8:04 AM, Dec 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The New York Times reports from Afghanistan on the renewed threat of the Taliban in previously secured parts of the country. Rod Norland writes from Helmand Province:
The fighting in Helmand Province in the south has been particularly deadly, with over 1,300 security force members killed between June and November. And the insurgents’ siege of several key districts has continued long after the traditional end of the fighting season....
“This year is much worse than previous years,” said Dr. Abdul Hamidi, a police colonel who is head of medical services for the national police in Helmand. “We’ve heard that the Quetta Shura has a big push to raise their flags over three districts by January, and has ordered their people to keep fighting until they do,” he said, referring to the exiled Taliban leadership council in Pakistan.
One of the differences is that this year, the American forces, and their close air support, have been almost completely absent from the field. And though the Afghan forces are holding on, for the most part, they are taking punishingly heavy losses.
The Taliban offensive in northern parts of Helmand Province began in earnest in June, after the last American troops pulled out of the area, and has continued at a fierce tempo.
Read the whole thing here.
In this week's issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews Bing West's latest book on the men and women fighting in Afghanistan, A Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War. Here's a sample from Owens's review:
With his latest book, Bing West has reconfirmed his standing as one of the most intrepid and insightful observers of America’s wars over the past decade-and-a-half. Some have called him a latter-day Ernie Pyle. Embedded for the sixth time with soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, West demonstrates, as he has done before, Pyle’s empathy for the “grunts” who have borne the major burden of these conflicts. The empathy comes naturally, since West himself was a Marine infantryman in Vietnam.
But the author brings something to his accounts that Pyle did not: an understanding of high-level policymaking arising from his service as an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. These two perspectives—a grunt’s eye view of close combat and the policymaker’s broader outlook—have made West’s previous books particularly illuminating. This is no less true of One Million Steps.
The title comes from West’s calculation that each member of the Marine infantry platoon in which he was embedded—3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (Kilo 3/5)—took a million steps during the endless and extraordinarily dangerous patrolling that the unit did in the Sangin District of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. West masterfully recounts the saga—for that is what it was—of 50 men who accepted the following proposition: Would you take $15,000 to walk two-and-a-half miles each day for six months?
There are a few provisos. First, you must live in a cave. Second, your exercise consists of walking across minefields. Third, each day men will try to kill you. The odds are 50-50 that you will die or lose a leg before you complete the one million steps. Still interested?
West’s thesis is straightforward: Brave young men were attempting to execute a flawed strategy. He focuses most of his attention on the brave young men. His account of their actions is riveting, reading more like a novel than simple combat narrative. The men of 3rd Platoon were locked in a life-or-death struggle with a determined enemy. The Marines knew that to prevail in this part of the world, they would have to demonstrate that they were “the strongest tribe” by breaking the enemy’s will. That lesson, one the Marines had previously learned in Iraq, in places like Fallujah and al Anbar Province, and that the Army had learned in Ramadi and Tal Afar, was chronicled by West in one of his earlier books. But the cost was high: As a whole, Kilo 3/5 suffered many casualties during its campaign to show that the Marines were the strongest tribe in the Sangin District. The platoon contributed its share in blood.
Read the whole thing here.
3:37 PM, Dec 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
For the U.S. and NATO, Afghanistan is about withdrawing troops and ending their role in the fighting. For the Taliban, it is a different story with Reuters reporting that:
4:11 PM, Dec 15, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
President Obama will mark the end of America’s combat mission in Afghanistan by welcoming home service members in New Jersey on Monday.
1:11 PM, Nov 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden misstated the number of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan by 47,000 at a Veterans Day event today at Arlington National Cemetary. Here's audio of his remarks:
4:31 PM, Nov 6, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The American presence is ending but the war in Afghanistan continues with the Afghan government’s forces taking casualties that “cannot be sustained, according to a top officer within the international coalition.”
11:48 AM, Nov 4, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The scheduled date for an American pullout in Afghanistan grows closer and so do worries that it may be premature; that the troops we have trained and will be leaving behind to carry on may not be ready, quite yet, to handle the job.
12:31 PM, Oct 22, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The war in Afghanistan is nearing an end – the American part, at any rate – but there is no letup in the fighting and dying of Afghan soldiers. Time, quoting from a Wall Street Journal story, reports that:
12:12 PM, Oct 16, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Lost in the excitement over ISIS, the battle for Khobani, and the possible threat to Baghdad is news of the nation’s longest war, the one in Afghanistan, which the President once called a “war of necessity.”
9:08 AM, Sep 22, 2014 • By SCOTT SMITH
With the announcement in Kabul of a power-sharing government between the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan election comes closer to a resolution. What is missing, however, is an actual result. The “national unity government” was one part of a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry back in July, when preliminary official results gave Ghani a massive victory, and Abdullah threatened to pull out of the process, claiming massive fraud had taken place. After two months of an audit overseen by the UN, when every ballot box was re-examined—something unprecedented in electoral history—a final result was reached. The result was given last week in secret to the candidates, but not to the public.
3:22 PM, Sep 18, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama addressed troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday regarding his strategy to "degrade and destroy ISIL," but also reminded the audience about his plans for the U.S. military in Afghanistan [emphasis added]: