Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Bean Counters, Not Bullets, Are Key To Afghanistan’s Future

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“The “first line of defense” in what follows any potential peace deal in Afghanistan isn’t likely to be grunts on patrol but soldiers who monitor the billions of dollars spent on projects aimed at holding the war-torn country together.”

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“But a near blackout of information on the effectiveness of U.S. programs in Afghanistan is threatening to increase waste, fraud, abuse and malfeasance on projects intended to help the country when U.S. troops ultimately leave, John Sokpo, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday.

“Can the Afghan military fight? Well, you don’t know because they took away all of the metrics for success,” Sopko said. “And we don’t know.”

Sopko cautioned that without critical planning and oversight, any progress post-peace deal would be unlikely. As the number of troops are reduced, so is the number of people who oversee programs.

“Otherwise you might as well pile up all the dollars and euros in Massoud Circle in downtown Kabul and burn them for all the good they’ll do,” Sopko said.

Official estimates show that since 2002 the United States has spent $780 billion on combat operations and $137 billion on reconstruction efforts. More than 2,400 U.S. troops have died in the conflict, and at least 20,000 have been wounded.

Current troop levels hover at an estimated 13,000, down from about 100,000 at the height of the 18-year war. But as those troops and assets decrease, the programs put in place to rebuild Afghanistan are in jeopardy without sufficient oversight.

“The first line of defense is that soldier who’s monitoring the contract or monitoring the Afghan government,” Sopko said. “If further troop reductions happen, who’s going to come back?“Are they gun toters or are they monitoring?”

He continued, “If [monitors] come back in the first tranche, who’s going to protect your money?”

Bombing missions reached a near-decade high last year. A recent U.S. Air Forces Central Command report showed that U.S. aircraft dropped 7,423 munitions in the country in 2019. Comparatively, when U.S. troops were at their peak in 2010 and 2011, the U.S. dropped 5,100 and 5,411 bombs respectively.

While bombing may be up, it appears troop numbers and assets supporting those troops continue to decline.

A December 2019 Pentagon report titled “Enhancing Security and Stability of Afghanistan” showed plans to cut UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for Afghan forces from 159 to 53 and the AC-208 attack and reconnaissance aircraft from 32 to 10.

Despite repeated invitations, neither the Department of Defense nor the State Department sent representatives to update Congress on Trump’s Afghanistan plan, which drew bipartisan ire from committee members.

“If you didn’t exist, we would have nobody at this hearing today to give us any answers,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky told Sopko.

In response, the inspector general pushed Congress to get the answers they need to do their oversight jobs.

“You’ve got to force the administration to be honest,” Sopko said. “The administration has to come in and tell you, why are you spending this money, what do you expect to accomplish at the end?”

But it’s become increasingly difficult for both Congress and the U.S. public to know what is happening with the billions spent in Afghanistan as information is increasingly limited by Trump officials.

The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” project, released late last year, highlighted many instances in which officials misled Congress and the public with rosy pictures of progress in the 18-year war.

Sopko stopped short of pointing to specific people in current or previous administrations outright lying, instead noting that exaggerated claims of progress had become part of the culture of dealing with challenges in Afghanistan years ago.

“That’s the real dishonesty, we have been dishonest to ourselves,” Sopko said. “A number of people have come here and tried to tell the good story. We also have this hubris that we can turn Afghanistan into a little America or another Norway. We can’t.”

Sopko ticked off a list of waste that’s been uncovered, from $9 billion spent on counter-narcotics that had no real effect on the drug trade, $500 million spent on airplanes that can’t fly and millions more spent on buildings that melted in the Afghan sun.

“Every commander I’ve met, I’ve met six of them. Every one of them has said, ‘the summer fighting season, we won,” Sopko said. “If we won, what does defeat look like?”

House members probed Sopko for reasons why there have been changes in classifying previously public measures of progress in Afghanistan under President Donald Trump’s administration and the shift away from Taliban versus Afghan government controlled territories.

“I can’t give you an answer because there was never a real good explanation to us why district and population control was no longer relevant,” Sopko said.

He called the changes indicative of a larger problem, wherein every metric that Congress would find useful for evaluating successes or failures in Afghanistan is now “either classified or not being monitored anymore.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/29/bean-counters-not-bullets-are-key-to-afghanistans-future/

Disincentives To Tell the Truth About Progress In Afghanistan

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Photo: Chris Hondros – Getty Images

MILITARY TIMES

The problem is, there’s a disincentive, really, to tell the truth,” said John Sopko, Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction. “We have created an incentive to almost require … people to lie.”

It’s an issue of “mendacity and hubris,” he added, which snowballed into years of continued deployments and aid to Afghanistan, without an exit strategy”

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“The sunny outlooks reported by senior leaders in Afghanistan over the last two decades created a vicious cycle, a Defense Department special inspector general told lawmakers on Wednesday, because each successive rotation of troops was expected to produce results.

In an exchange with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction John Sopko explained his response to allegations in the Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers report.

“There was a disconnect, almost from my first trip over there, between what [the United States Agency for International Development], State and DoD said was going on, and what I saw and what my staff were seeing on the ground,” Sopko said.

And yet optimistic reports always found their way to the people in charge of funding the efforts.

“Year after year we heard, quote: ‘We’re making progress.’ Year after year we were told, quote: ‘We’re turning a corner,’” committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said. “While presidents and military officials were painting a rosy picture, the reality on the ground was a consistently deepening quagmire with no end in sight.”

But deployments only offer a snapshot in time, and while there may be some small steps made during that period, they were never enough to string together major sea change over the long term.

“You create from the bottom up, an incentive, because of short timelines — you’re there for six months, nine months or a year — to show success,” he said. “That gets reported up the chain, and before you know it, the president is talking about a success that doesn’t exist.”

Simply put, each commander on the ground wanted to justify his efforts.

“I’m not going to name names but I think everybody has that incentive to give happy talk — to show success,” Sopko said. “Maybe it’s human nature to do that. I mean most of the lying is lying to ourselves. We want to show success.”

One former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is now the chairman of the joint chiefs.

“This army and this police force have been very, very effective in combat against the insurgents every single day. And I think that’s an important story to be told across the board,” then-Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said in a 2013 briefing from Kabul.

When asked whether he ever misrepresented the situation on the ground, Milley told reporters at a briefing in December that he had never deceived anyone.

“I could not look myself in the mirror,”he said. “I couldn’t answer myself at two to three in the morning when my eyes pop open and see the dead roll in front of my eyes.”

Despite conclusions across the board that the Afghanistan situation would not be solved by the military, Engel said, President Trump in 2017 surged troops to the country.

Though the president shut down peace talks in September, negotiations seemed to rekindle later in the year, as Trump visited Afghanistan over Thanksgiving, and the Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan visited Kabul to sit down with leaders in December.

Sopko offered a warning, should all sides finally reach an agreement.

“In light of the ongoing peace negotiations, Congress should ensure that the administration has an actionable plan for what happens the day after peace is declared,” Sopko said.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/15/there-is-a-disincentive-to-tell-the-truth-about-progress-in-afghanistan-pentagon-official-says/

Why U.S. Soldiers Battled Their Own Paid Security Detail

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Image: SkyAustraliaHealth

USA TODAY

The architects behind this corner of the war – and those profiting from the security contract – did not understand the difference between who they were supposed to be fighting, employing and protecting.

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“ZIZABAD, Afghanistan – Once the Americans left, the survivors started digging.

There were too many dead and not enough shovels, so a local politician brought in heavy machinery from a nearby construction site. He dug graves deep enough to fit mothers with children, or children with children. Some were still in their pajamas, their hands inked with henna tattoos from the party preparations the night before.

Villagers picked through the rubble of what had been an entire neighborhood, looking for remains to wrap in white linens for burial. A boy clutching a torn rug walked in a daze on top of the ruins. A young man collapsed in grief by a pile of mud bricks where his home once stood – where his wife and four children had been sleeping inside.

The local doctor recorded a cellphone video to document the dead faces, freckled with shrapnel and blood, coated with dust and debris. Some were Afghan men of fighting age, but most – dozens of them – were women and children. Taza was 3 years old. Maida was 2. Zia, 1.

The hot summer wind kicked up dust, smoke and the smell of gunpowder as villagers tried to make sense of why their remote village was demolished by an American airstrike in the middle of the night.

A clue was found near several of the dead Afghan fighters: ID badges from the private security company at the American-controlled airfield up the road.

Why had a team of U.S. soldiers and Marines battled its own paid security detail?

After more than a decade, those who buried their families still don’t know.


U.S. military officials publicly touted the August 22, 2008, Azizabad raid – Operation Commando Riot – as a victory. A high-value Taliban target had been killed; the collateral damage was minimal; the village was grateful.

None of it was true.

