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Troop Surge in Afghanistan?

troop surge

By Debbie Gregory.

Officials have said that some 3,000 to 5,000 extra troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be deployed to Afghanistan. Their mission? To stop the Taliban. But instead of hoping to beat the Taliban on the battlefield, the aim would be to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The Pentagon has previously announced plans to expand U.S. military operations in Afghanistan by at least several thousand additional troops, but that number will depend on how many troops NATO partners are willing to commit.

President Trump is scheduled to meet with those partners at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25th.

There are currently 8,400 American boots on the ground deployed to Afghanistan. NATO partners contribute 4,900 more.

Special Operations troops are waging a direct campaign against the Islamic State’s local affiliate, known as ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K) but the bulk of the forces are focused on training and advising Afghan troops.

However, a raid that took place on April 27th killed Sheikh Abdul Hasib, the emir of ISIS-K, as well as other leading ISIS-K members and 35 ISIS-K fighters

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” said General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters. For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.”

Gen. Nicholson has been pushing for increased troop levels since February, but his request took a back seat to a broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.

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Two U.S. Servicemembers Killed in Afghanistan

rodgers

By Debbie Gregory

Two U.S. Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan on April 26th  may have been struck by “friendly fire” according to the Pentagon.

Both Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, were deployed from Fort Benning, Ga. A third soldier was wounded in the operation.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis confirmed that there is an investigation to determine whether the men had been killed by ground fire, either from American forces or Afghan commandos who were taking part in the raid.

“We are investigating the circumstances of the combat deaths of the two Army Rangers in the beginning of what was an intense three-hour firefight,” Davis said.

Davis said the target of Wednesday’s deadly raid was Abdul Hasib, whom Defense Department officials called the emir of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said they could not confirm that he was killed in the operation.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Captain William Salvin said the deaths occurred in the same valley where the United States had dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast.

The soldiers were fighting the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province. They were taking part in a lengthy raid, supported by airstrikes from American warplanes, in Achin, a small district where a number of Islamic State fighters have been engaging in a long-running battle with Afghanistan security forces.

U.S. officials say intelligence suggests Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province.

U.S. officials have said they believe that IS has only 700 fighters in Afghanistan, but Afghan officials estimate it has more than double that number.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sergeants Rodgers and Thomas “proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path.Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”

Should US Resume Airstrikes Against Taliban Targets?

aiforce

By Debbie Gregory.

The Taliban’s growing military might is posing a strategic “rock and a hard place” question for President Barack Obama: should the United States resume airstrikes against the Taliban?

Gen. John F. Campbell, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan until last month, proposed resuming offensive strikes against the Taliban. The U.S. withdrew most of its troops in 2014, dramatically reducing the number of airstrikes against Taliban targets throughout Afghanistan.  And after spending tens of billions of dollars training Afghan security personnel, the Taliban continues to advance.

Afghan forces are struggling to hold back resurgent Taliban forces, which have reclaimed some areas won during the U.S. troop surge, albeit at a great cost. Many Taliban fighters think “they are operating from a position of strength,” according to Campbell.

That leaves the White House with the choice of either limiting the numbers of strikes (and risk the militants continuing to gain ground) or allowing American pilots to bomb a broader array of targets, restoring the U.S.’s combat role in Afghanistan.

The formal end of NATO’s combat mission in January 2015 meant that the U.S. was rarely directly targeting the militants from the air. Although U.S. commanders can call in airstrikes, there are only supposed to do so under certain circumstances: to protect NATO troops, target al Qaeda militants, or come to the aid of Afghan forces in danger of being overrun by the Taliban or suffering a clear defeat on the ground.

Senior Pentagon officials are pushing to revise the rules of engagement so they can be free to fire on Taliban forces massing to seize territory and directly target their leadership.

The Pentagon said no decision has been made to broaden the air campaign in Afghanistan. So what is the best use of America’s air power in Afghanistan?

In 2001, U.S. air raids were instrumental in taking down the Taliban regime, but also killed and injured civilians.  While Gen. Stanley McChrystal scaled back the bombing to avoid alienating the Afghan population, his successor, Gen. David Petraeus, ramped up the air raids.

And while the Afghans are slowly building their own air force, it won’t be battle ready until 2020. So, what do you think? Should the U.S. resume the airstrikes against the Taliban?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

U.S. Troops Killed in Suicide Attack

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By Debbie Gregory.

A Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a military convoy near Bagram Air Base on Monday, killing six American soldiers.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest released a statement condemning the “cowardly attack,” and said the United States “will continue to work together to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

The attack was carried out against a joint patrol of Afghan and coalition forces on December 21st, at approximately 1:30 p.m., in the Bajawri area of Bagram district, said Waheed Sediqi, a spokesman for the governor of Parwan province.

Two other U.S. service members and an American contractor were also wounded, officials said.

In recent months, American Special Operations forces have been drawn back onto the battlefield as Afghan forces have struggled against insurgent offensives that are threatening important population centers.

