Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan

david52 Zone 6September 25, 2012

"The Taliban attack on an air base in southern Afghanistan on Friday drew coverage for the way the insurgents cloaked themselves in U.S. army uniforms to gain a tactical advantage, but few have taken note of the historical proportions of the damage inflicted. John Gresham, at the Defense Media Network, has published a detailed account of the attack on Camp Bastion, in which two Marines were killed, six U.S. Marine Corps jet fighters were destroyed, and two more "significantly" damaged. Those facts were all carried in most reports, but if that just sounds like a typical damage report from a decade-long war, you're wrong. Gresham explains the devastating damage done to VMA-211, the name of the Marine Corps attack squadron that was most affected last week, noting that it is "arguably the worst day in [U.S. Marine Corps] aviation history since the Tet Offensive of 1968." Or you could go back even further. "The last time VMA-211 was combat ineffective was in December 1941, when the squadron was wiped out during the 13-day defense of Wake Island against the Japanese."

He spells out some more of the details of the attack:

Eight irreplaceable aircraft (the AV-8B has been out of production since 1999) have been destroyed or put out of action - approximately 7 percent of the total flying USMC Harrier fleet. Worse yet, the aircraft involved were the AV-B+ variant equipped with the APG-65 radar and AAQ-28 Litening II targeting pods - the most capable in the force. Given the current funding situation, it's likely that the two damaged AV-8Bs will become spare parts "hangar queens" and never fly again. A Harrier squadron commander is dead, along with another Marine. Another nine personnel have been wounded, and the nearby Marines at Camp Freedom are now without effective fixed-wing air support. The USMC's response to this disaster will be a telling report card on its leadership and organizational agility.

It just goes to show how desensitizing a decade of war can be. With casualty counts streaming in the news every day, it's easy to miss historically devastating milestones that crop up. " end quote

Here is a link that might be useful: link

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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

What's 'Afghanistan'? Sorry, my mind seems to have gone blank :)

Best wishes

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 4:12AM
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tobr24u(z6 RI)

Now that the timetable for withdrawal is set I doubt that much further will be done...

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 4:35AM
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It can't come soon enough, in my opinion. We have no business in the Middle East in any military capacity. We should be there in diplomatic capacity only.

War might be profitable for the few, but it's devastating to the many, and that many don't deserve it.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:15AM
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It is at the tail end of these silly occupations that the limits of military power becomes extremely obvious. How to deal with an enemy that pretends to cooperate so as to lower one's preparedness?


    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:29AM
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david52 Zone 6

I've been trying to find out how much materiel the US has to pull out of Afghanistan, but getting any actual figures is difficult - the number of vehicles must be in the tens of thousands, let alone all the other support stuff.

The Brits are going to leave at least 1200 armored vehicles.

As if the Afghan gvt is going to keep those convoys of fuel tankers driving over the Kyber Pass, bringing in fuel at $50 a gallon.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Which brings up another interesting point: petrol is cheap at any price.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:19AM
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david52 Zone 6

The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began.

That conclusion doesn't come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, and acquired by Danger Room. According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military - but not all - the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban's momentum.

Of course, that's not ISAF's spin. The command notes that enemy attacks from January to August 2012 are slightly lower, by 5 percent, from that period last year; and that the past two Augusts show a reduction in attacks of 30 percent. But the more relevant comparison is to 2009, when Afghanistan looked like such a mess that President Obama substantially increased troop levels. And compared to 2009, Afghanistan does not look improved.

The chart above measures the various attacks the Taliban and associated insurgents launched against NATO forces, month by month. In August 2009, the peak of the fighting season and the height of the internal Obama administration debate over a troop surge, insurgents attacked U.S. and allied troops - using small-arms fire, homemade bombs, mortars and more - approximately 2,700 times. In August 2012, they attacked just shy of 3,000 times.

In August 2009, insurgents used just under 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces. They used just over 600 homemade bombs on U.S.-aligned forces in August 2012.

The same trend holds for every other month in 2009 compared to every month in 2012 for which there is data: The insurgency launched more attacks this year. In some cases, substantially more: insurgents attacked about 2,000 times in July 2009 and a shade over 3,000 times in July 2012. ISAF registered about 475 attacks from homemade bombs in July 2009; and about 625 in July 2012.

Other data provided by ISAF, measuring the changes in attack patterns during the summer fighting seasons, show that the 30,000-plus surge troops cumulatively suppressed summer attacks in 2011 and 2012. 2012′s summer attacks have maintained 2011 levels - something recently acknowledged by Marine Gen. John Allen, who cautioned that any dip from 2011 "may not be statistically significant."

But that suppressive force provided by the surge did not tamp down insurgent activity to levels seen in 2009, when Afghanistan looked sufficiently dire that a bipartisan consensus of Washington policymakers came to believe that a surge was necessary.

There are statistical exceptions to the rule reflected in the data. ISAF troops caused substantially fewer civilian casualties in 2012 than in 2009: in August 2012, for instance, ISAF judged itself responsible for perhaps 25 innocent deaths and injuries, compared to about 50 in August 2009. And civilian casualties caused by insurgents are also down somewhat from their 2009 levels, a sign that added U.S. troops helped protect Afghan lives. This data is consistent with patterns found independently by the United Nations.

And while it's too soon to tell if a trend has developed, attacks in eastern Afghanistan - which the surge largely neglected - appear to be down from 2009 levels. At the same time, that might also be attributable to a change in insurgent attack patterns toward the massive, occasional assaults that the main insurgent operation in the east favors.

But now the surge is over, and debate on what it added up to begins. The end of direct U.S. combat in Afghanistan is scheduled for 2014, proposed by President Obama and endorsed as a "goal" by Republican challenger Mitt Romney, although the U.S. plans to keep substantial forces in Afghanistan beyond then. Meanwhile, the pathway "out" of Afghanistan, training Afghan forces, is imperiled by Afghan troops turning their guns on their U.S. mentors. There is little to no appetite within the country for another U.S. troop surge in what is now the U.S. longest war - and an unpopular one.

And there's a number missing from ISAF's latest set of war data. That's 988 � the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan or who died from their combat wounds since Obama announced the troop surge.

Here is a link that might be useful: see chart at the link

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 2:18PM
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This was a terrible mistake on the part of the US. So many lost lives, so much money wasted, and the country is now worse off by far than it was decades ago. We will never effect any positive change in a country of warring tribes that does not believe in nation building and has no clue of Western democracy and furthermore is not remotely interested in it.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:05AM
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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

It has been a Huge success - gazillions of tons of military equipment and supplies destroyed, used up, thrown away, consumed, and finally ditched, so that it can all be replaced by the only profitable business in the country - the military suppliers, which employs tens of thousands of Americans at inflated salaries who pay taxes which then get spent on . . .the military supplies corporations!

It's brilliant! A self-perpetuating supplier/consumer chain.

So a few of the lower orders in uniform get bumped off - statistically they would probably have died in auto accidents or gone to prison anyway, as most of their kind do.

The one thing the military/industrial classes don't want is a return to the Clinton years and that dreaded, unprofitable word 'peace'. Lead on Mr Netanyahu - where we goin' next?

Best wishes

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 11:00AM
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"So a few of the lower orders in uniform get bumped off -- statistically they would probably have died in auto accidents or gone to prison anyway, as most of their kind do."

What an outrageous, egregious, blatantly elitist statement! I do not agree. And I forgot to mentioned all the tragically maimed, both mentally and physically.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 12:27PM
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I do believe Jon was using large amounts of sarcasm, as I often do. I can't imagine it being otherwise.

The idea that corporate puppeteers are pulling the strings of the 'powers that be', using the military, engaging in blatant, bloody consumerism that would otherwise be called a war, and using human lives as expendable collateral damage within it all, is a hard pill to swallow... but it looks much more like the truth.

Such a picture wouldn't be complete without an explanation of how unworthy those expendables were, anyway... and why it shouldn't bother anyone. It's just part of that mindset... the one that thinks it's perfectly acceptable to throw US weight around the world wrapped in christian ideals and democracy... never mind the countless lives lost, or the profit scavenged...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 12:41PM
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nancy_in_venice_ca Sunset 24 z10

It's brilliant! A self-perpetuating supplier/consumer chain.

I've read more than one commentary implying that the supporters of COIN (counterinsurgency operations, sometimes called 'nation building') in Afghanistan do have the above in mind. The supporters of counter-terrorism tend to ignore the supplier/consumer chain with drones and other military hardware associated with CT.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 4:35PM
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david52 Zone 6

A checkpoint shooting in eastern Afghanistan has taken the US military's death toll in the war past 2,000.

A US soldier and contractor were killed while three Afghan soldiers died and several were injured.

The new deaths occurred on Saturday in Wardak province.

The international mission, Isaf, initially said the soldier was believed to have been killed by a member of the Afghan security services, but it later said the circumstances were unclear.

What is known is that a firefight took place, after what Isaf described as a short conversation between coalition and Afghan soldiers, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.

Isaf says "insurgent fire" may have been involved in the incident, which is now under investigation by a joint Afghan and coalition team, adds our correspondent.

The American death toll goes back to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

'Checkpoint row'
Sunday's incident took place at a checkpoint near an Afghan National Army base in the district of Sayedabad, according to Afghan officials.

Shahidullah Shahid, a provincial government spokesman, earlier told the Associated Press news agency that an Afghan soldier had turned his gun on Americans and started shooting.

"Initial reports indicate that a misunderstanding happened between Afghan army soldiers and American soldiers," he said.

But Isaf later said an American soldier and an American contractor, along with three Afghan soldiers, were killed in an exchange of fire in confusing circumstances that may have involved insurgent activity.

Military officials from both sides have launched a joint investigation.

Two thousand dead
The figure of 2,000 deaths was given by US officials on Sunday. During the war in Iraq, 4,409 American soldiers were killed.