The Taliban commander escaped. Dozens of civilians were dead in the rubble, including as many as 60 children. The local population rioted.

It remains one of the deadliest civilian casualty events of the Afghan campaign. But the story of how the operation turned tragic has been largely hidden from the public.

USA TODAY spent more than a year investigating the Azizabad raid and sued the Department of Defense to obtain almost 1,000 pages of investigative files previously kept secret because it had been deemed “classified national security information.” The records included photographs of the destruction in Azizabad and sworn testimony from the U.S. forces who planned and executed the operation.SHOW OF FORCEThis is an ongoing series of reports about G4S, the world’s largest private security force, which provides guards for thousands of private businesses and government agencies across the nation. Reporters at USA TODAY and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spent more than a year gathering records and interviewing current and former employees, as well as those impacted by violence associated with G4S guards.

USA TODAY also obtained Afghan government records, evidence collected by humanitarian groups, including the Red Cross, and a confidential United Nations investigation into the incident.

In addition, a reporter traveled to western Afghanistan to interview government officials, investigators, first responders, witnesses and the villagers who survived.

Together, the records and interviews tell the story of a disaster that was months in the making as military and company officials ignored warnings about the men they had hired to provide intelligence and security. The records also reveal that the Defense Department has for years downplayed or denied the fatal mistakes surrounding the tragedy.”

Read full story here: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/12/29/security-guards-afghan-warlords-mass-civilian-casualties/2675795001/

Congress Learns Pentagon Wasted $1 Trillion, Promptly Gives It Bigger Budget

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Image: “Veterans for Peace” https://www.veteransforpeace.org/take-action/people-over-pentagon
Intelligencer

The Washington Postpublished “The Afghanistan Papers,” thousands of pages of war documents that our government did not want us to see, and which the paper only secured after a protracted legal battle.

Those documents include nearly 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with generals, diplomats, and other officials who played a central role in waging America’s longest war.

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“Here’s a fun little thought experiment: Imagine a “big government” bureaucracy embarked on a wildly ambitious project of social engineering — only to discover, almost immediately, that it had little hope of meeting its stated objectives. Reluctant to admit defeat, or jeopardize funding for its endeavors, this federal agency proceeded to deliberately mislead the public about how badly its project was going, and the likelihood of its ultimate success. Over an 18-year-period, these pointy-headed bureaucrats and their allied elected officials conspired to shovel roughly $1 trillion of taxpayer money into an initiative that exacerbated the very problems it purported to solve — and got 2,300 Americans killed in the process!

Now imagine that a major newspaper published a bombshell report meticulously documenting this bureaucracy’s conscious efforts to mislead the American people whom it claimed to serve, so as to ensure that it could carry on squandering our blood and treasure with impunity.

Would Congress reward that bureaucracy with a $22 billion budget increase hours later, with self-identified “small government” conservatives leading the call?

This week, we learned that the answer is “of course.”

Here is some of what the Post uncovered:

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced thateverything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

This campaign of deceit facilitated mindless misuses of public funds. The Defense Department was not directly responsible for all of this waste. And America’s civilian leadership bears primary responsibility for the war itself. But in routinely misrepresenting the state of the conflict, and lobbying for higher levels of funding for both military and aid operations in Afghanistan, the Pentagon is complicit in boondoggles like these:

During the peak of the fighting, from 2009 to 2012, U.S. lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.

One unnamed executive with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) guessed that 90 percent of what they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

… One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”

But no detail from our misadventure in Afghanistan may do more to validate the conservative critique of “big government” excess than this one: Before the U.S. invasion, the Taliban had almost completely eradicated the opium trade in Afghanistan. After 18 years of war — and $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs in the country — the Taliban remains in power, only now, it presides over a country that supplies 80 percent of the world’s illicit opium.

The Washington Post and New York Times aired all this dirty laundry on Monday morning. Hours later, Congress’s Armed Services Committee released a bipartisan draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would give the Pentagon an additional $22 billion to play with next year, bringing its annual budget to $738 billion. Before Donald Trump took office, the U.S. was already spending more on our military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan spend on theirs, combined. The Defense Department’s budget is now $130 billion larger than it was the day Trump was sworn in. Meanwhile, nearly 2 million Americans are still living in places that do not have running water.