As the Taliban continues to push in southern Helmand Province, overrunning districts and knocking at the gates of the provincial capital, Laskar Gah, American Special Forces have been reported on the ground again to try to keep the province from fully falling to the insurgents.

Military assistance from the U.S. in the air as well as on the ground was considered a crucial factor in the Afghan forces’ taking back Kunduz, which briefly back into

“If the central government does not pay attention to the security situation in Helmand, the province will eventually fall,” said Mohammad Karim Attal, head of the provincial council in Helmand.

Ash Carter said, “As I saw firsthand during my visit to Afghanistan last Friday, our troops are working diligently alongside our Afghan partners to build a brighter future for the Afghan people. Their dedicated efforts will continue despite this tragic event.”

Our condolences to the families and loved ones of those brave service members who lost their lives. We are also keeping those injured in our thoughts, with hope for a short and full recovery.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Taliban Increases Activity: By Debbie Gregory

Taliban attacks

Americans would have been hard pressed not to have seen the December 16 news stories of the Taliban attack on school in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan. The terrorist attack left 145 people dead, 132 of which were children, and dozens more injured and/or traumatized.

A lesser known story is that on December 12th and 13th, two American soldiers and 19 Afghan security force soldiers were killed in Afghanistan during a series of attacks carried out by the Taliban.

The onslaught began last Friday when a bomb explosion hit a convoy of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops near Bagram. That blast killed the two American soldiers. The fallen soldiers’ identities have not yet been released.

The very next morning, the Taliban attacked twelve Afghan civilians in the southern Helmand province as they were clearing and defusing Taliban-planted mines in their neighborhood, in an attempt to target military vehicles. Afghan security forces arrived at the scene of the attack and managed to kill three of the militants and arrest four others.

Also on Saturday morning, Taliban gunmen in Kabul killed the head of the Afghan Supreme Court secretariat, Atiquallah Raufi.

On Saturday afternoon, a Taliban suicide bomber in Kabul targeted a bus carrying Afghan National Army personnel. In that attack, six Afghan army personnel were killed and 18 other people were injured, including two female bystanders. The Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack in an e-mail that also declared that the Taliban was increasing its attacks against foreign and Afghan forces.The Taliban also delivered a separate warning Saturday via Facebook.

The surge of violence comes just as Afghan forces are preparing to take on the brunt of responsibility for defending the country’s security, as ISAF forces transition to supporting roles. As the year draws to a close, U.S. forces will end their active combat role in Afghanistan and instead focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan troops, carrying out counter terrorism missions.

Around 11,000 American military personnel will remain in Afghanistan in the beginning of 2015. American forces numbers are scheduled to drop down to approximately 5,500 in 2016. With all of the increased Taliban activity in Afghanistan, many in the military community are comparing the situation to the current circumstances with the Islamic State in Iraq. Is it wise to continue our drawdown and ultimate withdrawal of forces while there is still a strong possibility that insurgents may overtake the local forces and unravel all that our service members have fought and sacrificed for over the last thirteen years?

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Taliban Increases Activity: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: US – Afghanistan Sign New Deal: By Debbie Gregory

New deal us-afghanistanOn September 30, 2014, representatives from Afghanistan and the United States signed a new security agreement, allowing American ground forces to remain in the country after the end of this year.

Afghanistan’s newly elected president, Ashraf Ghani, made the signing of an extended security agreement with the U.S. one of his campaign promises. On the day after his inauguration, Ghani made good on his promise and the bilateral agreement was signed by Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham. The signing was televised from the presidential palace.

“As an independent country … we signed this agreement for stability, goodwill, and prosperity of the our people, stability of the region and the world,” Ghani said in a speech after the signing.

In his speech, Ghani also said that the agreement did not compromise Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and that either side has the right to withdraw from the pact within two years.

The same day, a similar agreement between Afghanistan and NATO was ratified to allow the alliance’s European members to contribute to a residual foreign force.

The agreement permits a foreign force of 12,000 military personnel to stay after the end of 2014, when the combat mission of Afghanistan’s U.S.-led NATO force ends.

Some 9,800 U.S. troops are expected to make up the bulk of the force, with the remainder coming from other NATO members. The force will train and assist Afghan security forces in the on-going war against the Taliban and its radical Islamist allies within Afghanistan.

Under the pact, the U.S. has the right to keep bases in Afghanistan as long as the security agreement is in force. In return, the U.S. Military will raise funds to train and equip the Afghan security forces, which now number 350,000.

Hopefully, the security agreement will prevent what is happening in Iraq from happening in Afghanistan. After the U.S. pulled all of its forces from Iraq in December 2011, insurgent groups, most notably al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, have been able to overrun Iraq’s security forces. The Islamic State has amassed huge parcels of land in both Iraq and Syria. Many American Veterans who fought in Iraq feel that the current instability in that country could have been prevented had the U.S. left ground forces in Iraq.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: US – Afghanistan Sign New Deal: By Debbie Gregory