As of 27 September, the Pentagon's official military death toll for Afghanistan had stood at 1,996.

The count includes both soldiers killed in action and soldiers who died of their injuries in hospital. The figure also covers 339 non-combat deaths.

A report by the Brookings Institution estimates that 40.2% of US deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices and 30.3% by gun attacks.

Officially, at least 17,644 US soldiers have been wounded in action in Afghanistan.

The independent organisation iCasualties estimates a higher US death toll, recording 2,125 to date.

This same source reports 1,066 deaths of non-US members of the coalition in Afghanistan. Since the war began, 433 British soldiers have been killed.

It is more difficult to establish the Afghan toll in the war but most estimates calculate a minimum of 20,000 civilian deaths, AP notes.

Some 10,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed. No reliable figures exist for deaths among the Taliban and other insurgents.

Nato combat troops are set to withdraw by the end of 2014, but a central plank of the strategy is that foreign soldiers will serve alongside and train Afghans for many years to come.

Correspondents say that may not be realistic given the ever increasing number of Afghans who turn their weapons on their foreign allies.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:20AM
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david52 Zone 6

"KABUL, Afghanistan - With the surge of American troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal.

The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart, and to ensure Pakistan is on board with any eventual settlement. Military and diplomatic officials here and in Washington said that despite attempts to engage directly with Taliban leaders this year, they now expect that any significant progress will come only after 2014, once the bulk of NATO troops have left.

"I don't see it happening in the next couple years," said a senior coalition officer. He and a number of other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the effort to open talks.

"It's a very resilient enemy, and I'm not going to tell you it's not," the officer said. "It will be a constant battle, and it will be for years."

The failure to broker meaningful talks with the Taliban underscores the fragility of the gains claimed during the surge of American troops ordered by President Obama in 2009. The 30,000 extra troops won back territory held by the Taliban, but by nearly all estimates failed to deal a crippling blow.

Critics of the Obama administration say the United States also weakened its own hand by agreeing to the 2014 deadline for its own involvement in combat operations, voluntarily ceding the prize the Taliban has been seeking for over a decade. The Obama administration defends the deadline as crucial to persuading the Afghan government and military to assume full responsibility for the country, and politically necessary for Americans weary of what has already become the country's longest war.

Among America's commanding generals here, from Stanley A. McChrystal and David H. Petraeus to today's John R. Allen, it has been an oft-repeated mantra that the United States is not going to kill its way out of Afghanistan. They said that the Afghanistan war, like most insurgencies, could only end with a negotiation.

Now American officials say they have reduced their goals further - to patiently laying the groundwork for eventual peace talks after they leave. American officials say they hope that the Taliban will find the Afghan Army a more formidable adversary than they expect and be compelled, in the years after NATO withdraws, to come to terms with what they now dismiss as a "puppet" government.

The United States has not given up on talks before that time. It agreed last month to set up a committee with Pakistan that would vet potential new Taliban interlocutors, and the Obama administration is considering whether to revive a proposed prisoner swap with the insurgents that would, officials hope, reopen preliminary discussions that collapsed in March, current and former American officials said. Those are both seen as long-term efforts, however.

With the end of this year's fighting season, the Taliban have weathered the biggest push the American-led coalition is going to make against them. A third of all American forces left by this month, and more of the 68,000 remaining may leave next year, with the goal that only a residual force of trainers and special operations troops will remain by the end of 2014.

Bringing Pakistan into the search for Taliban contacts is also an uncertain strategy, American officials said. The details of the new vetting committee have yet to be worked out, and "if we are depending on Pakistan, it comes with an asterisk," one of the officials said. "We never know whether they will see it through."

The American shift toward a more peripheral role in peace efforts represents another retreat from Washington's once broad designs for Afghanistan, where the surge, along with a sharp escalation of nighttime raids by Special Operations Forces against Taliban field commanders, were partly aimed at forcing the Taliban into negotiations, making a Western withdrawal more feasible."

snip end quote

I thought this reader comment was interesting:

"When would-be leaders still talk about "American exceptionalism," and hugely popular movies repeat the canard about our troops "not being allowed to win" in Vietnam, what do you expect?

Take everything that is said about "terrorism" today, and plug in "communism," and in place of "Taliban" put "Viet Cong," and you see perfect parallels in self-delusion."

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Why are we in Afghanistan, again? Refresh my memory, please.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 2:12PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

Why are we in Afghanistan, again? Refresh my memory, please.

To get Bin Laden.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 2:20PM
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I thought we were in Iraq for that purpose... no? How many places do we need to invade to capture the mysterious Bin Laden? He IS only one man, isn't he?

Well... he was...

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 4:55PM
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When all is said and done, we will achieve the same results we did in Vietnam. The body counts will be tallied for all combatants and civilians. The survivors will relive it in their nightmares for the rest of their lives. Nothing won - only lives lost.
For a smart nation we don't seem to learn from our mistakes. We just repeat them.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 5:25PM
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