Shortly after the Trump administration released its first budget in 2017, OMB director Mick Mulvaney defended the White House’s proposed cuts to Meals on Wheels by saying, “I think it’s fairly compassionate to … say, ‘Look, we’re not gonna ask you for your hard-earned money, anymore, single mother of two in Detroit … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function.’” In a subsequent statement, the administration said that it had an obligation to cut spending on programs and agencies that had “failed to meet their objectives.”

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/congress-learns-pentagon-wasted-1-trillion-promptly-gives-it-bigger-budget/ar-AAK3w7Q?ocid=msn360

Afghanistan And The Pentagon Decades Long War With the Truth

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Image: “Military Times

WASHINGTON POST “THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS A secret history of the war ” By Craig Whitlock

U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

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“In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

Click any underlined text in the story to see the statement in the original document

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.”

[MORE] https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

How 775,000 U.S. Troops Fought In One War: Afghanistan Military Deployments By The Numbers

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U.S. soldiers take in a view of Kabul on June 2, 2018, while flying over the city in a Black Hawk helicopter. (Dan Lamothe/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON POST” By Dan Lamothe

Data provided by the Pentagon shows that more than 775,000 U.S. service members have deployed to Afghanistan at least once. The numbers detail the story of a war that has persisted for an entire generation.

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“Wednesday marks[ed] the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, which led to a long legacy of war. That was thrown into sharp relief this week when [the President] abruptly announced Saturday that he was canceling months of negotiations with the Taliban, even as he aims to fulfill a promise of ending America’s “endless wars.”

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has led to the deaths of about 2,400 American service members, including 16 in combat action this year. Some 20,000 more have been wounded, many grievously.

But there’s another set of revealing numbers about the war that exposes its sprawling nature. 

U.S. deployments to Afghanistan, by the numbers -- More than 775,000 different U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion there in 2001. Nearly half served one deployment, but many served more. A look at the details, by number of deployments per service member:

Among the key details:

— About half of all U.S. veterans of Afghanistan served one deployment there, but many served more. At least 28,267 U.S. troops have deployed there five or more times.

— The Army, the Pentagon’s largest service, has deployed the most troops to Afghanistan. More than 491,500 soldiers have served there, including active-duty forces, Army reservists and National Guardsmen.

— The Air Force, whose presence in Afghanistan has persisted even as the overall number of troops shrank, has deployed the second most, with about 123,000 airmen involved.

— The Marine Corps deployed about 20,000 service members at a time during the height of the war in 2010 and 2011. Overall, more than 114,000 Marines deployed.

— Each military service has a legacy there, including the Coast Guard. More than 100 Coasties have served in the conflict.”

A Decorated Marine Revisits Iraq And Afghanistan As A Journalist

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STRATFOR WORLDVIEW” – “Pride and Regret Places and Names: On War, Revolution and Returning. ” An Interview with Elliot Ackerman

“In what Booklist has called a “searing, contemplative, and unforgettable memoir … perhaps the finest writing about the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts that has been published to date,” former Marine Elliot Ackerman returns to the places he fought to learn the names of those he fought against.

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“U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq stretches back for almost a generation. For many Americans, those wars have been defining elements of their lives. For others, they are events far away that simply do not affect them.

Analyst Ryan Bohl, who covers the Middle East and North Africa for Stratfor, sat down with Ackerman recently to talk about those trips and the book he wrote detailing his experiences, Places and Names: On War, Revolution and Returning.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/pride-and-regret-revisiting-battlefields-iraq-and-afghanistan

17 Years in Afghanistan – Westmoreland’s Vietnam Revisited at Nearly $1 Billion Per Week

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War By the Numbers

Like most Americans, these U.S. warplanes were in the dark over Afghanistan on Sept. 1, 2018. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“The nation is tired of the war, yet taxpayers continue to pay for it (close to $1 billion weekly) and risk the lives of young Americans for a murky mission.

That sounds familiar to those of a certain age. Army General William Westmoreland was fighting the same kind of war a half-century ago. We’re on a second treadmill, 2,500 miles from Westmoreland’s, and we’ve been on it far longer with no end yet in sight. “


“It seems the only Afghan war number that everyone agrees on is how long we’ve been fighting it: 17 years, as of next Sunday, October 7.

But beyond that key date, other data, including Afghan battlefield deaths and civilians killed in the crossfire, are denied to the rest of us by the U.S. and Afghan officials running the war. If the Afghan war were a business, no accountant could audit its books based on the flimsy and conflicting data Americans have available to decide whether or not to continue this investment. And it’s a heavy lift: Beyond the deaths of 2,317 U.S. troops in and around Afghanistan, the nation has spent close to $1 trillion on this war, including $126 billion to build Afghan security forces capable of defending their country on their own, and for economic development.

