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:
9:32 AM, Dec 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama's statement condemning the mass murder in a Pakistan school fails to blame the perpetrators, the Taliban. Here's Obama's full statement:
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.”
2:23 PM, Jun 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A new ad set to be released later today alleges that Mississippi senator Thad Cochran is in part responsible for the release of 5 Taliban commanders from Gitmo. The ad, titled "Cochran Supported the Release of 5 Terrorists," is being released by the Campaign for American Values, a super PAC run by Gary Bauer.
7:11 AM, Jun 19, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Tom Cotton, speaking yesterday on the Bowe Bergdahl-Taliban swap:
"Five years ago today, I was a captain in the United States Army in Laghman Province, so I think I will take the prerogative to speak on behalf of the soldiers who served in Afghanistan," said Cotton.
7:37 AM, Jun 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Hillary Clinton says the Taliban 5, released more than a week ago by President Obama, are "not a threat to the United States."
2:43 PM, Jun 9, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A spokeswoman for the State Department referred to the Taliban operatives released from Guantanamo Bay as part of the deal to retrieve Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl as "gentlemen." In a Monday afternoon appearance with Andrew Mitchell on MSNBC, Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson at State and an alumna of the Obama campaign, argued with Mitchell over the question of whether or not Congress should have ben notified about the exchange before it occured.
5:35 PM, Jun 7, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
There is a concerted push to sanitize the records of four of the five Taliban leaders transferred from Guantanamo to Qatar. But before delving into some of the specifics, let us recount the basic facts.
Three years ago, Obama went to court to keep a Taliban leader at Gitmo. Now he's out.11:00 AM, Jun 7, 2014 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
While some top Obama administration officials are downplaying threats posed the five senior Taliban officials released from Guantanamo in the prisoner exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, not long ago the administration went to court to prevent one of those men from going free.
Hosted by Michael Graham.
3:14 PM, Jun 6, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with editor William Kristol on the political moment created by the Sgt. Bergdahl-Taliban 5 swap.
7:29 AM, Jun 6, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Time magazine is reporting that during an interview about the deal to trade Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo, when "[a]sked whether the Taliban would be inspired by the exchange to kidnap others, a commander laughed.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
President Barack Obama and his advisers have long sought to release the five most dangerous Taliban commanders held in U.S. custody at Guantánamo. Bipartisan opposition scuttled a possible deal in 2012 because of a consensus that the “Taliban Five,” as they’ve come to be known, posed too great a threat. Even Senate Democrats were unwilling to go along with the administration’s plans then. But last week the president had the Taliban Five transferred to Qatar.
How the Obama administration’s story on Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban fell apartJun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Late in the afternoon of Saturday, May 31, Barack Obama strode confidently to a lectern in the White House Rose Garden flanked by the parents of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who had gone missing from his platoon in the mountains of Afghanistan in June 2009.
“This morning I called Bob and Jani Bergdahl and told them that after nearly five years in captivity, their son, Bowe, is coming home,” Obama said.