read "We weren't out there looking for awards", Stars and Stripes, November 4, 2016.

Former Serviceman Dies in Afghanistan. A former Navy SEAL - Brian Hoke - died in Afghanistan. Hoke was from the Leesburg, Virginia ara and a 1996 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He left the military in 2002 and worked for the U.S. State Department with many deployments overseas. He is survived by his wife and three children. Info from "Virginia Serviceman Dies in Afghanistan", NBC, October 31, 2016.

Roads of Afghanistan Falling Apart

The U.S. and other nations provided lots of funding for the construction of roads throughout Afghanistan. The improvement of the ring road that traverses the country is one great accomplishment. However, there is a problem. With the withdrawal of Coalition forces the various aid and development groups no longer have oversight (lack of access) on road construction projects and funding for the maintenance of the roads is greatly diminished. So many of the roads built are no longer being maintained. In addition, what little funding earmarked for road maintenance is squandered by the various Afghan ministries responsible for road upkeep. Read more in "The U.S. spent billions building roads in Afghanistan. Now many of them are beyond repair", The Washington Post, October 30, 2016.

Update on Afghan Refugees and Migrants

Many of the migrants and refugees that have left Afghanistan are now returning. A significant number of these people heading back to Afghanistan are being forced to return. Some will be returned involuntarily by Europe (a result of a side agreement made at the Brussels Conference). However, most migrants and refugees will return from the countries of Iran and Pakistan. Many of these refugees and migrants have lived outside of Afghanistan for decades - some documented as refugees by international organizations but others without passports or visas. The numbers of returning migrants and refugees is compounded by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from strife-ridden parts of Afghanistan (Kunduz, Helmand, etc.). Life in Afghanistan for these returnees will be very bleak; especially for those who are being returned as winter approaches. The Afghan government and international aid groups are unprepared for a large influx of returnees.

Read more:

"Afghanistan Itself Is Now Taking In the Most Afghan Migrants", The New York Times, November 4, 2016.

A report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is posted by ReliefWeb entitled Fragility and Population Movement in Afghanistan, November 1, 2016.

Erin Cunningham, a correspondent for The Washington Post writes "A humanitarian crisis looms in Afghanistan as the number of displaced climbs", November 2, 2016.

Afghan Development News

$$$ for Crop Diversification. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the European Union (EU) are providing $76 million in grants to enhance crop diversification and food security in Afghanistan. The intent is to improve irrigated agriculture in the Panj-Amu River Basin. The project will improve water availability for irrigated agriculture through better water distribution and management. Read a news release posted by the European Union External Action on November 2, 2016.

District Control Explained

The U.S. military (and Resolute Support) continues to be vague on the topic of district control in Afghanistan. The latest Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report (October 2016) uses data from the Resolute Support mission that low-balls the amount of districts that the Taliban have control of. One of the key factors in determining district control used by the Afghan government and Resolute Support is who occupies the district center. The district center is typically a walled compound that contains several buildings. The district center usually houses the offices of the district governor, district chief of police, members of the Afghan National Police, and other district government officials. In dangerous districts these government officials (to include the district governor) are seldom present. In many areas of Afghanistan (for instance Helmand province) the district centers are under siege and the police (and Army if present) are resupplied sporadically by helicopter because the Taliban control the roads and countryside. Learn more about district control in "Analysis: US military assessment of Taliban control of Afghan districts is flawed", The Long War Journal, November 2, 2016.

Women in the Afghan Security Forces

The Afghan National Army (ANA) has had trouble meeting the expectations of the international community in recruiting women into its ranks. The donor nations of the world providing money to the Afghan government and Afghan security institutions want to see the inclusion of women in the army and police ranks. However, Afghanistan is not a country culturally receptive to women's rights and there is great resistance among the senior leaders of the army and police to including women in significant numbers. The goal of the international community is to see as many as 5,000 women in the Afghan army yet thus far there are less than 900 women soldiers. Read more in "Women in Afghan army overcome opposition, threats", Reuters, November 4, 2016.

Afghan News Snippets

Should Taliban Consider Peace Talks? A former Taliban envoy thinks so. There are internal discussions going on within the Taliban's fragmented organization on whether to pursue peace negotiations with the Afghan government. A leading member of the Taliban has come out on the record to support the idea of reconciliation efforts with the government. Read "Taliban Envoy Breaks Silence to Urge Group to Reshape Itself and Consider Peace", by Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, October 31, 2016.

Radicalized Youth in Afghan Madresses. One of the sources of recruitment by insurgent groups are the many unofficial and unregistered madresses in Afghanistan. Read more in "Warnings Over Afghanistan's Unofficial Madrasses", Institute for War & Peace Reporting, November 4, 2016.

Virtual Tour of Battle of COP Keating. Battle assessments and staff rides are an important part of the education of NCOs and officers. Some battlefields are impossible to physically visit. Gettysburg is easy but visiting remote areas on the other side of the world is problematic (and expensive). Some battlefields are no longer accessible to the U.S. military. The site of the COP Keating battle that took place in eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan province in October 2009 is one inaccessible location. However, technology is now available to afford observers a virtual tour of the battlefield. The CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment is a virtual reality system that makes visiting contemporary battlefields possible. Learn more in "Revisiting an Afghan Battlefield in Virtual Reality", Modern War Institute, November 2, 2016.

Afghan Returnees from Europe. Many Afghan families and individuals are crossing the border from Iran and Pakistan - due to many reasons - but primarily from some state harassment. To add to the returnees from these two countries is the increased number of voluntary and non-voluntary returnees from Europe. The tide has shifted for those from Afghanistan seeking asylum in the northern European nations. Public support for immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan is eroding due to the staggering number of refugees fleeing to Europe over the past few years. But are there programs in place to assist these returning Afghan refugees? Read more in "Afghan Exodus: Can the Afghan government deal with more returnees from Europe?", Afghanistan Analysts Network, October 31, 2016.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Afghan War Blog Weekly Newsletter - October 30, 2016

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

JFTC Receives Visit from Resolute Support GO

"The Deputy Commander of the Resolute Support Headquarters (RS HQ), Lieutenant General Sandy Storie CBE, arrived at the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) to observe and support the last pre-deployment training for the RS mission in 2016. On 21 October he met with Major General Wilhelm Grun, the JFTC Commander and the Exercise Director, as well as with participants of the training".
Read more about the visit in "Resolute Support Deputy Commander Visits JFTC Pre-Deployment Training", JFTC PA Office, October 25, 2016.


Afghanistan - Absent from U.S. Election Campaign. The fight against the Taliban is now America's longest war but has been all but ignored by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Read "Afghanistan is the dirty little secret of the US presidential campaign", The Guardian, October 27, 2016.

Afghan Refugees - Cold Welcome from Europe. Afghans that have reached Europe were hoping for support from European countries but have been disappointed by their reception on the continent. Read "Afghans Hoping for European Solidarity Find Cold Welcome", Refugees Deeply, October 28, 2016.

Poor Morale of the ANDSF. A recent article cites bad leadership within the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as a source of poor morale among Afghan police and soldiers. Read more in "Why are Afghan forces losing ground to the Taliban?", Deutsche Welle, October 27, 2016.

SIGAR Quarterly Report to Congress - October 2016

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has released its quarterly report to Congress on October 30, 2016. Some of the topics in the 280-page report include "Afghan Women on their Progress and the Challenges That Remain", "SIGAR Oversight Activities", "Reconstruction Update", and other "Agency Oversight".

SIGAR Report on USAID's Stabilization Initiatives

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a report on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to provide stability to Afghanistan. The report says that USAID generally achieved its objectives but the agency lacked a geospatial data policy and standards affected its implementation.
"Beginning in 2011, with the drawdown of coalition troops throughout Afghanistan, USAID faced increasing challenges in overseeing its stabilization programs. To address these challenges, in March 2012, USAID awarded Management Systems International Inc. (MSI) as contract to implement the Measuring Impacts of Stabilization Initiatives (MISTI) program to monitor and evaluate eight ongoing stabilization programs costing $762 million. The agency estimated that MISTI would last 3 years and cost approximately $15 million. The contract ended in October 2015 and ultimately cost $19.3 million."
Read "USAID's Measuring Impacts of Stabilization Initiatives", SIGAR 17-10 Audit Report, October 2016. (32 pages, Adobe Acrobat PDF).

Afghan Snippets

World Bank Approves Grants. The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved $120 million in grants for Afghanistan. The grant will improve infrastructure and social services, strengthen Afghanistan's financial sector. This includes improving the capacity of the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank. (Khaama Press, Oct 29, 2016). See also a report by the World Bank entitled "World Bank Group Outlines Afghanistan Support to Cut Poverty", The World Bank, October 27, 2016.

Green Beret Describes 7-Hour Battle in Afghanistan. A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier was critically wounded during a long firefight in Shok Valley, Afghanistan in 2008. He describes being shot during an operation with about 100 Afghan Commandos. A bullet went through the side of his pelvis severely damaging the ball and socket of his hip. A second bullet hit him in the bicep and thigh. Read about the firefight and his MEDEVAC in this story (Scout, October 28, 2016).

Civilian Outreach? Conducting a counterinsurgency campaign is more than just military action against insurgents. COIN is a comprehensive approach that requires engagement with the civilian sector (economic, development, political, governance, etc.). This in turn requires the deployment of civilians with specific areas of expertise. One such discipline is that of civil engineering. Read the story on a civilian getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan in "Corps of Engineers Project Management Chief deploying to Afghanistan", DVIDS, October 28, 2016.

Video - Sling Load Opn in Afghanistan. How do you move big equipment containers to remote areas that have dangerous roads and rough terrain? Use a big U.S. Army Chinook helicopter and sling load the equipment container from below. Watch a 7-min video on a chopper sling load operation. (U.S. Forces Afghanistan, October 27, 2016)

ICRC Update on Afghanistan. The International Committee of the Red Cross helps displaced persons and impoverished communities in Afghanistan. Read an update of their activities over the past several months in "Afghanistan: Facts and figures, July-September 2016", ICRC, October 27, 2016.

Brick Kilns Along Bagram / Kabul Road. I used to drive the road connecting Kabul to the huge U.S. base north of Kabul quite often. I always wondered about the many brick kilns along the road. Now I now more after reading this article "At Afghanistan's Brick Kilns, Debt Can Last Generations", ABC News, October 28, 2016.

SIGAR Report - Road Infrastructure. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has issued SIGAR 17-11 Audit entitled "Afghanistan's Road Infrastructure: Sustainment Challenges and Lack of Repairs Put U.S. Investment at Risk", SIGAR, October 2016.

Podcast - Afghan Ambassador to U.S. The Afghanistan ambassador to the United States was recently interviewed by the Hudson Institute. Listen to the conversation here. (Iowa Public Radio, Oct 27, 2016)

Peace Talks and Women? Supposedly Afghanistan has a plan to include women in the peace talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. It was supposed to have been wrote and disseminated in 2015 but nobody has seen it. Read more in "Afghanistan's Mysterious Vanishing Plan on Women and Peace Talks", Human Rights Watch, October 27, 2016.

The Birth of a Nation. Three hundred years ago an Afghan tribal leader took on two of the most powerful empires in the world and won the independence for Afghanistan. Mir Wais Hotak, a chief of the Pashtun Ghilji tribe based in Kandahar, helped resist Persian pressure to convert the Sunni population to Shia Islam. In the process of this revolt he helped to found a nation called Afghanistan. Read more in an article by Akhilesh Pillalamarri in "300 Years Ago, Afghanistan's 'George Washington' Died", The Diplomat, October 28, 2015.

Afghan Security News

High-Level al-Qaeda Killed in NE Afghanistan? Defense Department reports indicate that a high-level al-Qaeda leader may have been recently killed in a U.S. airstrike recently. Read more about this elusive terrorist group member in a new report by Wesley Morgan (The Washington Post, Oct 28, 2016).

UN Report on Civilian Casualties. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has issued its quarterly report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The report shows that there is a continuing high number of civilian casualties in the armed conflict. In the first 3/4s of 2016 there were 2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured. Ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties - followed by complex attacks and improvised explosive devices. Read the report published on October 19, 2016.

Former PCoP Attempted to Flee Afghanistan. A former Provincial Chief of Police for Wardak province was stopped from leaving Afghanistan on a flight to Turkey at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport by authorities. The PCoP is accused of transporting a Taliban official in an official police vehicle in an attempt to provide passage to Pakistan. (Tolo News, Oct 29, 2016).

Opium Feeds the Taliban Organization. One writer believes that there can be no victory in Afghanistan unless narcotics are brought into the war agenda in Afghanistan. Read "How Opium Fuels the Taliban's War Machine in Afghanistan", The Diplomat, October 28, 2016.

U.S. Airstrike hits Civilians. On Friday (Oct 28) a U.S. airstrike in eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar province) hit the home of a Taliban commander but also caused several civilian casualties. Read more in a news report by Reuters, October 28, 2016.

37 Civilians Killed by Insurgents. Men, women, and six children were killed by Islamic State extremists in the central province of Ghor, Afghanistan. Read a report by Radio Free Europe, October 26, 2016.

EU Contract to be Awarded. The European External Action Service (EEAS) has recently invited tenders for the 100 million Euro contract to protect EU diplomatic facilities in Kabul.

Stryker Gets A New Gun. The Stryker, a U.S. armored vehicle deployed to southern Afghanistan a few years back, is seeing some improvements. It is receiving more armor and some models will have a 30mm cannon mounted on its turret. Read more in "Army Rolls Out Upgunned Stryker: 30mm Autocannon Vs. Russians", Breaking Defense, October 27, 2016.

Fractured Taliban?

Since the announcement that Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital and the drone killing of his successor in May 2016 the Taliban have been ridden with internal strife. While the Taliban media has proclaimed success on the battlefield its fighters have experienced significant losses. This, of course, does not imply that the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) are winning on the battlefield. There are indications that the Taliban are suffering from some internal turmoil. Read more in Abubakar Siddique's news article "Are the Taliban Falling Apart?", Gandara Blog | Radio Free Europe, October 27, 2016.

Veterans with TBI Not Diagnosed Properly

A recent study by a news outlet in North Carolina has found that thousands of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflict were not properly treated by military doctors and the health services of the Veterans Administration. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) emerged as the signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. The use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against vehicles and dismounted patrols sometimes constituted over 50% of the casualties in both wars. TBI is a type of injury that has not been dealt with in many years and the military medical system was unprepared to identify and treat the injury. In many cases it isn't an obvious injury and it is hard to diagnose. Read more in "VA fails to properly examine thousands of veterans", North Carolina News, October 27, 2016.

UN Report on Drug Cultivation in Afghanistan

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued a new report about drugs in Afghanistan dated October 2016. Contributors to the report include Afghan organizations to include the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, UNODC (Kabul), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The news is far from good. Most of the drug activities in Helmand province is controlled by the Taliban; but government officials are also implicated. You can read the 12-page executive summary (bulk of report due out in November 2016) in "Afghanistan: Opium Survey 2016: Cultivation and Production".

First Vice President Dostum in the News Again

Afghan Vice President Increases Rhetoric. Dostum - the First Vice President has stepped up his criticism of the National Unity Government (NUG). He says that the senior military and police leaders of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are not performing well and are ignoring insurgent threats in certain parts of northern Afghanistan. Dostum has a fairly robust militia that he controls in the north of Afghanistan. His base of support is the Uzbek population. He has been a powerbroker (warlord) in that part of Afghanistan for decades. At various times he has aligned himself with the Northern Alliance, the Taliban, the Soviet Union, and other political and military organizations. Ghani picked him as a running mate during the presidential elections in order to secure the Uzbek vote. Read more in a report by The New York Times, October 26, 2016.