But after nearly two decades, the U.S. and Afghanistan are treading water in this conflict, at best. “U.S. military officials increasingly refer to ‘momentum’ against the Taliban, however, by some measures insurgents are in control of or contesting more territory today than at any point since 2001,” the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported on September 18.

They talk of “follow the money” in politics. But when it comes to war, “follow the numbers” is just as important. The U.S. military has long used figures—troops deployed, tons of bombs dropped, attacks launched—as yardsticks on the road to victory. Sometimes they can be misleading—none more so than the infamous body counts of enemy killed in Vietnam—but they do represent a crude proxy for progress, or the lack thereof. The current dearth of data from the U.S. and Afghan governments can mean only one thing: the war is not going well.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan now focus on training and advising their Afghan allies, with American airpower on call to help beleaguered Afghans fighting the Taliban or to take out key targets. Some numbers are available: The U.S. launched 1,337 bombs and missiles against targets in Afghanistan in 2016, the final year of the Obama Administration. In 2017, the first year under President Trump, the U.S. military unleashed 4,361. In the first seven months of 2018, U.S. warplanes have fired 3,714, suggesting this year’s total will eclipse last year’s.

But little has changed. “The Taliban has been anything but defeated militarily,” veteran war-watcher Bill Roggio wrote recently at Long War Journal. “Taliban controlled and contested territory remains unchanged since the U.S. changed its strategy [a 40 percent hike in the U.S. troop presence under President Trump], and the Taliban has been dealing Afghan forces major blows on the battlefield.”

Washington and Kabul have flip-flopped on what numbers they provide. Over the past 16 years, they have published Taliban body counts, then halted them, before resuming them yet again in January 2018. Then they stopped doing so September 20 when the New York Timesasked about the resumption of the practice. Some see the Taliban death tally as the Pentagon’s way of showing a skeptical President Trump that his revamped war strategy, with 14,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan—a 4,000 boost on his watch—is making progress. For the past year, the United States and Afghanistan governments have refused to say how many Afghan troops and police have been killed fighting the Taliban as their casualties have soared (up to 400 in one recent week, according to the Times).

Most critical data remains elusive. In his latest report to Congress, released in July, John Sopko, the tireless Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, described the currently-secret war figures:

  • Afghan casualties (according to the Congressional Research Service, Afghan combat deaths went from roughly 5,500 in 2015 to 6,700 in 2016 to over 10,000 last year)
  • the target size of most Afghan military and police units, and how close to that goal each unit is (independent reporting indicates that only 314,000 of the 352,000 authorized slots are filled)
  • how many Afghans are leaving their country’s army and police force (outside reporting suggests 35 percent of Afghan army and police personnel quit each year)
  • how well those units are performing (the Obama administration resisted reporting that information too)
  • how ready their equipment is
  • how many aircraft and pilots are assigned to the only Afghan air unit outfitted with night-vision gear, assault helicopters, and fixed-wing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities
  • information about how much damage U.S. airstrikes have done against targets suspected of funding the Taliban

There are also conflicting estimates of how many “ghost” Afghan soldiers and police there are. In this case “ghost” refers to fighters and cops who pocket paychecks without actually belonging to the country’s security forces. A new requirement that only police who can prove they are serving via biometric data—fingerprints, iris scans, and the like—removed up to 30,000 members from the force’s payroll from March to June. While that eliminates “ghosts,” it also is halting paychecks to some in uniform for whom remote locations and Taliban attacks make obtaining biometric certification difficult.

The nation is tired of the war, yet taxpayers continue to pay for it (close to $1 billion weekly) and risk the lives of young Americans for a murky mission. No one reflects this laissez-faire attitude more than the commander in chief: he has yet to visit with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, or any other war zone.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on September 24 that the Afghan government was not losing a “war of attrition” to the Taliban. “So far, they have taken hard casualties over the last year,” he said. “And they’re still in the fight.”

That sounds familiar to those of a certain age. Army General William Westmoreland was fighting the same kind of war a half-century ago. “The premise was that, if he could kill enough of the enemy, they would lose heart and cease their aggression against the South Vietnamese,” author Lewis Sorley told me in 2011, when he published Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam. “The enemy did not lose heart, did not cease aggression. Instead he simply sent more and more replacements to make up his losses. Westmoreland’s first resort in claiming progress in the war was always body count, but in fact this was meaningless. All the enemy’s losses were quickly made up. Westmoreland was on a treadmill.”

The good news for Americans is that relatively few U.S. troops are dying on Afghan soil (five so far this year). The bad news is that we’re on a second treadmill, 2,500 miles from Westmoreland’s, and we’ve been on it far longer with no end yet in sight. Without key numbers, there’s no way to add up what’s really going on.”

https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2018/10/war-by-the-numbers/

 

Your Tax Dollars at Work In Afghanistan

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Kabul Hotel

“NBC TURN TO 10 NEWS”

Buildings with no doors, windows or flooring…and cracks in the walls that are constructed. The hotel “is unfinished and appears to be abandoned. It’s been 11 years.

They spent 60 million. They added another 30 million so they’re 90 million in and they’re not completed. “

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“If you want to see what more than $85 million can buy, look no further than photos of what was supposed to be a $60 million luxury hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“It’s been 11 years. They spent 60 million. They added another 30 million so they’re 90 million in and they’re not completed,” said Sen Rand Paul (R- KY).

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent staffers to the country who took photos and say they saw the results of poor planning first hand, a U.S. taxpayer funded hotel built directly across the street from the U.S. Embassy there.

“Now we’ve discovered that it’s so unsafe that snipers could crawl up it and shoot down on our embassy that now we have to send soldiers over there to risk life and limb to patrol it to keep it free of snipers,” Sen. Paul said in an interview last week.

“We’ve seen this happen over and over again with a lot of large scale construction projects. schools hospitals roads,” said Neil Gordon, an Investigator with the Project on Government Oversight.

Government watchdogs say it’s created a conundrum for all U.S. funded projects in the region.

“We have a national security interest in securing and rebuilding Afghanistan. And to make sure that it’s no longer a haven for Terrorists and criminal activity,” Gordon said.

The Department of Defense says The Marriott Corp. was slated to take over the hotel but pulled out in 2013, due to security concerns. As for what’s next, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s been told the hotel will be torn down, a project likely to cost even more taxpayer money.”

http://turnto10.com/news/nation-world/85-million-taxpayer-funded-luxury-hotel-in-kabul-never-completed

 

 

On Our Nations’s Birthday – What Lies Beneath the Enduring Stalemate in Afghanistan?

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Afghanistan is Vietnam Revisited  – We have forgotten: 

  •  The Lesson of 58,000 Dead U.S. Soldiers in Southeast Asia 
  • Similar Sacrifices Today By Our Volunteer Military
  • Pointless Warfare Objectives Keeping the Arms Companies Rich and Exponentially Deepening our National Debt 

Stalemate in Afghanistan

“STRATFOR WORLD VIEW”

“Almost 17 years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency rages on with no end in sight.

And despite the launch last summer of a new strategy and a considerable ramp-up in air power, the United States appears no closer to breaking the stalemate.”


“The central government in Kabul continues to control Afghanistan’s urban areas and the Taliban exerts influence over wide swaths of the countryside. Foreign support and the failure of the Afghan state are central to the continued endurance of the Afghan insurgency. Another key element — often overlooked — is the Taliban’s success in establishing deep ties within Afghanistan’s rural social fabric.

Foreign Support for the Taliban

The Taliban have benefited greatly from foreign support over the course of the Afghan war. In particular, the Taliban’s relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency has allowed the insurgency to develop a relative sanctuary within Pakistan where it could recuperate and regenerate and from where certain leadership elements of the Taliban continue to direct parts of the war effort. Recently, there also has been considerable evidence that factions of the Taliban are receiving substantial assistance from Iran and Russia. Assistance from Iran has likely played a role in facilitating the Taliban’s recent gains in western Afghanistan, particularly in Farah province. The Taliban, through their links to the outside world, have also been able to import everything from fertilizer for their improvised explosive devices to night vision gear, which has enabled them to conduct a growing number of nighttime operations.

The National Unity Government between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, ridden with corruption and mismanagement, has also failed to provide rural Afghans an enticing enough alternative to the Taliban. Corruption exacerbates the systemic problems besetting the central government in Kabul, which include not only a heavy reliance on external sources of funding but also the historic difficulty of bringing the mountainous and demographically diverse country under effective central rule. Afghanistan’s fragmentation affects the Taliban, too. The movement is broken into different factions, which greatly complicates peace negotiation efforts.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/what-lies-beneath-enduring-stalemate-afghanistan